Table for One: The Freedom and Fears of Solo Travel

Table for One: The Freedom and Fears of Solo Travel

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There is a certain liberation attached to solitude. This is no more true than when you're on the road. If you want to go, you can go. If you want to rest, you can rest. If you want KFC every night for dinner, you can damn well have KFC every night for dinner. There's no one else's needs you have to take into account and there's no one to judge. You are neither struggling to keep up, nor wasting time waiting for someone else. You can go at exactly the pace you want to go.

When I moved to a hostel an hour's walk outside of Warsaw city centre, it was only me that had to suffer the aches of walking more than two hours everyday. I was fine with it, but it's likely my travel companion wouldn't have been. When I couldn't get to sleep until 3am, I could lie in without a 7am wake up call. I am a lone wolf, living life on my own terms, in my own time.

The problem is, wolves are pack animals. A social animal living alone in the wild doesn't last very long. You need extra brain power sometimes. When I'm lost, it would be useful to get a second opinion on which way I should be walking. When I'm too lazy to organise an activity, I wish a travel buddy would do it for me. Thankfully, I haven't eaten KFC since I've been here, but if I was to, maybe a friend suggesting the salad bar would be of benefit. I guess I don't always trust my own opinion when it comes to navigating a foreign land.

Solo travellers rarely have to worry about being completely alone. If you're staying in hostels you will have plenty of people to talk to and hang out with. But if you keep moving, these people won't be around for very long. And then you're back on the road, walking alone. That's why my catchphrase of this trip has been "table for one?", as I enter cheap restaurants and sit down to eat. I don't mind eating by myself, but it just draws attention to the fact I'm on my own.

I really didn't want to write a listacle of pros and cons here. It's a complicated and nuanced issue, with my feelings towards it changing hour by hour. Self-reliance is a difficult and useful skill to learn, while isolation is a dangerous fate to be avoided. It can be too easy to become an island, with your phone and WiFi hotspots being all the support you need. We need the support and input of others; diverging opinions to stop us becoming consumed by our own worldview. Having to take others into account places constraints on our freedom, but it can provide a safety net when we're in trouble and access to opportunities you couldn't find alone. I'm just a lost boy in a great big city and sometimes it would be nice for someone to give me a gentle nudge in the right direction.

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