In the spirit of Independence Day, I’ve recently been thinking about solo traveling. I think, unfortunately, there’s a stigma that comes with it. Why on earth would someone want to travel by themselves? Do they honestly have no one to come with them? I’ve even caught myself on a few solo trips thinking- People must think I’m pathetic! But then I humbly remind myself- These people that I don’t know and will likely never see again actually aren’t thinking much of anything about me. It’s a liberating thought, and for me it’s one of the benefits of going it alone sometimes while traveling…feeling a sense of liberation, a freedom to do whatever I’d like, whenever I’d like to do it.
Now I’ve never been on an uber solo adventure, a la Eat, Pray, Love, and I’m not sure if I’d be able to handle something of that magnitude. I vividly remember the first time I took a trip exclusively by myself- I went to Edinburgh for two days shortly after I moved to London. My visa status was somewhat questionable at the moment, but I wanted to go somewhere before I started working. So I found myself in Scotland. It was a daunting experience at some points- it was my first stay in a hostel, where it was nice to have people around, but awkward to share a room with eight people I didn’t know at all. And while I had many moments of self-consciousness, I also loved being able to wander around and pop into any shop, cafe or pub that looked interesting. I’m a huge museum person, which often doesn’t mesh with my travel companions’ interests, so it was refreshing to be able to spend hours in the Museum of Scotland without feeling rushed. I think traveling alone can help you learn about yourself while also experiencing a place without the influence of others.
I haven’t taken too many trips like that one to Edinburgh, but I have found that I like a hybrid of traveling with others or visiting people while also taking some time to “do my own thing” as they say. Now when I visit London, I like to stay in a hotel by myself for a few nights while couch surfing the other nights. Then I can catch up on my favorite British soap operas that I miss so much without subjecting my hosts to cockney accents and terrible acting. I’ve been able to tack on an extra day to a few trips down the line, most memorably Athens and Miami, to catch some of the things I may have missed after my travel buddies move on or just relax and enjoy my surroundings.
There are, of course, some drawbacks to being by yourself. I think women travelers have to be extra aware of safety when alone, and should do some research about their destinations and specific considerations. Mealtimes can be especially daunting if you’re a table of one, but you also don’t want to miss out on good eating while on vacation. Popular websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have discussion boards or other content with suggestions on where to eat by yourself. I’ve had good experiences eating in the bar part of restaurants (it can be pretty easy to strike up a conversation here too) or picking a place that also had some sort of entertainment going on, like a live band. If staying at a hotel alone doesn’t sound appealing, Airbnb provides lodging options in people’s homes. I haven’t tried it myself, but I hear good things.
If you haven’t already, try a solo adventure, even if just for a night. You just may surprise yourself- bet you didn’t know you could get down like that.
What are your thoughts on or tips for traveling alone?
This post was written by Alisa Jordan. Contact Alisa at firstname.lastname@example.org
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