As I reach the upper tier of my twenties I’ve been ill-advisedly clicking on more and more articles about things you have to do while you’re still “young”. Many lists are entitled things to do before you turn 30 or things everyone should do in their twenties, and other headlines which make me worry I’ve missed out on something extremely time sensitive things and after 30 I’ll be too old and decrepit to do whatever it was. Though many of the items are fairly eye-roll worthy (try a new sport – really?), one thing I did take away was solo travel.
I looked up blogs about solo travel, and I kept finding the authors found the experience freeing, cathartic, exciting, and tons of other exhilarating words. They also all seemed to be in agreement that every female should try it. So, I started brainstorming the best way to go about this. I wasn’t so sure I’d like it, so instead of a full trip I decided to tack a few days onto a trip with a friend I was taking through the Balkans. A quick perusal through flight prices and routes, and the one place that made sense was Ireland.
My first stop would be Cork as I’d never been to Southern Ireland. From there I’d head to the familiar Galway, and then back to Dublin. Just a few days, but enough to see if I was cut out for the solo lifestyle.
Yeah, I’m not.
I wasn’t scared, frightened, or confused, and I didn’t have a bad time or dislike it – but all of it would have been better with a friend. And, the parts that were really good, would have been even better if I could now turn to a friend and laugh about what happened.
Here are my rebuttals to the most popular claims by people who clearly have shitty friends as travel mates
You’ll meet all kinds of interesting people
Rebuttal: Umm, yes some people I met were interesting. However, while in visiting the Ring of Kerry I reached out to another solo traveler and then found myself stuck the
rest of the day with a morose painfully boring German girl. Despite an entire day together I did not get her name. It felt far too personal a question to ask. You can still meet interesting people while traveling with someone – only then you can also ditch the weirdos. I did meet some fun people – but not because I was solo.
*Please enjoy this photo I sneakily took of my German friend.
You can go wherever you want
Rebuttal: I sure could. But everyone else must travel with terrible people, because when I’m with a friend and I want to stop into a shop they just let me do it. Likewise, if they want to pop in somewhere waiting for 5 minutes while they look around doesn’t bother me. I’m really not that picky about things like where to eat, or looking in shops. This one was silly to me.
You learn about yourself
Rebuttal: Ok this one was a bit worrying. What was I meant to be learning exactly? I started to think about that one – what a doozy. It reminded me a lot of the
show friends when Joey moves out to have time alone with his thoughts, only to find he doesn’t have that many. Yeah, I didn’t learn anything other than things I already knew – like I already knew I liked to be around people.
You will bond with the people you stay with
Rebuttal: On one hand this was true. I ended up hanging out with my Airbnb host when they invited me to watch the Euros with them. I probably wouldn’t have done that if I was with a friend as we would have gone out on our own. Buuuut, I also would guess that I would have more fun with a friend. My hosts were nice, but they were a French and Spanish couple and didn’t seem to really like Irish people. They had a few friends over who were also foreign to Ireland, and when I asked them all why they lived there they had luke-warm ideas about it there, and said how they “didn’t understand the Irish sense of humor”. I felt that was a bit rich coming from a Brit, but ok. It was medium with them. They were hospitable and friendly, but we’re not going to keep in touch. I would have had more fun with a friend.
What did I take away from this experience? I didn’t NEED anyone else to be there. I wasn’t scared or extremely lonely or unable to figure out directions because my mind just can’t function all alone. But you don’t laugh as much on your own. That bummed me out a little. It’s just more fun when someone else is there, even for little things like turning to someone to say wow, that man’s pants are shocking, what a hero.
I also started to get a little annoyed at all of the preachy articles about how much every woman needs to do this. Like, wait a minute, do men not need to do this too? Do they not need to find some sort of inner clarity that fellow bros are prohibiting? Is it just because women are more afraid to solo travel? Because we have legitimate reasons for being afraid.
Walking the street at any moment roughly 60% of people could just physically over power me (I’m assuming 50% of people are men, 10% of which I am stronger than leaving 40%, and then 20% of women I am weaker than because I’m a ton stronger than I look, so yeah I guess about 60%?). Anyway – if you’re a female and you are uncomfortable traveling alone because of safety that is a legitimate fear – don’t feel like it’s something you have to “overcome”. Do it if you want to – not to prove you can.
I had a good time. I met some nice people, saw some beautiful places, pub crawled, hiked, dined, met up with fun groups of people, visited friends, and all kinds of good stuff. But, none of the good things would have been tarnished by having a travel mate, and would be even better to look back on with a friend.
Is it something everyone needs to try? NO! Do it if you want to – but it’s not a secret magical utopia.