Last year, I did a bit of solo travelling- I went to Seattle, Vancouver and Philadelphia for several days on my own. To me, travelling solo was no different then travelling with friends or family- it’s a chance to spend time with myself and get to know myself a little better. But I got a lot of different reactions from friends and family. One of my friends said she could never travel alone because she would go crazy by herself. Another thought I was “brave” to go alone and wished she had the courage to do it herself. Others were a little concerned about safety issues and some just wanted to know why I’d want to go alone and not share the adventure.
What they didn’t realize is that travelling alone for vacation is an adventure all its own. I was able to go where I wanted to, when I wanted to, without having to worry about other people’s preferences. Some of my first solo trips resulted simply because I couldn’t find other people who were free at the time that I wanted to travel. But rather then not take the trip, I went anyway and haven’t regretted it yet.
Travelling solo opens up a whole new level of flexibility. If I wanted to spend an afternoon exploring the Seattle underground; walking around Vancouver’s parks; or taking pictures inside one of the nation’s oldest prisons in Philadelphia, I could (and did). I didn’t have to worry about boring other people or rushing the experience to keep up with other people. I could enjoy things at my own pace.
I am also an introvert. At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I like my own company at times and I need a break from other people occasionally to recharge my own batteries.
As for the safety issues, it’s never been a problem. Common sense, researching locations ahead of time, and letting other people know my itinerary is has worked well for me. And even if I’m alone, I still call other people to see how they are doing and to reassure my mom that I am still alive.
And even if I’m travelling alone, it’s still possible to share the experience with others through pictures, video, and even the old-fashioned postcard. One of my favorite ways nowadays to share the adventure is to use Twitter and Facebook to post updates along the way.
Of course, travelling solo does have its downsides. When I goofed up and took the wrong train in trying to get from Philadephia to Delaware one time, I had no one to blame but myself. Had I been with others, they probably would have noticed my error and I never would have been on that train. It’s also nice to discuss what I’m seeing with others and get their perspective on things. And I always feel a bit weird asking strangers to take my picture in front of things, although I’ve never been refused.
But the advantages dwarf the disadvantages. Travelling solo is something that everyone should try at least once in their lifetimes. It doesn’t even have to be a full trip- I often tack on a day to myself before or after spending a week with family or friends. It’s something to think about when you’re planning your next trip.