In September 2011, I went on first solo trip of my life. I went riding to Ladakh and was alone most of the three weeks. The freedom to do whatever you want, the responsibility of your own self and belongings and meeting new people every day (that one misses out while travelling with a group of friends) was too exciting. I had my suspicions and anxieties about travelling alone before the trip started but I could not pin point and specify that I am scared about this or have some reservations about that. “It cannot be this awesome man!” I thought at the end of my three week trip. True. Three weeks was not enough for me to scratch the surface and uncover those unknown and niggling doubts that I had. Now that I have been alone for more than a couple of months and bit more experienced and consequently wiser I can see those thorns among the roses.
It will get lonely!
Face it! It will get lonely. It may happen as soon as you land at your destination. You may realize this after a couple of months. Or when you end up at some wonderful place and realize that you do not have your family, loved ones or friends to share that moment.
I find it odd because I like being alone and enjoy doing things on my own. But I do not like being lonely. I am not a very talkative person and my friends are few. I enjoy reading a book while I wait for my lunch at the restaurant but at times when the order arrives I see that I have lost my appetite for both the food and the pages
Now do not get me wrong. One of the reasons I like about travelling is because I get to meet interesting people and I do keep meeting interesting folks every few days. But as I said earlier, many of these faces are nameless. They are not your friends or family.
It may be because once you step on the road you have an amount of freedom that you are not used to before. The demands of your boss at work, the constant nagging of your soul mate or expectations of your parents disappear instantly (for a while) and you are not sure what to do. In times like these you are looking for a support structure more often than not its not available. And phone calls, emails and online conversations can only do this much to erase the physical as well as the emotional distance.
Freedom is not what you think it is.
Yes, there is freedom to do as you wish, see the sights that you want to or just spend weeks getting tanned at the beach. But soon enough you will realize that this is not the freedom that you were looking for. You will not be free from your worries or doubts. Your past or the cluelessness about a future. And when you get lonely these things will haunt you all the more.
On a different level you will realize that how much you have been enslaved by the material possessions from your luxurious life back home. The internet, electricity, food, clothes (washed and ironed daily and not having to repeat a pair for at least a fortnight) will not always be up to your expectations when you are travelling. (Except if you are filthy rich staying in luxury hotels and roaming around in chauffer driven cars).
And there will always be trade-offs that you have to make. “Should I be going to that safari where I can see animals in the wild? But that’s a bit expensive which means I may run out of money to buy some souvenirs for my buddies”
At the same time you will also realize that freedom comes only from within. And only when you are able to hold yourself in the same stead in your worries or happiness, with things you are passionate about or hate more than anything will you be truly free.
You may become inflexible
The freedom to make your decisions, not having to answer to anyone, planning your trip or not planning one at all may make you self-indulgent moron with regards to travelling. So the next time your friends ask you to join them for a trip you may not be all excited as you were earlier because you know that you will have to adjust and go sight-seeing during the and party hard in the evenings with the gang. While you would just want to have a sunbath on the beach with a cold pint in your hand.
Travelling alone is not going to solve your problems.
You think you can put on your backpack and step on the road and life will be blissful? Spoiler alert! IT DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY. The only way you can solve your issues is by facing them and working on them. Yes, indeed travel can take your mind off the problems for a while and help you look at them totally afresh after travelling for a while. But the fact that taking some time off and going on a solo expedition will solve all your problems is a myth. At most the awesome experiences may just hide them but when they resurface again it may be all the more devastating.
At the same time the loneliness in far off places may aggravate your problems all the more and your solo travel experience will turn so bitter that you will never venture out of your comfort zone.
The intention of my post is not to scare you off or warn you about solo travel but to share what an extended period of solo travel has revealed to me. That does not me that I no longer love to travel. In fact all these revelations have got me thinking and discovering myself in whole new ways. And I have a lot more to travel and lot more that is waiting to get revealed.