You become a different person when you leave your friends behind.
Whenever I travel solo, I tend to get a lot of questions.
"You're in Colombia/Morocco/Ohio by yourself?" people ask. "Aren't you lonely/scared/bored?"Nope. I am not. Because while traveling solo can look intimidating, it's my favorite way to travel.
When you travel alone, you decide where you want to go and when. You don't have to make travel plans around someone else's vacation days or cuisine preferences.
That applies to when you actually get to where you're going too. You don't have to spend precious vacation time arguing over whether to see the Eiffel tower or camp in the French countryside. You don't have to go on someone else's favorite type of vacation.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. The real beauty of traveling alone is the people you meet. When you travel with friends or family, you spend most of your time with them. The trip becomes a hang out session with people you already know, and exotic places are just the backdrop.
But when you travel by yourself, you have to meet new people — both other travelers and locals. And that gives you a window into other people's lives. Which, in my mind, is the real point of traveling. It's one thing to read about rainforest destruction, but it's another to hear an indigenous man in the rainforest tell you about how different his childhood was.
Besides, meeting new people opens up new possibilities. Instead of following guidebooks, you get whisked away on unexpected adventures. I've found myself squeezing seeds into argan oil with Moroccan women and listening to a Colombian man's theory on life. I've made deep friendships that begin and end in a day. I probably would never have done those things if I were with friends from home.
And it's not just about other people. Traveling solo gives you a rare window into yourself. Most people spend their lives embedded in their neighborhoods, jobs, friends and families. That's perfectly natural, but all these influences end up changing how you see yourself. You become the person your community tells you that you are. When you travel alone, you're ripped free of all those warm ties. You're brought face to face with yourself, the person underneath all the expectations and past, someone capable of more than the person back home ever was.
Every trip doesn't need to be a solo one. Traveling with friends is fun the same way it's fun to watch movies with friends — it's more about the people than the activity. But if you've never traveled solo, you're missing out.
This is likely my last Treehugger article, so I'll be traveling solo again soon. I like to think I'll meet some of you on the trail.