WHAT I MISS ABOUT SOLO TRAVEL
By Vincent Lyn
For decades I have been booking a plane ticket on a whim. When something goes wrong, I go left. And wherever that left takes me is wherever I end up. In the past 6 years since starting my foundation We Can Save Children, my travel habits were put into overdrive. Traversing the globe spending nearly 6 months of the year in sometimes up to 10 countries a year. But with the pandemic closing borders across the world, solo travel to remote parts of the world is no longer my form of escape. It is now more important than ever to stay in one place — whether it is your choice or not. Last year I only traveled internationally one time to Aruba and it’s given me a lot of time to think about what I miss most about solo travel. Because in more ways than one, it has changed who I am today.
When people ask me if I get lonely as a solo traveller, I never quite know what to say. The short answer is no, but the long answer means so much more than that. The truth is, solo travel leads you down a slippery slope of getting to know yourself better than ever. At first, it is scary. There is no one to give you their opinion or help make decisions with you. Traveling solo to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in 2019 there is a certain magical something that happens. You stop relying on other people’s opinions and start trusting your own. You realize how much more you can get out of each day when you just trust your gut and you take charge of your life.
Nothing groundbreaking ever happens in your comfort zone. I started traveling the world solo at age 13, yes thirteen years old. Growing up in England, my mother had a a very prominent job with British Airways so it was a time that my parents never gave it a second thought of putting me on a plane and fly solo across the Atlantic to NYC or San Francisco or the Caribbean Islands. But it wasn’t the places I’ve seen that altered my view of the world — it was the people I met. Meeting people from different backgrounds, cultures and countries has totally reshaped my world view. These people have opened my mind and my heart.
Solo travel has taught me how to enjoy being alone. But being alone while on an adventure and being alone stuck in quarantine are two very different concepts. The truth is, I love my alone time. Solo travel has made me realize that. But there is something to be said for being busy, keeping the adventurous spirit alive and not knowing what will happen next. Loneliness occurs when your mind wanders to make sense of things. But when you travel solo, your mind is constantly occupied, excited and invigorated. When I travel alone, I feel like the world is my oyster. Every day feels like an opportunity — to discover, to learn, to grow. Without having that ongoing sense of discovery, the feeling that anything is possible is more difficult to attain.
This past year has taught me a lot, for one I never thought I could write so prolifically with over 80 published articles since the beginning of the pandemic. Another reminder for me that I feel there is so much yet to accomplish. If there is one thing I miss most about solo travel, it is my independence. I have learned to only rely on myself for my decisions, which has fallen by the wayside a little this year. But on the other hand the balance has taught me and brought me much closer to my partner and coming to terms with leaning into relying on her more than ever before.
For me the important thing about solo travel is decision making. When you travel solo, everything is entirely up to you. Okay, it’s also up to the plane timetables and the weather and the whim of border guards, but the basic decision on where you’re going and what you’re doing next is completely yours. You don’t need to pander to the interests of anyone else and if you don’t want to see yet another museum or castle you don’t have to.
You can also decide — entirely on the spur of the moment — if you want a rest, something to eat, to spend longer than you’d anticipated at a sight, or if you want to completely change your itinerary on a whim and head to Beirut instead of Naypyidaw (capital of Myanmar) which I did by the way. This is the highlight of solo travel for me — no negotiation is required. There’s no drama, no negotiation, no worries, no concerns, not unless you’re being shot at then you just gotta duck. How I miss that sense of adventure and adrenalin rush.
CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations
Middle East Correspondent at Wall Street News Agency
Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts