Solitary Travel is an adventure that for some will never be completed. Whether due to a long-term relationship with a loved one, close friend with the same interest and desires as you or just the thought of doing be something that one thinks is not practical or safe. As a solo traveler myself, I will say that these are some perks and some downsides of doing so. In many cases for me traveling alone is my preferred way to go, yet on some trips some issues have taken the forefront and how detrimental they were to my enjoyment depends on how you look at. However, even with that in mind there are many reasons why I continue to travel alone.
Overall traveling alone does one thing, it removes the need to compromise. Is there something that you always wanted to do in a particular destination, is it off the beaten path, a little strange? Well there is no one you need to work with or make concessions to in order to have to get the chance to see or do whatever it is you would like to do so. In my most recent trip this included making direct changes to the trip itself. I originally booked my trip flying into Sao Paolo with the intention that my final destination would be Florianopolis. When I ran into some difficulty obtaining tickets to Carnival in this destination and the little information and lack of assistance in booking Pop Gay which happens yearly in this destination during Carnival Week, I ended making two different adjustments to the destination. I ended up moving the trip from Florianopolis, to Sao Paolo which has a quieter Carnival and then finally over to Rio De Janeiro which is the destination that hosts the one the largest Carnival events in the world. With over 200 samba schools; dance teams that are waive their flags in support of particular neighborhoods.
It also lends well to the planning of your trip. I chose the destination that I am traveling I am to and what event I attend. I select what is important for my trips; what type of property I stay in, what neighborhood it is in or even the price point and how I get around when there. Even when planning a trip with a like-minded companion, there is always going to be a few slight deviations you have from each other that you must clear up before booking and paying for your vacation. I personally find travel by public transportation to be a great way to get to experience another aspect of the city, and its people. You may find it as a rather time-consuming waste and travel by taxi is the better option. I love to stay in the tourist zones of many of the destinations I travel to; another person may prefer to stay in the cultural region or the “Gayborhood” of a larger city. These distinct differences mean that if we are traveling together one of us may not get what we want, or we both will have to acquiesce and work towards taking some taxis and some subways and stay as close to the Museums and Tourist Sights I want and the Gay Bars that someone else wants.
The other important aspect is the ability to leave all the worries about embarrassment behind. You want to gamble away a near fortune while in Monte Carlo, no worries about your friends judging your “fiscal irresponsibility” or the fact that you have no clue how to play baccarat. Wish to eat as much fattening and rich foods while traveling on your Eat, Pray and Love Tour of India and Italy; no one will warn you about the calories and the risk of gout. More importantly take as much time sleeping in and staying out late as you want, it is your trip and you have no one you need to justify these behaviors too for the time you are away. For me personally this meant when I traveled to Brazil that I mostly ate McDonald’s. Yes it is embarrassing, but when you are planning a trip to a destination where few locals speak English, it’s a lot easier to order a “Número quatro com Coca-Cola. The alternative would be stepping into a restaurant with a menu that is written in a foreign language as well as attempting to order from waitstaff that communication with will be difficult and the special orders that I need as a picky eater, would be exceptionally difficult. I personally have no shame in admitting that I will do this anywhere, but while on vacation if one travels with someone with normal eating habits; they don’t have to kowtow to my weird issues with Mayo, Tomatoes and other such things that I won’t eat. Along with McDonald’s comes not being judged on the incredibly bad food choices I had in Thailand, living of Fried Ice Cream Rolls for 2 days while in Phuket, no one could judge me while i did it. Go ahead and judge away now if you like.
The most major problem is the fact that when one travels alone, you are alone. It does force you in destinations here you can find English Speakers or events that draw large international crowds to be more outgoing. Taking the time to get to know others is a necessity and something that can also ensure that you meet people outside of your immediate vicinity and thanks to Facebook and other Social Media applications you can keep in touch even after you both return to opposite sides of the world. Yet when you are in a destination where English is viewed as a luxury and not the norm makes enjoyable travel a little more difficulty. Along with being in a destination where few tourists are in town for a large international event the lack of communication with the outside world regarding the sights, sounds and smells that you are experiencing as you are taking them in firsthand is almost impossible. As someone who in new social situation is much more of introvert; when I travel I understand that there is no option to sit in the corner and not speak to others. When it becomes much more imperative that I become an extrovert, that I ask questions of others who may have more experience and knowledge of the destination that I am attempting to currently explore and enjoy. Alternatively, I have also taken trips where hearing English spoken was such a rarity, that when I heard it while walking the streets and sightseeing, it was something to gravitate towards. It leaves you with a need to call friends to explain what you just saw, to explain the culture and the people that you experience through this trip. Regardless of how much I prefer traveling alone, in situation where a language barrier is a constant, it becomes more of a hindrance than anything else.
Lastly, one of the other issues with traveling alone is the fact that you carry the entire costs of the bill of each and every trip, and on occasion this includes a surcharge for the fact. For many of us who have reserved a room at any number of hotels understand that the standard rate that you are offered is based on 2 adults checking into the room. Whether you are traveling alone you are paying the same rate as a pair of guests who are sharing the same experiences and sights as you, just they have the option of each covering only half of the cost. It’s a lot easier to cover the cost of a vacation when your share of a $500 hotel bill becomes $250 or if you are staying with a party of 3 or 4 makes your share of the same room with the same appointments in the room drop to $150. Add on sharing the costs of tours, car rentals and many other of the smaller expenses that associate themselves with travel and the arm and leg that travelling alone may be just require payment up to the elbow. If you are considering a Cruise, it becomes even worse. If you want a to travel on board a particular Gay Cruise it states that you either must chose to be matched up with a stranger; or be subject to a 100% Surcharge for a Cruise Stateroom. What this entails is paying double; even if one will not be using double the amenities. You can’t swim twice in the pool, see two shows at the same time, or use double the treadmills or weight machines. So why is it that I must pay double the cruise fare? Well finding a companion is a must so that you can ensure that you are comfortable both on and off the ship, and as well as when it comes to a resort booking it makes that extra night or extra trip all that much easier to reach.
Regardless of what you feel is a reason for or against traveling alone, just remember that you don’t have to wait until you find that special someone to travel with, that friend who is where you are at when it comes travel and income. Nor do you have to look at a weekend with your friends as something that will be looked down upon by the flight attendants, hotel employees or tour guides. Do you and let everything else fall by the wayside. Bon Voyage! Explore!