I’ve been often asked by family and friends about solo travel. People always ask if I feel safe, if I get lonely, don’t I get tired of taking selfies, etc. So I decided that my first post in 2018 I would give my perspective on solo travel and why I love it-any maybe inspire someone to go explore on their own!
Solo travel can also be unappealing to some because they hate making plans-I’m a planner and have no issue organizing a trip so it’s not an issue for me. But, it also means I can plan nothing and no one is holding me accountable to plan their day. I can do whatever my heart desires. I can make last minute plans or changes.
I’m often told that I’m so brave for traveling alone. I don’t see it as being brave—I see it as taking my opportunity to go somewhere else! Do I feel safe? Overall, yes, I feel safe when I travel alone. But I also make smart choices when I travel. I don’t travel to any place where I do not feel safe. For example, one summer I really wanted to go to Russia; I love reading Dostoyevsky and have always wanted to see Moscow and St. Petersburg. But, with the current political climate, I do not feel like going to Russia, at least alone, is the smartest choice. I also do other things like trying to not walk alone at night or staying aware of my surroundings. When I travel, I almost always walk around town with headphones on, but the first time I go somewhere new or especially at night, I won’t-I want to remain focused and not be distracted by what I am listening to.
Yes, of course I get tired of taking selfies. In fact, I hate selfies for the most part. Most of mine are usually only taken for travel purposes (or with my adorable nieces and nephews). But sometimes I really want a picture of me at some place, and a selfie is the one way to get one. I’m pretty introverted when I travel-I keep to myself, and don’t talk to many people. But I’ve gotten better about asking people to take my photo. I always offer a trade-I’ll take yours if you take mine. Even if the person isn’t solo, they probably would love a photo with the person they are with, and not a selfie photo! This has never failed me-and it works great if you are in a popular photo op location (like Trevi Fountain in Rome). Being the introvert I am, it took me a few trips to get up the courage to ask sometime to take my photo. But I just couldn’t get a good selfie, so I just broke down and asked. Sometimes people will even offer to take one for you when they see you taking a selfie. So yes, sometimes it sucks not having many photos of me in places.
When I first started traveling alone, I was definitely worried about perceptions. It was like I could feel everyone’s pity as I walked around. Mostly, I thought people would think I didn’t have friends or that I was some sort of loner because I was alone. Which is far from the truth! I have the most awesome, amazing, supportive, magical, beautiful friends a girl could ask for. But we all have our own lives-some can’t travel due to work, family, or funds, some don’t want to travel, and some I honestly probably couldn’t travel with. So just because I’m alone doesn’t mean I have no one at home eager to hear all about my trip. At first, I felt like I was always being judged when I said, “Table for 1” or buying a ticket somewhere for just me. Eventually, I got over it. I wasn’t going to let that stop me from enjoying a nice dinner or touring a museum. Taking a good book with my everywhere I went certainly helped-I’d get totally lost in the book and forget where I was and that I was alone in a crowded restaurant. I also just learned overall to care much less about what people think about me, and since then I’ve been able to focus more on wherever I was exploring-and I enjoy it so much more now! When I was in Italy, I took a day trip to Pompeii. On the group tour, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch and we had to sit in groups of 4. I was put with a group of 3 people. The group was super friendly, two guys and a girl. The girl and I ended up walking around Pompeii together while the boys were off doing their own thing. I even ran into them back in Venice the next night! Had I traveled with someone else, I might not have met them, and they were fun, nice people.
Do I get lonely? Of course! I’ve been so many places that I think “Oh, my gosh, Dad would love this!” or “This is something Heather (my BFF) has to see”. When I go someplace amazing, I would love to have someone where with me to share that experience. But, if I have to choose between not going because no one can/will go with me or going solo, I’ll go solo every time.
Traveling alone has also helped me learn to love myself more. Having that solo time gives me so much time to reflect on my life. I’ve learned to appreciate myself more, and I feel as if I’ve gotten to know myself more. I’ve learned what I really like to do, what I really like to see, and my travel habits. I’m a fairly introverted person, I need that alone time to recharge. And traveling alone gives me that-I get a break from all the things pulling me in different directions and I can have that time to find peace and re-center myself. I once told someone that I love the me that I am when I travel the most—so I try to channel that version of me every day.
For anyone that wants to start traveling alone, trust your gut. You know when you feel safe and when you don’t. Don’t push yourself too far to fast; take it at your own pace. I never tell strangers where I am staying. Tell people your plans. In Prague, I contacted my parents every day to let them know I was okay. In Italy, I didn’t plan to but that ended up happening. They also had the address and phone number of all the AirBnB’s I was staying in. I also now share my location with them on my iPhone at all times. For me, that’s just a smart thing to do because I live alone. There are definitely cultures that have more rules and restrictions for women, and I’m sure that traveling alone to those places has its own set of challenges. But I always do my best to respect the culture of wherever I am, regardless of gender rules.
Solo travel by no means makes for a perfect experience, and has its own set of challenges. But for me, it’s a rewarding, incredible experience, and I’m so happy I’ve taken the opportunity to travel as much as I can!