Why I Travel Solo

November 7, 2011 by  
Filed under On the Road

Recently, we posted an introductory article by Jay Kannaiyan of JamminGlobal.com., and we hope you enjoyed it. Jay has become a friend of BikerCamps.com over the past year, and we think he has a lot to offer both the experienced and novice rider. A lot about riding has to do with individual preference — the bike you choose, the roads you travel, the company you keep. This next article by Jay will speak to those of you considering a solo journey. It's not for everyone, but as Jay will share, there are lots of positive things to be said about traveling alone. Learn from Jay some of the pros of traveling solo and why for him, for now, that is how he's chosen to travel. Please feel free to share comments about this article or suggest topics for future articles. I'm sure Jay would love the feedback, and so would we.

"Why I Travel Solo" by Jay Kannaiyan (JamminGlobal.com)

Riding in the AndesI am asked this question quite frequently on my trip. Firstly, I'd like to state that traveling solo doesn't mean being lonely. On the contrary, I find it allows others to see this stranger on a motorcycle as being more approachable, leading to novel social encounters.  Taking a water break in the middle of the Western Desert in Egypt, I am approached by a local Bedouin and invited home for lunch.

In the years leading up to this trip, I learned the character traits needed for motorcycle touring by going on small to big trips around the US with these riding mentors of mine. While I enjoyed traveling as a pair or a group, I could see the flexibility that's offered when one travels solo. But on a ten-day trip with accurate information on roads and hotels in a developed country, there's not much need for being flexible.  I feel the option is needed when traveling through developing countries, where things can change quite often. This change should be cherished in the spirit of exploration, so it's best to be prepared by being flexible and going with the flow without needing the consensus from a traveling partner.

The flexibility also affects your riding. Sometimes I end up stopping every fifteen minutes to adjust something or ride for two hours without a break. If you stop unexpectedly, the other rider(s) start worrying that something has happened. But if both these riders rode solo, then no one would worry when you are fifteen minutes late. Of course, it's nice to have a traveling partner when something does go terribly wrong, but even then, besides being incapacitated, an individual can find their way back to safety.

I've also found that if you are intent on getting to know different cultures, a home-stay with a local family can give a traveler insight into the nuances of various societies. The biggest difference I experienced was the skewed daily schedule of Argentine families, where they eat lunch around 4pm and then dinner around 11pm or midnight. Thanks to CouchSurfing.org, I have access to this insight, which wouldn't be available through hotel stays.

Since I'm entering people's lives for a short time, I feel that traveling solo gives my trip a smaller footprint, making the adjustment of a guest into the host's daily routine that much more congenial compared to accommodating a group. Along the same lines, when I'm staying in small hotels, I've seen how the staff readily accepts that bike safety is of paramount importance and allow me to park in their lobby.  When I was staying in Guanajuato, Mexico, my front tire was against the reception desk with my rear tire squeezed by the front door.  I feel traveling with two or more bikes wouldn't welcome these kinds of accommodations.

One facet of traveling solo is that others view you as being vulnerable; not having an immediate support network and I've seen that this brings out the caring nature in people; especially in mothers of my hosts. I have to admit, it's comforting to be taken care of by a mother after being on the road for a while. In the northern Brazilian town of Maceio, Brono's mother welcomed me as a son and prepared a copious amount of food after noting that I was too skinny. I've learned that accepting such acts of kindness allows your benefactor to feel satisfied in providing to someone in need. Modern individualistic society tries to instill the notion of self-reliance and looks upon accepting gifts as a sign of weakness, or at least an act that must be paid back. However, there is a joy in giving unconditionally that exists in older societies.

While I may be in solitude inside my helmet, frequently staying with locals keeps me very social. This allows me to develop both these sides of my character. In the end, the journey of life is with ourselves, so we might as well be comfortable with it. As big changes in our society become the norm due to the effects of humanity on this planet, personal introspection is going to be needed in order for realistic change to occur. Traveling solo allows you to get comfortable with yourself and listen more to your intuition, your instinct, which is the basis for rational judgment.

Camping out in the middle of Patagonia, with not another soul for hundreds of kilometers, I feel connected to the vast land and sky that we are a part of. My companion and my safety net is parked next to me, ready to ride on.

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10 Responses to “Why I Travel Solo”
  1. Mike Coleman says:

    Well written and as someone who has traveled a lot myself I agree with every word. Jay has the bases covered, but being someone who runs a motorcycle tours company I am thankful for the opportunity to give reasons why some motorcyclists could sometimes find that group travel may be somewhat better for them. Motorcycle travel is about two passions; Motorcycling and travel. There is a balance between these passions, but from Jay mentioning his adventures in the likes of Egypt and South America I gather that he leans towards travel and by this I don't mean vacation travel. Through family and work ties few people get the opportunity to undertake such epic adventures. Perhaps for those that don't,  trips with mentors like those Jay mentions for his US travels are the best way to make the most of your vacation time. Looking away from travel towards motorcycling I also believe that riding in company can be more challenging and enjoyable than solo riding because sometimes you get to do stuff that you just wouldn't if you were alone. It's a bit like hanging out all day with someone who is a little more competent or maybe just more confident than you on the ski slopes. At some point you are going to find yourself perched at the top of a run the likes of which you would never attempted on your own and after a few words you follow them down on what turns out to be the most thrilling and skilful ski experience of your life. When you hook up in the evening with your mentors and any other likeminded companions with who you have shared such great experience then you have something different but in a sense equal to the experience of accepting the kindness of strangers.       

  2. Anonymous says:

    I,m 60 and single again.And I,m going to do as I damn well pleasand going solo will give me some good release and I can turn right or left, anytime or any place,Im going friend huntn.

  3. Hi Mike, you said it well that there is a motorcycling aspect and a traveling aspect. I knew I would have to give up being a bit more risky with the biking since I was in this for the long haul and not just for a vacation. I do take caution, especially in places where help is far. However, going on a trip like this builds your confidence and I've explored some remote, tough places that I probably wouldn't have done if I was just used to riding with friends all the time.

    I thoroughly enjoy riding with buddies and have hooked up many times in my journey to ride with others and it's a blast. I've seen that, actually, due to the bravado that comes about, I might actually be pushing myself beyond my limits that could lead to an accident. But yeah, with friends around, they can help you pick up the bike when you fall :)

    I completely relate to the skiing analogy. I went out for my first solo trip to Alta, Utah and joined up with some experienced skiers from Canada who took me under their wing and at one point, I did myself perched high on a slope, wondering I got up here. I got my pole plants in and made it down, with a few tumbles, but feeling elated that I actually did it. From then on, double blacks were my turf.

    I do understand that not everyone who wants to travel like this can afford it. Be it the monies or the life responsibilities. And that's why when I saw I had this chance, with things lining up, I knew I had to go. For myself and for everyone else who couldn't.

    Cheers, Jay

  4. Bruce Nemanic says:

    Aren't motorcycles all about independence? might as well take full advantage of the thought and leave the social riding to Sunday afternoons.

  5. Phil Hugheas says:

    Good article. In all my years of MC touring, the tours that I have enjoyed the most are those that I have made alone. There is much more freedom when riding by myself, I can go where I want, stop when I want, ride 150 miles a day or 700. Sure there have been times when it would have been nice to share a beautiful sunrise or sunset with someone else or to have someone to talk to after a long day on the bike. But I meet folks pretty easily so can pretty much always find someone to chat with. Cameras and journals are good at capturing memories that I don’t usually do when I am riding with a group but always do when I am riding alone.

  6. Ted says:

    I’m 66, have a Honda VTX C 1300 and have been motorcycle camping solo for about 5 years but have owned bikes almost my whole life. If a problem arises, it would be nice to have a buddy to help, that’s for sure. I choose to risk it and have been to Grand Canyon north rim, Zion, Bryce, Arches National parks, Telluride, Co, Durango, Palo Duro Canyon, Tx and home to Friendswood, Tx on one trip 2 yrs ago….3,000 miles in 10 days. Everywhere I went different folks from all over the world and America, town people and fellow tourists would all be very friendly and chatted. A lot of the guys, both older and younger most often said that they once owned a bike or knew someone who had one and they had interesting travel tales.
    A few would say, “I’m gonna get one of those one day!”

    Riding alone in vast wide open, non populated country, gives me a complete reversal of the big city life and a welcome break. The worst that can happen is to wreck in a very remote area but I’ve realized that I’m virtually never in a very remote area. I turned my bike on its side once near Ouray, Colorado and within 5 minutes a couple came by and helped me right the bike. That campsite was about 3 miles up a gravel road above Ouray and toward Blue Bird campground which was remote to me. Luck?

    Drive extra safely when solo. Don’t ride extremely tired or really anxious to get somewhere…it makes you lose focus and essential reaction time and tend to speed in the dark or around curves. Make sure your bike is in good condition, running well , good brakes and tires…common sense stuff. Ride often. Get experienced. Know your bike’s handling traits.

    Being alone allows freedom to stop, go, stay for as little or as long as you like and is a personal preference sometimes for us.

  7. Bruce says:

    I have been riding and touring since 74 (yea I’m old). I agree with what most have posted, as I like to ride solo as well. The only thing I can add is to learn how to fix your bike and get to know it’s weakness (they all have them). I do all my own repairs (have never taken any of my bikes to a mechanic or dealer). I spend the winter prepping/repairing for summer. When you learn your bike you can prevent most major breakdowns and handle the small ones. You also learn what tools and parts you really need which helps you to pack wisely. With a decent set of tools, a factory manual, patients and a little knowledge of basic mechanics anyone can do it.

  8. BrentD says:

    Thanks for the great articles.

  9. Ski Magic says:

    Many thanks for this

  10. Tom Bonasse says:

    I will be 70 this year and love traveling solo, I have owned many bikes all my life but worked 42 years the last 12 years driving trucks till age 64 so the travel bug has got me and traveling alone is so rewarding and I will continue as long as I can hold it up, I also feel safer camping and it all goes together for the full enjoyment of living outside in the weather and meeting people every day, Travel slow no expressways all side roads see more and feel more alive.

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