I like a lot of things. I like to cook. I like to create things. I like puppy kisses and rolling in the snow. I like lightning storms. I really like stomping in puddles and stepping on exceptionally crunchy looking leaves, but traveling is, by far, my favorite thing. If I won the lottery and had a gazillion dollars, I would spend my life (for a few years, at least) on the move, staying in cheap hostels, eating questionable street food, hoarding hand sanitizer and Pepto Bismol and living life in the company of the coolest strangers. That previous statement is the living nightmare of most people, my family included.
The overall experience of going to a strange place alone and exploring is a mass of juxtaposing pieces. It makes you be brave and cautious, curious and knowledgeable, independent and unafraid to ask for help, aware of what you know and what you don’t.
People, especially Americans, don’t like the idea of a young woman traveling alone. We’re fragile, with our doubling of X chromosomes. We should always travel in pairs… if not in a group escorted by at least one sturdy, capable man. If we must leave the borders of the ole U S of A, can’t we just go on a cruise?? That is, if we can’t just go to some walled-in resort where there is no chance of us interacting with an actual local.
Traveling alone isn’t for everyone, but (if you asked me) it is something everyone should do at least once. I’d like to tell you what my 5 favorite things about traveling solo are and why they completely changed my life.
- I learned just how much I was capable of as an INDIVIDUAL.
-It is an amazing experience to show up in a new country and go on an organized tour. You don’t have to think, plan or organize… You just get to show up and have your mind blown by stuff. It’s really well worth the experience if that is the only way you will explore. Three years ago, when I took my first trip out of the country that’s exactly what I did, and with my best friend too. If you had asked me then, “Why don’t you just do it yourself?”, I would have laughed at you. I wouldn’t have even known where to start. Being able to pick flights, the best hostels, research and read the history of places and then show up and navigate a foreign place… that’s pretty cool.
- Though there were times that I am lonely, I meet exponentially more people than I do when I travel with a companion.
-I am an incredibly social person. Hands down. I don’t even like to go to the grocery solo. If having someone to talk to whilst I find the firmest apples is an option, that is what I’m going to pick. Problem is: if you go on a trip with someone, human nature is not to step out of your comfort zone and meet people until you really feel at ease. When Ash (my aforementioned bestie) and I went to tour Great Britain and Ireland, it took us almost half of our trip to start making friends with the other young women on our trip. Once we did, we were thick as thieves and the fun increased EXPONENTIALLY. If we had jumped right in the first night, we wouldn’t have missed so many possible memories. I’ve gotten pretty good at walking into a place and meeting EVERYONE.
- I did more.
-I don’t generally make precise plans when I go somewhere. I make sure I have enough things to do each day to stay pretty busy. If I get hungry, I eat. If I get tired, I rest. If I am on my way to a museum and find a network of alleys with amazing graffiti, I get to do whatever I want and not worry about ‘the plan’. I don’t have to wait for everyone else to get back to the coach, or finish their dinner. I don’t have to leave a city because only one day is allotted on the dossier. I can do whatever I want!
- I got lost.
-So so so so lost. I’ve gotten lost in 4 different countries in the past 12 months and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Lost in Berlin, I made two new friends looking for a night club, that turned out to be closed for a private event. Lost in Prague, I found some kind of pecan pastry and an amazing pair of earrings in a boutique off the beaten path… way better than the stuff in the tourist areas. Lost in Toronto, I found a pretty cool person to spend an evening with. Lost in Philadelphia, I found an alley full of mosaics, an amazing vintage reclamation shop and the best cheese steak I’ve ever tasted.
- I faced my fears, and walked away more experienced, confident and ready for the next challenge.
-I am from a relatively small city. No real mass transit to speak of. Taking the tube literally froze me in my tracks in London. Ash and I walked somewhere between 20 and 150 miles the day we had free to explore the city. Why? Because yours truly was too scared to risk getting lost on the subway. When you’re alone, you’ve just got to suck it up. Cabs can be insanely expensive and 10 mile walks are not nearly as pleasant alone.
I enjoy traveling, especially solo, because every time I get to know myself a little bit better. I actually like new foods… which surprised me. I cry in museums sometimes. I am particularly susceptible to gypsies and pick pockets. I enjoy eating alone and observing other people. Old ladies touch my hair, no matter which country I’m in. I get jittery and nervous every single time I have to take public transit. I have a tendency to adopt this weird, semi-neutral chameleon accent so that people don’t associate me with Honey BooBoo.
.Traveling solo is not always a bed of roses. Save your worries! I’m going to write out my least favorite things about traveling solo, because sometimes its nice to have someone by your side. Either way, traveling is so much more worth your money than laser hair removal, new furniture or a shiny new car. I don’t think I’m something so cool because I spend every penny of available income on something that is intangible in the long term. Whether or not you have someone to go with you, pack up and go to ONE PLACE. One place you’ve dreamed of. One place where a movie was set, that you couldn’t stop imaging. One place that you may never have the chance to see again. Just go!What are your favorite things about traveling? Do you like to strike out on your own or do you prefer having someone attached to your hip?