Why I like traveling alone (and maybe you should try it too)

Pardon me for the excessive use of “I” but I guess writing this in first person will make more sense.

I like to work really hard and get exhausted and then take an off. So for 6 months or so I would work my ass off, mostly on weekends too and then get exhausted and take a break! I took a break about 6 months back where I was on a no-laptop, no-phone trip and had truly enjoyed every bit of that 7 day off.

This time around I am traveling alone – yes, all alone. I had decided about a week back that I will take a break and put a leave notice to the company immediately. I needed time for myself. In fact all of us do but most of us never realize it.

In the daily rut of life: clients, partners, colleagues, bosses, friends, parents, siblings, GF/BF, spouses, kids and some other stuff (like Facebook, Twitter) we don’t find time for ourselves. I have an identity of my own and if I am not spending time with myself, I am not nurturing that identity. I feel, in this fast daily life, if I don’t stop and take care of myself, after a few days I feel lost. Completely lost. So much so that for every task that I do I would ask myself, why am I doing this? And before I could even find the answer, I would have another task lined up and would rush to that without putting in much thought or answering it. We normally kill that voice and move on. After a certain time, either we will stop and say “wait, let me answer that first” – which is what I do or we say “aah, let that question be there. It keeps coming back, “we will answer it later or not answer it at all” – and the voice – gets a slow death.

By the time we realize that voice again, its too late. In some cases, these turn into what this nurse disclosed as the Top 5 regrets by people while on their deathbed.ย 

So I took a lone break, primarily for three reasons:

  1. To think about my own identity. Whom am I? Am I doing what I really want to do in life? Why do I do what I do? If something needs to be stopped? Whether something needs a course correction? Whether I am fulfilling all my roles and responsibilities (being a son, brother, boss, partner, colleague, friend etc) or being just myself? Where am I lagging? What am I overdoing? So I answer these and a few more of these questions. And more importantly, I take decisions – some of them tough ones.
  2. To actually take a break from work. Being in a client servicing business, there’s barely a moment when I don’t worry about a client deliverable, irrespective of whether its on track or not. Being an entrepreneur and not thinking about getting more business all the time, I feel, is a sin. To be a manager and not think about the growth of your team is another impossible task. So a few days off without worrying about answering calls, replying mails, sending texts, discussing new opportunities, making proposals, getting more business, conducting more internal trainings – is a blissful time. You forget all this and focus on other things in life. It could be anything. Even a small cup of tea (without worrying about the things I mentioned above) seems W.O.N.D.E.R.F.U.L.
  3. Its about getting out of your comfort zone. This is a complete complete blog post in itself and I’ll write about that in the next few days. [Update: Wrote Getting out of my comfort zone]

So then what I do on these lonely trips?

First and most importantly, I switch off my phone. And keep it that ways until I return back to base. How else would I avoid those calls, texts, mails? I’ll be honest, this time I had to switch it on midway because it was new year time and I had to make a few calls, and was expecting a few too. So 31st eve, I switched it on and got back connected to the world. But during my previous trip, I kept if off for an entire week!

Secondly, keep minimum gadgets with yourself. You may or may not agree here. Last trip I didn’t carry my laptop either. This time I did, will explain below why.

So now that I was disconnected to the world, here’s what I did:

  1. Explore the place, obviously. I purposely chose a place which I hadn’t visited earlier.ย I strongly feel the best way to explore a place/thing is to visit/do it alone. You just have to do what your mind says and if there is any element of curiosity in you, you’ll end up exploring a lot more than with anyone else. Alone, I can keep walking and exploring stuff and not be dependent on the people who are accompanying me. I am a great lover for long walks, especially when on unknown paths. And often I’ve found myself in a position where I have not been able to do this when I am with others. It becomes difficult as I/we have to take care of everyone’s wishes. Not everyone can walk long distances, or is inquisitive enough and in a group it becomes difficult that ways. Please don’t be offended if you have been with me on a trip and are reading this. Its not that I always want to travel alone or that I don’t enjoy the company your company, but sometimes, I do need a lone journey too, as it gives me “freedom”. I walked almost 5-6 km daily (on days I could step out) and stopped at random places, noticing weird things, clicking (un)interesting pics and doing foolish stuff. When with others, you can’t do all of that, believe me.IMG_0904
  2. Made some plans for the next year – no these are not new year resolutions before you think that. I have a long list of things that I want to accomplish during my lifetime, so this time of the year, each year, I take calls on what needs to be done next. Not that I achieve all of them, but at least I know what my destination is. Helps me reach somewhere instead of being nowhere. And it keeps me aligned to my life goals as well. Just had a look at my last years’ list, I’ve achieved 50% of that – which I feel is not bad I feel. It kept me focused and has shown me my path for the next 12-18 months actually. Some of them turned unimportant during the course of the year and now I can strike them off, easily and not be guilty or regretful about it either. Knowing what you want to do is important but I feel its equally important to know what you don’t want to do! So I worked on my goals, hope I accomplish more than 50% this time. [This is the reason, I carried my laptop]

Important thing to note here is that, like in the previous case, where wandering alone helps me explore more, in this case where I need to plan, I need to be alone too. Disconnected from the world. Its because all these answers come after a lot of time, when you’ve been thinking uninterrupted. So often I would see that I would start thinking something, then move out of hotel for anything, then carry on to explore the city and during this city exploration I would see something or something would happen that would give me the answer to my original question with which I started from the hotel. Amazing! Isn’t it?

And this cannot happen when you are in your own city, even if on a leave. Distractions would keep occurring and you would never get that “me time” or “mind space” to think all this.

Obviously, these are things that I chose to do. And I chose them because I wanted to nurture my identity. You may find your own reasons and find a lot more other things that can/should be done. Meditation is another thing you should must try.

By the way, guess what? I am not the only one who travels alone:

Oh and one more thing, I heard (and learnt) from Freeman Murray – traveling alone allows you to meet more new people and make more friends, because when you are in the group – you talk to only that limited set of people ๐Ÿ™‚

View outside my hotel room in Dalhousie

View outside my hotel room in Dalhousie

If you are a lone traveler too, do share your thoughts, would like to learn more from your experiences.

7 Replies to “Why I like traveling alone (and maybe you should try it too)”

  1. Abhinav, always been fan of your blogposts which forces me to introspect. This is yet another piece. You have beautifully expressed what it all takes and means to travel alone. Keep sharing your experiences. Wish you a super-duper year ahead and may you accomplish most of your listed tasks.

    1. Am glad Anandan, I forced at least 1 person to ‘think’. #BlogGoalAchieved
      Thanks for the wishes and hope you have a great ‘introspection period’ ๐Ÿ˜‰

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