TRAVEL: Why You Should Stop Traveling Alone

You should stop traveling alone.

Not because it’s dangerous. Your level of danger when you’re out in the wind has little to do with the number of travelers in the group and a lot to do with where you go and the choices you make.

Not because it’s lonely. Solitary travelers meet other solitary travelers easily. As long as you’re in a place with a guesthouse or a hostel you can find someone to join you at least on day trips. When I traveled on the Trans-Mongolian Railway or across Southeast Asia I made new friends nearly every day.

No, you should stop traveling alone because traveling with people you know is a better way. The best part of travel comes from the actual travel itself. That’s the most exciting aspect. The second best part of travel comes in the reward of talking about the trip for years after it’s over.

Sure you become Facebook friends with your fellow lonely travelers from Austria and New Zealand and Finland, but how often are you going to see those people again in your life, if ever? You took pictures and videos of swimming in Lake Baikal with the two Italians and you tell your friends about them, but wouldn’t it be better if it were your friends with you in the first place? People from the life you’ll go back to?

Trust me, I know getting your friends to come with you can be a problem. They have their jobs, their finances, their lack of available time. Most of us want to go before we get too old. We go when we can and often we can’t wait.

But if you have a choice, take someone with you. It’s harder to meet people when you’re already with someone, but if you’re friendly, and fun, you can still join other groups or have them join yours. Of course the wrong person can ruin the place for you forever. Take that risk. It’s worth it. The right person will help the experience live between you. They’ll push you to travel farther, to experience more.

It’s easy to be lazy when you’re on your own. You can get scared or sick or just plain exhausted. Having a friend to help you, to push you, heightens the experience. If you’re good together you’ll be able to do what you want and also what the other person wants, which will take you beyond yourself, to new places. And that’s what you want from traveling anyway.

I’m starting to know more and more people who say, “I’m not traveling by myself anymore.” They all seem to agree on the same things, that it’s too lonely, that their experiences have become secrets that only they know, that while they were traveling alone the first time they thought “it would be great if this person or that person was here” and then they said that the second and third time they were on their own, until their resolve to do it with another person finally stuck.

Traveling alone is useful at first — you learn that if you want to be alone your whole life you could, and then you realize how awful that would be. You reach a point where you realize it’s only good if it’s shared.


What A Life Of Travel Does To You

photo by: MANGO RED

What A Life Of Travel Does To You
By: Alex Brueckner

A life of travel is a good thing to have. But once you start off on it, there’s no looking back. What traveling does do to you is work its way inside of you, changing you completely as it finds a seat deep within you. It’s a parasite with a greedily voracious appetite. That bastard is hungry. Once the travel bug bites, you’re afflicted for life. Once the wanderlust hits, your feet never stop being restless.

It creeps into the edges of your mind. You start clicking through Facebook albums from past trips to Peru or China or Ghana. You find yourself browsing WikiTravel or Intrepid Travel, concocting perfect two-month tours of Africa or South America. Idly, you check Orbitz to see how much a flight next month is to Cambodia. Just for the hell of it. Just in case. It never hurts to know, right?

The temptation is always there just to take off work, drop everything, and go. And once you have a trip on the books, it’s inevitable that you eyes creep toward a calendar during any spare moment and instinctually count down the days until you can flee. There’s a constant itch that gets under your skin, and the only way to scratch it involves a plane (or train or bus) ticket, a backpack, and plans that don’t go beyond “just get me out.”

Our heroes are people like Anthony Bourdain, who makes a living (and a life) out of trekking to the furthest corners of the map. We like stumbling through sentences in foreign languages like kindergarteners. We feel proud when we can get through three weeks in Eastern Europe on a single backpack or successfully navigate through the tricky back alleys of a new city. We get thrills during the moment that a plane takes off from the runway or a bullet train pulls out of the station. We get off on eating foods that contain things we’ve never tried before, let alone heard of. We love filling out those “where I’ve been” maps and seeing just how much of the world we’ve covered.

For those who make traveling a lifestyle, the fear of putting down permanent roots is always present. Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson has said, “Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.” He may have been talking about supercars, but I think the philosophy applies just as well to traveling, too. If you’re constantly moving, whether it’s on the back of a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City, a vespa in Firenze, or a kayak down the rapids on the Rio Grande, suddenly hitting the brakes can be absolutely devastating. It’s a constant fear that I’ve hit my “peak” and that I’ll spend the rest of my life wanting to travel and being unable to. Instead of actually getting out to see the sun rise in Goa, I’ll have to settle for a picture I found on Google as my laptop background.

When I returned home to Pittsburgh from living in Germany, my mum remarked to me, “We’ll have to nail your feet down to keep you stateside, won’t we?” And it wasn’t a week later that I told my parents I wanted to move to Japan after graduation to teach English. I’m lucky, and I know it. The job I have right now basically allows me to travel as much as I want; I may officially be an “Assistant Language Teacher,” but if I had it my way, “globetrotter” would be front and center on my résumé.

One of my favorite quotes about traveling is “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” It sums up perfectly just why I love globetrotting so much. Once you start, you can never truly finish. There’s always more to see, more to explore, more summits to climb, more seas to dive into, more cities to get lost in. Germany was the first foreign country I set foot in. I could travel there every summer for the rest of my life; I’d never see it all.

For the hardcore travelers, our sustenance lies in those perfectly surreal moments that you just stumble upon by mistake. They’re moments that, when you seen them in a movie or hear other people reminisce about them, seem utterly fake. Their very perfection takes away from their realness. If there were a Shutterstock for traveling experiences, it would catalogue those impossibly perfect moments.

But when it’s you experiencing them, you can’t help but grin to yourself and feel a certain gleeful shiver work its way through you. My favorite, but by no means solitary, example of such a moment happened in Paris last summer. I was walking through an arcade near the Louvre, turned a corner, and then was greeted by a busker playing the cello set against the backdrop of the setting sun reflecting through the Louvre pyramid’s glass. That right there is something straight out of a Woody Allen movie.

As scared as I am that I’ll lose the means to travel, I think I know in the back of my head that I’ll never let it truly happen. Wanderlust doesn’t just die from disuse or neglect. Get a camel, a hot air balloon, a pair of snowshoes, a hang glider, a sled pulled by dogs… if you want to get out, you’re getting out.

Article: Travel Is Not A Contest

photo from the article:

A beautiful article on traveling deep and slow. Click THIS to read it.

My favorite quotes from the article:

“Sure they get home with a lot of nice pictures, but have they accumulated much else in terms of experience, depth or personal growth?”

“You’ve heard it in the common room of every youth hostel, or bellied up to the bar your first night on that island beach in Belize, “Where have you been? How many countries have you visited?… here’s my list,” and then we set out to one-up each other. This is wrong. Travelers, especially avid travelers, tend to act like it’s a contest. Number of countries, cities, amusement parks, national monuments, museums, or wonders of the world visited is not what matters. Travel should not be about filling in that world map tattoo on your shoulder fastest. It’s not about bigger, better, or faster. Nor is it about pushing more pins into the map on your wall than your parents did. What is it about? Authenticity. Who defines that? You do. We know people who’ve gone “round the world” in three months. We know others who have goals to set foot in every country by a certain date. Still others who pride themselves on visiting the biggest, the best, or the fastest something. None of these goals is wrong, quite the contrary, what a cool idea: to spend a lifetime pursuing a big dream. The problem comes when we begin to measure ourselves, or others, by those lists. We spent a whole year cycling through ten European countries. Some people think that’s an amazing amount to see in a year. Others can’t believe we wasted all that time when we could have seen so much more. Neither opinion matters. What matters is that we did it our way, in our time, and grew according to our own passions and bents during that time and since.”

“The antidote? Rent a little casita and dig into a place where you don’t speak the language. You’ll be forced to become part of the community, and you won’t be able to go running to the hostel desk for help the next time you get stuck in some way. This is where the real learning often begins. But, to do that takes time. It won’t happen on a one or two week vacation. In our experience, it takes about a month to really settle into a place and begin to find your groove. It’s not something most people can do very often, but it’s life changing when you can. Every traveler should try to do it once, at least. Going deep instead of wide can change your life.”

“I remember thinking, “You guys have taken a lot of picture postcards, but have you actually been anywhere?”

“Perhaps the most important life skill to develop is presence, whether we ever leave our hometowns or not. To learn to be in a moment, to experience it, for better or for worse, fully, without distraction is a worthwhile goal.”

“The three countries and five cities in fourteen days tour is going to make it almost impossible to truly be present in any one moment for very long. Slowing down, trying to “see less” and “be more,” is an excellent way to develop presence in your journey. Most people would say that one of the reasons they travel is to learn. Learning happens in layers. We learn from the outer onion skin of guidebooks and websites, we go deeper by visiting museums and cultural events. Very few take the time to go even deeper by developing connections with locals, relationships with individuals or roles in communities.”

“It’s completely possible to check a place off your list and really have never “been there” at all”

“If it’s all about the contest then I can almost guarantee that a person has barely breached the outer layer of the onion. There’s just no substitute for setting aside travel agendas and itineraries in exchange for interactions with real people who make up a culture. Take the necessary time, at least once in this lifetime, to slow down, to learn, to digest, and allow a new place to change who you are, from the inside out. Isn’t this why we begin traveling in the first place?”