The Joy and Curse of Solo-Travel

I love traveling on my own, I have been a solo-traveler for about 14 years now and thrive on the freedom and exhilaration of it.  I guess you could say I have a strong independent streak and am comfortable in my own company, after all I have lived alone for 13 years.

I have now been traveling in India for 8 months, apart from a few short stints with family, all of this time has been spent on my own.  I have enjoyed it thoroughly; the need for solitude and anonymity was certainly what I was craving when I left Australia and I have been fortunate enough to have the luxury of it for such a long time now.

Traveling on your own means you can do what you want whenever you want without having to take anyone else into consideration.  It means some days I go back to the same site 3 times just because I want to. On others I may just sit in a cafe for most of the day reading a book.  It is freedom at its purest, I am not accountable to anyone and can literally do whatever I want.  It is entirely selfish and this is the joy of solo-travel.

There are some downsides to traveling on your own though.  Rooms and transport invariably cost more when there is no one to split the bill.  There is also no one to bounce ideas off or share a magical scene with. Tragically for a foodie, it also means you can’t share a few dishes with someone and get to try more things on the menu;  to me the latter is the biggest tragedy of solo-travel.

All in all the last 8 months on my own have been great, however recently I have found that I am starting to long for more company.  Traveling on your own and being a woman, I find I don’t really talk to many people at length as I go about my day to day business.  I tend to avoid conversations with local men because I am guarded about their intentions and women tend to be less visible in the streets and those that are in turn seem to avoid conversations with “foreigners”.

I do come across other travelers occasionally however as many of the guest houses I stay in don’t really have communal areas, I don’t really seem to bump into many fellow souls. Of course there are exceptions, for example in Rishikesh  and Puri where I stayed in places which were very social and full of tourists.  I made a few friends there, one in particular in Rishikesh who I would share breakfast and dinner with each day, just chatting and enjoying each other’s company.  I really enjoyed sharing a meal, catching up on the day and just getting to know someone for a short while and having conversations. Not just the regular travelers talk of where are you going and where you have come from, but a real conversation with depth.

Yes I really miss having conversations.

Thankful for the wonders of modern technology I have found ways to counter it. I Skype and online chat with friends and family occasionally, but navigating time zones and schedules is always challenging, and of course  Facebook is a great way to keep up to date with what people are doing. Much to my surprise Twitter has become a new friend to me; through it I have met people, gathered information and had some interesting conversations.

The internet really has become my lifeline, but I am a social person and nothing compares to me to actually spending time and conversing with someone face to face. So for me its nearly time to hang up my solo-travel boots, at least for a little while.

The time has come for me to start considering putting down some roots.  Lack of conversation isn’t the only reason but it is certainly a big factor.  Whilst solo-travel is invigorating and such a joy, it can at times also be unbearably lonely. For me now the loneliness has become more palpable more frequently.

A dear friend of mine is flying into Delhi next weekend and we will be traveling together for three weeks, my last weeks of travel for a little while.  I simply can’t wait to see my friend and to enjoy seeing India through someone elses eyes for a while, sharing a meal…. and of course having some great conversations.