The Solo Adventurer

I highly recommend travelling solo. I also recommend eating at a restaurant alone, going to the movie theater alone, etc. I’m a big proponent of spending time by yourself. If you can’t stand to be alone with yourself, how can you expect anyone else to want to be with you?!

“If you are lonely when you’re alone, you are in bad company.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

 

Havasu 2002

My first solo trip was a road trip to Havasupai in Arizona when I was 18. It was my Senior year in high school and I had just been accepted into college, so it felt like a transition time, and I needed a rite of passage. Driving to Arizona, and the 8 mile hike to the bottom of the canyon, gave me ample opportunity to think about my past and future. It was gorgeous and challenging. Read an essay I wrote about my Havasupai trip here.

I didn’t travel alone for a long time. Then, in 2008 my world fell apart and I was forced through some major traumas in quick succession. I felt lost and was reminded of my journey to Arizona.  This also cemented my belief that travel is a form of therapy. I decided I needed something epic and wrote a list of crazy ideas and trips. One of them was “travel to Paris and learn how to love.”

 

Paris 2010

Kisses on Oscar Wilde's Grave

I’d always wanted to go to Paris with a lover, but in 2010, I decided to go for it alone. After all, I was going with someone I loved – me! I visited a friend in Belgium, then a week solo in Paris. By chance, a family friend was in Paris for a wedding, so I was invited to be his ‘plus one’. Paris was an easy solo trip – I explored the city alone during the day, deciding which sites I wanted to see and how leisurely. Then, at night I had wedding activities and friends to meet up with. I wouldn’t say that I learned how to love, but it was a romantic wedding, and maybe I re-learned how to love myself. That counts, right? Read my travel blog entry about Paris here.

“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance” – Oscar Wilde

 

Peru 2016

Fast-forward several years and I experienced another gruesome break-up. This time I knew what the antidote would be: a sojourn! Admittedly Arizona and Paris didn’t feel quite like they counted as solo trips. Maybe because one was in the safety of the U.S. and the other crossed paths with people I knew. So, this one felt like a big step. I chose Peru because, again, I gave up on waiting for someone to go with. I researched to make sure it was safe enough for a female alone, then planned the whole thing and off I went. Two full weeks not knowing a soul! Here is my photo blog of Peru and Bolivia.

It felt strange that some of the memories on the trip were exclusively mine and many would go untold. How could I explain to someone the feelings I had sipping hot cocoa on a balcony over the Plaza, or the fear of getting caught in a storm and being chased by dogs, or getting lost trying to find the combi bus to Ollantaytambo? These small experiences would never get told because my stories would be dominated by the more obvious tales like the hike to Machu Picchu, etc.

“When you’re traveling with someone else, you share each discovery, but when you are alone, you have to carry each experience with you like a secret, something you have to write on your heart, because there’s no other way to preserve it.” – Shauna Niequist

 

 

Benefits of Solo Travel

After Peru, I felt like a pro at solo travel, and decided it was one of my favorite forms of adventure! You don’t have to compromise on travel plans; the trip is completely personalized to you and exactly what you want to see/do. Solo travel is also the most flexible since you don’t waste time with a discussion of what to do/where to go. If you want to race through an art gallery, or spend five hours at the Apartheid Museum, you can. Or, if you want to sit on the steps of the Plaza de Armas and people-watch for an hour, you can. Or, If you want to change your mind three times in a day about what to do next, you can! It also helps eliminate arguments about which direction to go. In Italy, I spent several minutes arguing with my then-boyfriend, ‘I think the hotel is across THAT bridge’. When you’re alone, you just go the direction you think. (This also means you have no one else to blame when you get lost.)

 

But… Don’t you get lonely?

It’s the question EVERYONE asks. Yes, as an extrovert, sometimes I crave some interaction. The beauty of travelling alone is that you make friends quickly! People are usually willing to take you under their wing, invite you to dinner, etc. My parents often discuss the concept of being a ‘group of two’. Even as a couple, many people will leave you alone. Eating at restaurants alone is when I usually made the most friends. And when there wasn’t anyone to talk to, I took the time to write in my travel journal about the experiences of the day. I think the times that are worst are when you are waiting (ex. waiting at the airport). This is when others generally don’t start conversations and it would be nice to pass the time with a partner. Though, internet access is the cure for these times.

“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.” – Ellen Burstyn

 

South Africa 2017

The year after Peru, I planned a trip to South Africa. I didn’t purposefully want it be solo, as I had done in the past, but I made the decision to go, and started planning it. I invited people with the intention that if they come, great. If not, I was more than OK with it being alone. (Again, I made sure it was fairly safe for women). I stayed in hostels to try and be more social, though I ended up keeping to myself for most of it. At the end, a group of five (two couples and me) traveled on a four day safari, so we became close.

 

Before you say no…

Traveling alone may not be everyone’s cup of tea. And I respect that. But, TRY IT before you tell me you hate it. There are easy ways to start with baby steps – maybe head to Rome a few days early before a group trip, or spend a whole day doing a different activity than your travel partner. You just might surprise yourself!