I've been travelling the Pan-American Highway now for about nine months. I could have had a baby in that time. (Well, I did drink some Llama Sperm in Bolivia but haven't felt any kicks yet.) In that time, I have spent about two weeks by myself on the road. For the entire other part of the journey I was with two legends of the game and some of my best friends, Mark and Victoria.
Travelling through El Salvador I became aware that I was actually alone for the first time in a long time. It got me thinking about what travelling solo actually means.
Can we truly be alone on the road?
I asked myself this question on the 16-hour bus journey through El Salvador. I couldn't come to a solid answer myself, so I just asked the two other Australian backpackers from Sydney whom I had just met.
Their answer? “You're kidding right?”
We had beers later that night in the hostel and planned out the next few days together.
Unless you're staying by yourself in a hotel room then it's impossible for you to be truly alone. You're never going to appreciate a place if you're sitting in a room by yourself or at a table in a restaurant surrounded by empty chairs. Backpacker trails exist everywhere in the world and you're inevitably going to go in the same direction as a lot of other people. If you were truly going to travel solo, then you would essentially have to be anti-social.
You are going to make friends. Face it and accept this kind fact. I set this as a challenge to anyone, travel the world and try NOT to make incredible friends along the way.
Can you just watch my bags while I go the bathroom?
It's so easy, it's just a little question that you can ask a mate you're travelling with. Let me leave my bags with you whilst I go and do anything else. It's more than this, though. When you get to a new city you're completely at the mercy of its elements. You have no idea what is going on and what it's going to give you. When you're solo there is no one there to back you up. Should I go left? Is the hostel down this road? Hell, even if you get it wrong then at least you've got at least four eyes instead of two to try and sort it out.
So many times I've missed the sign for a bus, or wandered up and down a street trying to find my accommodation and missing it because I didn't see the sign. Do you really want to have to deal with this solo when it's 3 a.m. and you've just got off a 36-hour bus ride through Argentina?
You're sharing all of this anyway.
How's your Facebook account, full of check-ins? How's your latest Instagram post, a lovely little snap? You're sharing this experience with everyone you know anyway, so why not just share it with someone who is there?
Social media is full of people sharing their journeys. I subscribe to at least 300 other travel writers to see what an amazing day they're having. Since I began travelling 10 years ago, the idea of being disconnected dissolved. No matter where you are, you're within range of about four WiFi connections and there will be someone right there with you, accessing social media. They'll also be sharing that same gorgeous island view on their Facebook wall.
So where are we in 2014?
You reach the top of a mountain on a magnificent hike, you have a huge night out, you're at a beach in paradise, I ask, what's the point in doing it alone when there is no one there by your side to share it with? There is no one to listen to you say, that's amazing. You can set out by yourself, you can claim that you have the freedom of the road, but you can't actually be alone.
Travelling solo is almost impossible to actually to achieve. Human beings are naturally social, we want to be together and we want to share it together. Nearly all of the best friends that I have made in my life and will have forever I have met on the road. We are, and always will be drawn together as people. And that is the beautiful part of travelling.Add this article to your reading list