But I have always firmly been in the “Why Would You Travel ALONE When You Can Travel With People?” camp. To me, traveling alone always sounded…lonely. I’m someone that likes to experience things with people. Look at this! Taste this! Let’s take a picture together! I’m not the wander-around-alone-join-random-groups-or-be-extremely-social type. Sure, I like to meet people, but those solo people that you meet in hostels always seemed courageous to me. I don’t know. They seem like the type of person that enjoys talking to random people and just learning about them, and then moving on and never seeing those people again. Toootally NOT me.
Here were my reasons why you should never travel alone if you have the choice (or why I wouldn’t want to travel alone in Europe while living in Madrid):
- I spend A LOT of my time in Madrid alone. And some of that time that I am alone, I feel lonely, wishing I knew more people, wishing I had more family here, wishing I had more people just to do nothing with. The thought of traveling to ANOTHER place just to be MORE ALONE sounded dumb and counterproductive.
- Again, I like to experience things with people. See new places, try new foods, capture the perfect instagram…you know- the usual.
- I’m not someone that a) wants, or b) enjoys just casually chatting with random people that I will never see again. I rather keep to myself or meet people that I will stay in touch with. (Yes that sounds utterly stupid as how would I meet people without talking to them?)
- I already know myself. I don’t need to travel to discover more!!
So, if I was firmly against traveling alone, then why did I go to Lisbon alone? Well, it turned out that I had an abundant number of days off from school with a) no plans, b) no roommates in Madrid (everyone was traveling), c) no friends in Madrid (everyone was traveling or working). The thought or spending 7 full days alone in my apartment scared me and I knew I would not be happy. So…I decided to take a 3 day trip somewhere close/ relatively inexpensive/ and somewhere I thought would be good to see alone. I don’t think every city is meant to be explored alone, but some, like Lisbon por ejemplo, can be enjoyed sola.
My first day there, I was feeling so antisocial that I actually got up and moved away from some girls that sat near me. (haaaaaha). But my first night, a German guy sat down while I was eating dinner and chatted with me for awhile, and after dinner, I met a Bulgarian guy who I ended up traveling with the following day, and on the third day, I met some American girls that are also living in Madrid and it was so nice to be able to talk about American things…like big coffees 😉 All on all, I left Lisbon with a completely changed attitude towards traveling alone.
Five Reasons You Should Travel Alone (in no particular order)
Want to sit in the plaza and read your book while drinking coffee? Want to walk as high up on the mountain as you possibly can? Want to sit by the beach and just look out and tan for a couple hours? Want to stay in your bed and do nothing? You can do WHATEVER YOU WANT!!!
For me, eating every meal out while traveling is unappealing, but it’s the norm. When I travel with other people, I try to accept the fact that we will be eating at least two meals a day from a restaurant or somewhere else. Personally, I like to have a taste of the local food and enjoy a good restaurant or bar for the experience, but spending a ton of money on mediocre food is not my cup of tea. While in Lisbon, I only bought coffee while out and bought a fish cake and a couple pastries to try, since those are traditional foods. Other than that, I enjoyed (included) breakfast at the hostel, snacks like peanuts, fruit, and yogurt (from the supermarket) during the day, and for dinner, I went to the supermarket and bought ingredients for a salad and ate Spanish tortilla. I ate at the hostel while chatting with other guests and was perfectly content.
When you travel with your friends, you tend to stick to them, naturally. When traveling alone, you’re forced to talk to other people if you want companionship. When the German guy sat at my table the first night, I hoped he would get up soon, but we chatted for awhile and time passed quickly. And then after meeting the Bulgarian guy and agreeing to go to Sintra, I realized that I was going on an adventure that I definitely wouldn’t had done had I been alone. Also, my day in Sintra flew by thanks to having someone to talk to!!
We are all adults here, but there is something about traveling to a new place completely alone that makes you realize how self-sufficient you are. When you can’t find the hostel and don’t have a phone (true story), it’s up to YOU to figure it out. You decide when to eat, to sleep, where to go, everything. It’s all YOU. And, it’s kind of exhilarating to know that you are the only person in the entire world, that knows where you are. If you go missing, no one will know!!
I had this big realization while I was in Lisbon: When you travel alone, you are CHOOSING to be alone. I feel alone (read: lonely) sometimes here and when I go outside and walk around, I feel marginally better, but when I look at those big groups of people sitting around, having beers and coffees with their families and friends, I have this feeling of “why do I live in this country FULL of people, yet I know none of them?”. BUT when you travel alone, walking around and seeing those people does not make you feel like that. Because you are a stranger! A visitor! You are not meant to know them! So being alone in a new place is like walking around at the zoo and looking at all the animals and observing all the cool things they do while you take pictures that you will later load to Insta. But walking around alone in your own city is like being one of the monkeys (maybe another breed of monkey, but still a monkey), but none of the other monkeys want to pick the bugs out of your hair or play with you. Does that make sense?