A few years back, there was a great beer commercial about needing a “wingman.” While it’s true that certain situations in life do require the support of a faithful friend, travel doesn’t have to be one of them. And for students, traveling by yourself can be a wonderfully rewarding experience on its own merits.
Why solo travel rocks
Let me set the scene, courtesy of an anecdote provided by a source who wishes to remain anonymous due to the wrath that could befall him from sharing this story:
“I thought traveling around Europe with a group of my college buddies sounded like a good idea. Until we got there. Not only was I mortified when one of my traveling companions asked for frites de liberte at a Paris McDonald’s, but I wanted to slit my wrists when another guy got robbed for the second time, no doubt due to his head-to-toe American sports team apparel. As if that doesn’t scream, ‘Hey! Rob me!’ So, after days of bickering, trips to the local police station to file reports, and general indecisiveness, I hopped on a train to southern Spain by myself. It was the best decision I could have made and [it] saved my trip.”
Okay. Not all trips abroad with your best buds will turn out so badly, but there are, without a doubt, many reasons you should at least consider flying solo:
- You set the itinerary. No more Gothic churches when what you really want to see is the beach. (Or vice versa.)
- You move at your own pace. Diggin’ Prague or Phuket? Stick around for a couple more days. No one is waiting on you.
- You’re more likely to befriend other travelers. When you travel with people you know, it’s harder to branch out and talk to strangers. But if you’re all alone, you’ll probably find yourself striking up a conversation with the devastatingly handsome German guy (or girl) in your hostel who speaks characteristically perfect English.
- You’ll meet the locals. Far too frequently, groups of Americans traveling abroad forget one of the best things about traveling in the first place: learning more about the world we live in. With no one there to tell you to do otherwise, linger a little longer at that cool cafe in the town square, ask a kind soul for directions, and see where the conversation takes you.
Resources for the solo student traveler
If you’re naturally charismatic, outgoing, and independent, I suppose you can skip this part. But what about the rest of the world? Those of us who are, well, sometimes kind of scared to break out on our own? Thankfully, the Internet is full of websites on the subject, so learning more about what awaits you as a solo student traveler is as easy as a click of the mouse.
Transitions Abroad is a fabulous initial resource, with links to many great websites on independent travel concerns, solo women’s travel issues, and perhaps most importantly, safety tips. It’s unfortunate, but the biggest drawback to traveling alone is the lack of safety in numbers, especially for women. SoloTravel.org has a good write-up with tips pertaining to this issue as well.
While solo travel has many positive attributes, it’s important not to be delusional; a vacation with oneself isn’t for everyone. If you make an informed decision, regardless of whether you choose to set off on your own, or (gasp!) bring five friends in tow, you’ll have a great time.