There are some moments in our life when it is always better to have some company. For me, travelling isn’t one of those.

Call me selective, but I tend to be careful who I travel with. I feel the best way to test any friendship is to travel with that person. I know a lot of you agree with this one!

I remember June of 2012, when I was wandering by Lake Geneva in Switzerland, attending the 46th Montreux Jazz Festival. I was ecstatic to be a part of this two-week long festival while getting a chance to see some of my favourite artistes perform live. Truly, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The Montreux Music & Convention Centre.
The Montreux Music & Convention Centre.

However, there were moments when I distinctly remember hoping I had someone to keep me company— to share a thought, or to exclaim at the same things, or to exchange feedback about the performance over a beer. Sure, I love traveling by myself but I allow myself to rue over the nostalgia of companionship.

Scrolling through The Backpacker Co the other day, I realised I don’t have to make that choice anymore. Their trips are tailored to encourage people to travel—by themselves, with companions or with strangers. If you’re someone who is apprehensive of travelling by herself while taking a long vacation in Europe, perhaps this would be a suitable design?

For instance: if I chose to attend the Oktoberfest in Germany this year (I’ve had my eyes on it for long), I don’t necessarily need to be alone or stress myself on chatting up beer-drunk strangers. I could guard off the introvert-me slowly by getting to know a few travellers who are also exploring the Fest, while maintaining a healthy me-time.

Conversations by Lake Geneva.
Conversations by Lake Geneva.

I suppose it is too harsh to assume that solo travel is an extreme form of travel where there is no interaction with any possible living soul. On the other hand, it is paradoxical to say that solo travellers travel in groups. Three years ago, I wish I enjoyed this choice before embarking on an international music festival experience entirely by myself. Would I have travelled with someone else? I don’t know.

All I know now is that my memories by the side of the glistening Lake Geneva are safely kept within the walls of my heart. And that if someone chooses to have a companion in conversation, it’s always nice to share a smile.

How do you travel?

Note: This post was sponsored by The Backpacker Co.

Amrita Das

I have been a travel and culture independent journalist. My bylines have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic Traveller India, Lonely Planet Magazine India, The Indian Express and World Travel Magazine. A fellow of Media Ambassadors India-Germany 2019 program by Robert Bosch Stiftung and Centre for Media Competence, University of Tübingen. Currently, I am the photo editor for RoundGlass Sustain, a wildlife and conservation e-publication. I live in India.

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11 thoughts on “The Paradox of Solo Travel”

  1. Ah, now here’s something that I’ve been fighting myself with for quite a while!

    I am, by nature, an introvert and a solo traveller. My travel style is backpacking, and I’m the sort of person who gets up in a morning on the road and not necessarily know which country they’ll be in come nightfall. Travelling solo just adds to this sense of freedom.

    However it does get lonely on the open road, and there are places I’ve missed out on because getting there on my own (as opposed to with a group) would have proved to be horrendously expensive or overly awkward.

    I’ll tend to stay in backpacker hostels, or communal B&Bs, where there are other travellers around, venturing along completely different paths but with whom it’s often good to reconnaitre in the evenings, to share tales over beer, and to maybe plan the next day’s adventures (‘oh, I want to go there too’).

    My experiences are that some parts of the world are ‘easier’ to find this balance in. South-East Asia for instance is trivial – one can travel alone quite easily all over and yet still find company as and when necessary. It’s hard to feel lonely in a country like Laos or Indonesia, as no matter what solo adventures you have, someone will very likely be around when you get back to chat with.

    The trouble I found was when, having been used to this, I ended up backpacking in West Africa and in virtually every guesthouse I stayed in, I was the only backpacker there. Never before had solo travel felt so lonely; even for an introvert like me it was a hard situation to grasp. It did make me wonder if, in some circumstances, I’d enjoy it more if I did have a travel companion.

    So, I guess it depends on who, and where, you are!

    1. The diversities of the world and the permutations that come with it :) Your last line sums it all I guess. It totally depends on where we are and who are we with or without.

  2. I too travel solo but I wish a company to travel with. It is good to share but for that two people should be very good friends first maybe.

    1. I love travelling by myself. There are usually other set of travels I do with my friends and family.

  3. I wouldn’t choose any one particular mode of travel. Different occasions ask for different things. Solitude seems desirable when you are staring at a vista too beautiful for words. But sharing it all with someone can seem worthwhile too. And that means family or loved ones, not necessarily strangers!

    1. I agree Pragati. It’s a matter of preference, place and situation :)

  4. Solo travel is my usual form, spiced up with meeting people (perhaps easier with some more extroversion) and occasionally tripping with others. Group trips can be great if you know the other people fit well with your travelling style, goals and budget, but can be disastrous. A friend recently went to Amsterdam with a group who had completely different tastes in activities…

    As with everything now, there’s at least one app for meeting other travellers on the way: There’s also and, to a certain extent, Couchsurfing.

    Having said that I’ve never tried the first two, since I imagine it could be hard to get a good feel for people online… Anyone else?

    Similarly there are ‘events’ on Couchsurfing in most cities, so for example youn could join a bunch of people who are meeting up at Cologne Carnival together, but not have to actually Couchsurf yourself. can work, too, and many events have a forum where people organise stuff. Doing ‘free walking tours’ often puts you in touch with other travellers too!

    1. I love walking tours! It is a great way to meet people while travelling a part of the city. I’ve not couchsurfed yet and am equally apprehensive of trying the group tours. But like you said, it does work for some people.

      Solo travel is very comforting if there is a healthy mix of engagement with the locals and a good me-time. It’s probably a combination that works for all solo travellers.

  5. Yeah I prefer to travel alone too because am always afraid that my travel companion may get too bored with my likes for museums, art galleries, ancient sites, or get impatient when I’m taking a long time to take photos. Having said that, there are times, yeah, I wish I had a companion to be able to share experiences together. Nowadays, the tendency for me is still solo travels but I try my very best to strike a balance with trips of 2 or 3 family members/friends. I suppose the latter is teaching me to be more patient with folks who may not share exact same interests as me (especially shoppers!), LOL!

    1. Haha! I empathise with that. My constant worry is waking up early to see the sun rise and my companions feeling otherwise :p

  6. Hi5 on the solo traveller!! I am one of those who loves my company a little too much.. Totally agree to this statement you have made ” I feel the best way to test any friendship is to travel with that person. I know a lot of you agree with this one!” ..

    I love just going with the flow. there have been moments when I felt like doing nothing but laze in the room, and have done just that!

    I have also travelled with people, 8/10 times it was pleasant, but there were trips where I wished I had just come solo or not come at all.. When planning trips with friends, there is the worry of “will the company I am travelling with be a good one or will we be at loggerheads, and then there is the difference in interests clashes that tend to happen [ I love culture, heritage, history, meeting locals while i have friends who want to do nothing but shop]”…. Well, bottomwline I love to travel and hapy being by myself… until i find someone who is the right companion, here’s to more trips with me :D

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