Why travelling alone can be the best experience of your life
I still remember the first time I met a woman travelling alone. I was on a train on the Trans Siberian railway, going from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar, to then hopping on a train to Beijing and move for one year in China. I was with three friends, I felt secure and protected, but at the same time curious and mesmerized by the courage of this young Argentinian woman embracing solo travel in the middle of Siberia. That was my first trip off the beaten track. I was keeping a journal with the intention of writing about all the new people I would meet during the journey and how they inspired me. When I met this woman, I wrote in capital letters “One day, I WILL BE TRAVELLING ALONE TOO.”
That one day was not that far away. Six months later I was crossing the Cambodian and Thai border by myself. One year later I explored the Southwestern Chinese countryside alone: no one spoke English and I barely had internet connection. I spoke a bit of Mandarin and the locals showed to me so much care and kindness. I learnt how to trust complete strangers and I experienced a sense of freedom that words can hardly describe.
The last time I travelled alone to a foreign country was when I came to Bali. I remember that mix of positive fear and excitement before departure and on arrival. The new sounds and scents when I got out of the airport. The first time I took the road up to Ubud. The temples, the sound of the gamelan, the scent of clove cigarettes and incense. The kaleidoscope of colours and the gold of the statues. Everything so blissfully and beautifully overwhelming.
I’d booked a bunk bed in a hostel before departing, but just for one or two nights. I specifically came for a one-month yoga immersion at The Yoga Barn, so walking around the area I discovered a little dreamy guesthouse, run by two Balinese sisters. I decided to stay there. That was the best decision I’ve ever made: they welcomed me as a family member. I was yes alone, but never lonely. Travelling solo has brought so much to my life and I would do it again and again. Here some of the main reasons why travelling alone in Bali can actually be the best experience of your life.
You’ll connect with the local culture on a deeper level
Balinese are welcoming by nature. If you’ll be travelling alone and decide to stay in an intimate family-run guesthouse and homestay, you’ll never feel lonely. The fact of being by myself when I got to Ubud pushed me even more to get to know my host family, to join them to religious ceremonies and family events. My conscious curiosity brought me to ask questions and spend entire evenings helping the women of the family to make the traditional offerings and talk about Balinese myths and legends. I felt so blessed and lucky. Also, when walking alone in the streets or at a market, I would try to learn and speak the local language or have funny conversation in English. Travelling alone naturally tends to bring us out of our comfort zone in order to seek that basic need that is human connection. I definitely made some authentic connections in Bali.
Alone time is actually healthy
The best thing about travelling alone is that the choice is always on you: you can either be by yourself or go out and find new inspiring friends. Alone time is actually healthy and I found Ubud, and Bali in general, a good spot for that. I would go to yoga classes at The Yoga Barn, being surrounded by people and mindful energy and some day I would intentionally try to be by myself, writing on my journal in between classes and reading books on the comfy couches of the Garden Kafe. In the evening I would go to the Paradiso Cinema to watch some cool documentaries.
I would spend days like that and the people around me would respect my silence and boundaries. I would smile if I crossed eyes with someone, keeping that connection mute but meaningful because shared, somehow. Being alone in a strange place gives you a completely different perspective on all sort of aspects of life. How do you react to the unexpected? How do you make decisions on your own? Mobile phones and internet have changed a bit the concept of being alone. I experimented media deprivation for couple of days and discovered, or to put it better, re-discovered feelings and sensations that I buried for a long time.
You’ll meet new inspiring people
When travelling alone, I am always more open to meet new people. Especially when I feel lonely and in need to talk to someone. Bali offers so many spots where people gather around common interests and passions. If yoga is in your practice, Ubud is the spot to be. Yoga centres like the Yoga Barn give a well-rounded experience, with more than 100 classes per week, 7 studios, monthly workshops, ecstatic dances, acro yoga jams, talks and other events. Basically, it’s a community where it’s very easy to meet like-minded people. I met people that now I consider some of my best friends while attending a workshop or even queuing for ecstatic dance. One of them became my flatmate and we lived together for five months after that! If you prefer the beach instead, the village of Canggu has everything to offer. Why not join a surf camp and meet new adventurous peeps while riding waves?
Also, Bali is the mecca for digital nomads around the world. There are many coworking spaces on the island, with amazing and lively communities and hundreds of events. I joined Hubud Coworking and Community Space, I got so inspired that I started to write again and now it has become my full time job. It’s a perfect spot for networking, discuss ideas and projects…while having fun. Their motto is to change the way we live, work and learn and they are doing a pretty amazing job with that.
Last, but definitely not least, let’s not forget about festivals, “the” spot to gather and meet new people when travelling alone. I don’t know about you, but I cannot live without music, and festivals are my happy place. I recently experienced BaliSpirit Festival for my first time – where music, art, yoga, dance and healing beautifully intertwine to create an unforgettable experience and perfect event to join a like-minded community of conscious solo travellers and people from all over the world. How unique and blissful.
You’ll experience an irreplaceable sense of freedom
Can you picture yourself in a place where no one knows who you are, your past, where you come from, what you’ve been through? If you can, how does that feel? Liberating, isn’t it? That’s exactly it. When travelling alone I feel free from all conditioning and beliefs. It’s a good training because that will soon become a habit. Even when I don’t actually travel, I learnt how not to be conditioned by people around me or even by my own past experiences. Social pressure soon fades away. I truly never felt so free. Oh, and the dreamy natural surroundings do help with that. Imagine hiking in the lush tropical forest? Or having a walk over a natural ridge at sunset? Breathe in freedom and breathe out freedom. You’ll be magically lifted to higher energy and positivity. Bali has some pretty mesmerizing wild nature. Also snorkeling and free-diving inspired a unique sense of freedom in me. Northern Bali – Amed or Pemutaran are the places to go for that.
Travelling alone will give you the opportunity to have a face-to-face encounter with fears. Especially fears of things you’ve never tried before. I remember that before coming here I was very self-conscious about dancing surrounded by other people. Then I heard about the ecstatic dances at The Yoga Barn or at Akasha and I once decided to join. I felt so free: no one knew me there, I could finally be myself and literally dance like nobody is watching. I discovered this new side of me that loves dancing and it now has become an integral part of my life, and an amazing way to reduce stress!
You’ll learn to TRUST
Since we were children, especially us women, we are taught to “never trust strangers.” The media and the news constantly feed us with narratives that bring us to fear the “Other” and the unknown. I think that when travelling alone, common sense and sense of danger are definitely needed. However, I found myself in situations when I was forced to put all my trust in complete strangers, that sometimes would not even speak my language. Time after time, my trust grew bigger and I kept attracting positive and inspiring people. I learnt that we always meet people for a reason and I strive to find that reason in anyone who crosses my path, even just for a few minute conversation. I want connection and trust to be at the base of my life and travelling alone has definitely help me a lot with that. I hope it will help you too. Embrace and cherish the freedom.
Written by Elisabetta Crovara.