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The Traveling Column: benefits of solo travel

Traveling on your own can be both exciting and daunting, with many people never traveling to a place they want to see because they do not have anyone to go with. What people do not realize is that you always have someone to travel with: yourself. It may sound cheesy, but you can be your own best travel companion, or your worst. It depends solely on how strong a will you have to experience something new.

I have met many people who rave about solo trips they have taken. Traveling alone offers a whole range of unique opportunities. You can see what you want when you want to. You can spend countless hours exploring a museum or skip it altogether. You can eat what you want to eat and explore where you want to explore. Not to say that traveling with someone is completely limiting, but having a companion does mean that you do not have the same freedom as if you were by yourself. Your ideas for your trip might not match up with your companion’s, and compromises can sometimes be difficult to reach. By traveling by yourself, you not only have total freedom, but you will be pushed outside your comfort zone as you have no one to fall back on. This idea might frighten some and excite others since traveling alone pushes you to meet new people.

The hostel is a fantastic option for solo travelers as there are usually free walking tours and events organized so that fellow travelers can meet, mingle and explore together. I myself chose to do a solo day trip instead of a weekend excursion and it was just as fun as if I went with a friend. I was able to meet a few other solo travelers and we banded together for lunch and ended up exploring as a group. If I did go with friends, I never would have pushed myself to socialize with the other travelers. This might sound awful, but it is the truth. If you feel comfortable and safe in a group, then you will not open yourself up the same way as you would when alone.

Of course, safety is always a concern when going anywhere alone, but that is where smart decision-making comes into play. If you are traveling alone, then hostels are a much safer, more affordable option instead of an Airbnb. Airbnb have made numerous headlines in the last few months, as a woman was killed near her Airbnb rental in November, and this month, a host killed his guest for not paying his bill. I have had a few negative experiences with Airbnb and prefer hostels as a place to stay during a trip.

Hostels usually get a reputation for being dirty or cramped, but this stereotype has not held up in my travels. The hostel showers are as clean as can be expected (use shower shoes), and the beds always have clean linens on them. Travelers just have to keep in mind when forming an opinion on hostels that they are merely places to sleep, and that is all. You will spend most of your time out exploring, not hanging around in the hostel room.

Other safe practices include messaging a friend or family member periodically about where you are going, carrying around a whistle or alarm and not going out late at night if you are alone. Sometimes, you can find a group at your hostel to go out with, but you have to use your intuition on whether you feel comfortable with them or not. Just as you practice good habits in a city or on campus, you use the same smart, safe moves when traveling. Every person I know who has taken any kind of solo trip agrees that it is an experience everyone should try at least once, and I strongly agree. It does not even have to be to another country. There are plenty of places to visit inside the United States. It is just up to you if you want to see it or miss it.

Maria Marabito is a second-year student majoring in English writings track. MM883631@wcupa.edu

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