Here’s an excerpt:
I also know that as a solo traveler, I generally err more on the cautious side than if I’m traveling with a group of people. Though there’s absolutely nothing wrong in being cautious, especially when it’s better to be safe than sorry, it can often be frustrating because I always feel like I’m not getting the full range of experiences I otherwise might have. Two heads are always better than one, I’ve always said, and this is particularly invaluable in places that don’t have strong tourist infrastructures in place or extremely opaque places to travel like China. To be blunt, it reduces the intimidation.
I do notice however, that as a lone traveler, I get more attention, help and/or special treatment I would normally than if I was with someone else. This can be both beneficial and detrimental — I would be lying if I didn’t think the girl factor plays a role in this. This often comes in the form of people looking the other way, people sneaking me into special-access areas but often comes at the expense of second-guessing whether the men helping me have ulterior motives.
But the independence factor, for many, can be intoxicating. There’s no one or nothing dictating your schedule; it’s free to make up as you go. Going to a museum? That restaurant? Self-love, baby. Who doesn’t love nourishing their soul and taking some serious me time? There’s nothing like hiking up to a serious sunrise on a bloody mountain with some serious self-reflection and self-realizations in tow. (By the time I reach the mountain, I’m usually like, “shit, I’ve got to work out more.”)
Unfortunately, the main issue I have with traveling alone is that experiences are harder to document. Mind you, I’ve been doing this since before selfie sticks were invented, but that is one advantage of traveling in a group that solo travelers will never have. And as much as selfie sticks alleviate the problem, they just don’t quite work when you’re dealing with monolith monuments like Petra in Jordan. Sometimes you need a real live human being for that; and it’s also the main reason why I hire guides from time to time, so I can have a glorified photographer.
As beautiful as traveling alone can be, it can also be intensely alienating. Last year, The Atlantic published this absolutely fascinating article on the value of sharing experiences. In it, scientists actually found that people who had undergone “extraordinary” experiences alone often felt stronger negative emotional connotations connected to the event than those who underwent “ordinary” experiences with others:
People who had extraordinary experiences, meanwhile, had “little in common” with those who had run-of-the-mill experiences, and the resulting combination of strangeness, jealousy, and abnormality caused the extraordinary people to feel left out… Apparently, though, we don’t anticipate the social rejection that might ensue when we try to regale our acquaintances with stories from our trek across New Zealand.
…In social interactions, people aim for relatability, not impressiveness. More important than having undergone something, it seems, is having someone understand.