Why I Travel Alone
When it comes to traveling, I have few hard-and-fast rules, except for one: always travel alone. I say this not because I’m a misanthrope (well, not only that) but because traveling solo enriches the experience — for me, yes, but also for those I encounter out there.
It’s no coincidence that the most memorable travel literature is about solo journeys: Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World, Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams, William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways. These writers know that solo journeys make for better stories, and better journeys.
Traveling alone forces me to engage with my surroundings. This isn’t always pleasant. Sometimes those surroundings include tropical downpours and aggressive touts and smog so dense it has weight and mass.
Solo travel is good for the planet, or at least better for it. We solo travelers produce less trash, burn fewer fossil fuels, leave fewer footprints. And we are more likely to adhere to the Prime Directive of Star Trek lore: never interfere with other civilizations.
Traveling is not about the destination. It is not about the journey, either. It is about changing the way we see the world. As Henry Miller said, “One’s destination is never a place but a new way of looking at things.” Is it possible to achieve this “new way” while crammed into a tour bus with 40 other vision changers? Theoretically, yes, but the odds of self-transformation increase in inverse proportion to the number of other selves surrounding you at any given moment.
Traveling in a group is constricting; space is limited, compromises necessary. Traveling alone is expansive. My relationship with time is altered. I can’t explain the physics involved. All I know is that, alone on the road, time no longer feels like a scarce commodity, so I stop hoarding it.
One reason we travel is to connect with others, but it’s impossible to connect with an entire nation, or even a village. We connect with one person at a time, and it’s easier to do that when “we” are an “I.” A traveling group — even a group of two — says leave us alone. A solo traveler says talk to me.
The solo traveler is more likely to experience one of the joys of life on the road: encounters with strangers. It…