Guest blog by: Rob Christian
For every adventure in the world, there are as many different travel styles and preferences. Generally, though, the three most prominent ways people prefer travelling is: with family, friends, or individually. Of these travelling styles, people tend to veer toward travelling in packs, with people they know.
I get it – the world can be a big, scary place and it is always comforting to be with someone you know and trust when venturing out into the great unknown. Another perk to travelling with friends from back home is that you will always share those memories together, for the rest of your life. I still chat about my Mongolian travels with the other three guys who travelled with me. There is no doubt that travelling with mates is awesome – and to some degree, safer.
But, one should not discount the art of travelling solo.
Barring all the obvious “pitfalls” that people will point out about travelling alone, to a large extent, people are generally nervous to put the unspoken issue to the test: can you rely on yourself to be okay in the world? The first time you leave home alone, it can be scary.
There are, however, different types of individual travel.
- Travelling individually, within a
Think Contiki, where, whether you’re a single traveller or not, you’ll be in the company of 18 to 35 year olds from all over the world. Contiki has plenty of group activities where you’ll get to know your tour mates — usually like-minded people who love to travel and have a good time. This is an ideal option for anyone who’s nervous to set off on an adventure truly on their own, which provides company and group experiences all in one. Contiki also provides “Me Time” on all of their adventures, so if you are keen for a bit of “alone time” away from the group, you can explore the “truly solo” travel bit on your own in a comfortable context.
- Travelling solo – and I mean solo
If you’ve got the cojones, you can set off on a worldly exploration just you and your trusty backpack. That’s the most “extreme” of the individual travel styles.
When I arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, en route to do my Dive Masters course on Koh Tao, I had to catch a train to catch a ferry to the island. The problem was that the long distance train station was not at the airport, nor was there an obvious link to it. Walking out of the airport onto the roads at about 10 pm, I vaguely tried to follow the other tourists and the general flow of people towards, what I hoped, was the train station. Walking underneath dimly-lit highway bridges at night, carrying all of your worldly belongings, unsure if you are heading in the right direction and not having anyone else to share that feeling with, can be quite an experience. I made it in the end, with several backtrackings and quizzical staring at signs, trying to work out what “train station” was in Thai.
This may sound like a minor accomplishment, but it has a knock-on effect. The discovery that you actually will be okay when you are by yourself is empowering, not just in your immediate environment and context, but the rest of your life.
Travelling solo in this way, you learn to rely on yourself because you have to. Most people could do with this confidence boost, as we often play things safe in life knowing that we can fall back on the expertise and help of others. While there is nothing wrong with that, the ability to back yourself in a decision regarding something as small as which direction to turn down a road in a foreign country, can make a world of difference in your life in general. I know it did for me.
I’ve travelled seriously solo and individually within a group with Contiki, and both styles are great albeit much easier and cheaper with Contiki. It just comes down to your own personal preference.
The magic of travelling is that you could have an identical experience with anybody, but it would affect you differently. Travelling solo, in whichever way, you are pushed out of your comfort zone, and driven to interact and engage with new people. Some other benefits are: you are on your own schedule, and are free to do whatever you want, whenever you want; you can be whoever you want to be; and your experiences are your own.
In addition, the amount of new things you’ll learn, both about yourself, and your surroundings, will be invaluable.