*This post was originally written in October 2015. While I have definitely become more confident in the past two years, much of this still rings true. Which is why I’ve decided to repost it.
‘Oh, you’re so brave!’ is probably the most common thing I hear from those I meet on the road, followed closely by ‘and how do your parents feel about this?’ At times I can understand why people think this. After all, in this day and age, when violence is so often portrayed on media all around us, it might seem brave to be travelling solo in a foreign country, especially as a female who looks younger than she is. Add to that the fact that I used to spend the vast majority of my nights free camping in the back of my small car, and yes, I see where they’re coming from.
But to be completely honest, I don’t think it’s brave at all. As the fountain of wisdom that is The Princess Diaries taught me:
“courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear”
And this, good people, does not describe my travel style one bit.
I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf. Growing up, friendships were made primarily because my mother pushed me into them, or because I had little choice, being around people in school or college. I love my friends, and I’m perfectly happy being around them. I’m also perfectly happy being alone. Other humans often don’t make any sense to me, and have made me feel so much more confused and alone than isolation ever did. The only company that I’m ever truly comfortable in is that of animals – give me a dog or a horse over a boy any day.
I’m no longer the awkward young girl I used to be, afraid of saying the wrong thing or drawing attention to anything that could be turned into the butt of a joke. I like being around people, and I like being alone. I recently read a wonderful (and devastating) book called The Light Between Oceans, in which there was a line that so accurately described me I could hardly believe it. It went:
“I’m all right on my own. And I’m all right with a bit of company. It’s the switching from one to the other that gets me”
It’s true – once I have friends, I’m ok. It’s the making friends that I find so hard. That first step you take when approaching another human being, those first words you exchange. It feels like that particular page was ripped out of my copy of life’s manual. Most of my closest friendships were begun only because the other person made the first move.
So what I’m saying is this. I’m often travelling solo because for me it’s a lot easier than finding other people to travel with. I’ve come up with plenty of excuses – both to others and myself – as to why I do it, such as ‘my car is too small for another person’ or ‘free camping makes giving lifts awkward’. They’re valid to a point, but if I really wanted travel mates or just a bit of company, I could make that small effort and find it. But that would be too hard. So I choose the easy option, to be alone, which to me is the cowardly choice.
I guess it depends on your personality as to whether travelling solo is brave or not. If you’re a very social person who thrives on human contact, then travelling alone is definitely courageous. If you’re more like me, then throwing caution to the wind and partnering up with other travellers is the brave choice. If either of the above describes you, then I salute you! I wish I had your courage. But I haven’t found mine yet. For the moment, whenever someone tells me I’m brave, I nod and smile politely. Then I make a quick exit and curl up in my car with a good book for the night.
New places and new experiences don’t scare me. There’s a big, wide world out there, and I’m not going to let my lone wolf status prevent me from seeing it all. I guess you could call that brave, but until I face my particular fears, I won’t agree with you.
Do you travel solo, and if you do, does it make you feel brave? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Welcome to This Wild Life of Mine (previously known as Life of Dearbh)
When a love of travel meets a passion for wildlife…
I’m a zoologist who explores the world while working for conservation organisations. I write about my experiences in the hope of inspiring others to follow their dreams and see the beauty of this earth – in a responsible and ethical way.