I was watching More Shoes with my mom. It's a documentary about this guy Lee's journey to become a filmmaker, a 5000 kilometer journey on foot from Madrid to Kiev. (It's beautiful, you should check it out: www.madridtokiev.com.)
There's one part in it where he talks about traveling with other people. He meets up with a guy who's biking around Europe on his own. Lee asks him if he gets lonely. He says, yes, but lonely travel is free. You don't have to worry about your travel companion(s) wanting to do something else, about when you're tired or hungry or what you want to eat. You can just go and be and see.
My mom asked me if that's why I like to travel alone.
It's a definite benefit, but it's not really why I've traveled solo so often. See, it's not that I prefer to travel alone, it's that I prefer to travel. I've found it hard to find people with whom I get along well enough to travel with, but also who are interested in going the same places I am, at the same time I am. I think if you wait around for other people to do the things that you want to do with you, you could spend your life waiting. So I go.
There are downsides to traveling solo: loneliness, not having someone to watch your back or being able to say hey watch this while I go pee, that feeling of wanting to share a particular experience with someone else to make it more real. I've found that the benefits definitely out weigh the drawbacks. It's better to have seen, to have lived, to have gone, to have explored than not to have done any of it. And while with the right company, sharing the experience of staring at a white wall so long as you're doing it together might be preferable to or as exciting as venturing out into the scary and amazing world by one's self, I sometimes think about regrets. I think about not wanting to have them now or when I'm old. I think about getting old, too old or broken to hike up mountains or fly around the world or go on a three day sailing trip. Too old to see the natural beauty of a place. Or maybe not even too old, just too dead too soon. I can stare at a wall when I'm old. I can tell stories and look at pictures when I'm old. I hope to have incredible memories. As for the company, as for the people I love and have loved and have yet to love, I hope they'll either join me or be there when I get back, excited to hear the stories, and hopefully persuaded to join me next time.