Previous posts on this blog and countless others have touched upon aspects of living and travelling alone, especially as a foreigner in new places. And every time I have read pieces touching upon this subject, I have felt this little nod inside my head that said, “You’re good, you can totally survive alone”, even though I’ve never really had to live alone until this year. Last year, even though I had a room to myself, I practically lived with two very close friends who were also my flatmates (miss them everyday!). Similarly, while I had done some solo travel previously, it was only a month or so ago that I did my first truly solo trip, lasting 2 whole days. And while it was definitely fun, it also made me acutely aware of something I have always suspected – it’s great to have time to yourself but living/travelling alone isn’t really my thing and THAT’S OKAY!
In today’s world, I feel like there’s so much of a focus on people learning to live and travel by themselves that we tend to forget that it’s also okay to not be okay with it! Sure, living by yourself can be fun for a while, especially when you’re a student and don’t really have to spend much of the time in your room. Similarly, travelling alone can definitely be immense fun too. My solo trip was to Barcelona and I can’t say I’ve enjoyed a city more.
Admittedly, Barcelona is a great place for a solo trip because it’s popular, has a beach and there are other solo tourists out there. In fact, I ended up becoming friends with another girl on one of the walking tours, having lunch with her and joining her and a whole bunch of strangers on an amazing food tour too. But despite all the fun I had and all the time I got to myself, I was almost relieved to meet up with friends in Madrid a couple of days later, not necessarily because I craved just being around people, but because I craved being around people I knew and loved.
Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love my alone time. In fact, I guard it quite preciously and on the social/anti-social spectrum, I probably tend towards the anti-social end only because I prefer socialising with a few close friends rather than the entire world. But having said that, there’s a huge difference between having a few hours everyday to yourself to do your own stuff and living alone on an everyday basis.
Similarly, there’s a big difference between travelling with another person and deciding that you’re going to go explore different things and meet up later and exploring everything by yourself for 3 whole days.
Obviously, sometimes, circumstances dictate these things and I understand that people don’t always have the choice and must live alone, for work or study or something else. And in those circumstances, it does make sense to adapt as best as one can, to try and learn how to truly enjoy being alone, caring for yourself. But equally, I think, it’s important to not feel pressured by the millennial narrative of being-alone-is-liberating-and-everyone-should-do-it. I’ve read many inspiring stories of young men and women who travelled alone and learnt a lot about the world and themselves. Great, that’s excellent but it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.
Just as living alone does not translate into being responsible for and caring for your own self, the two are not mutually exclusive either. I am an Aquarian and by nature, we are fiercely independent. In fact, if there is one thing that I absolutely do not enjoy, it is the curbing of my freedom in any way, shape or form, however insignificant it might be (my mother can testify to this with 25 years of evidence :P). I like doing my own thing and being responsible for myself and I’ve done it in an increasing number of ways since I was 18. But I don’t particularly enjoy living or travelling alone and that’s equally a fact. A fact that I think has been important for me to recognise in order to rid myself of any romantic notions about solo travel. So the next time you read another BuzzFeed post on 13 reasons why everyone should travel solo, take a step back and ask yourself whether that’s really for you. If you don’t know, by all means, go find out. But if you think it’s not for you but feel conflicted because it’s the new cool thing to do – don’t! It’s okay to not want that and nobody should be telling you otherwise 🙂