After four solo trips to Europe since January 2017, I guess it’s about time I spilled my guts on what it’s like to travel with me, myself, and I.
As an introvert, I rarely mind being alone. I’m also fiercely independent, good with navigation, and a cross between MacGyver and Nancy Drew when it comes to figuring stuff out on the go. Basically, I was born for solo travel.
And I LOVE that sweet solo freedom. The ability to follow my own agenda – or deviate from it completely – without feeling even a smidge selfish. I also LOVE the challenge of planning and executing each trip on my own to prove to myself that I can. (What’d I tell ya? Fiercely independent.) And I have seriously LOVED every single solo trip I’ve taken, with no regrets for going it alone.
I’d be lying if I told you that I never feel lonely on my own. Or, that I’m always as confident as I appear to passersby. Or that I want to travel solo for the rest of my life. The sappy truth? Future me hopes to share my travels with a guy whose passion for adventure rivals mine.
But fiercely independent me who wants to see the world isn’t waiting for someday. I’m going. And living. And growing. Yes, growing! The 1.5 years of solo trips taught me more about myself than I think I learned in the previous 33.5 years of my life. Sounds exaggerated, but I believe it’s true.
Solo travel absolutely works for me. I’m not here to (completely) sugar coat it, though. So here’s what it’s really like to travel alone:
It’s no secret that I’m a total itinerary nerd. Traveling solo allows me to create the perfect one for ME – to maximize my time doing everything I want to do with zero compromise. And if I veer from the plan (which I definitely do!) that’s okay, too. It’s okay when I decide to sleep in an extra hour. Or skip museums to save time and money. I’ve also spent 30 minutes people watching on a random bench, and 2 hours browsing vintage stores without buying anything. In Paris, I even made a spontaneous decision to head back to the Eiffel Tower with suitcase in tow instead going straight to the airport – because my need to see it one last time trumped the risk of missing my plane. These were totally my decisions to make, with no one else to consult, offend, annoy, or inconvenience.
I know that sounds SO selfish, but I’m just being honest. And in that same spirit of honesty, I already admitted that I do get lonely at times. Creating the perfect itinerary may lead to lots of lovely moments, but I know they’d be even more special shared with someone else. Unreal views. Funny stories. They just aren’t the same shared secondhand.
Still, the sheer joy of travel and thrill of adventure drive me to go, go, go whenever I have the opportunity.
Eating could fall under ITINERARY, sure. But it needs a separate mention.
When I travel alone, eating is uncomplicated. I eat whenever and wherever I want. For breakfast and lunch, I typically buy food from local supermarkets. Being a frugal non-foodie, I’m fine eating out for only one – maybe two – meals a day. And when I do splurge on a restaurant meal, requesting a table for one feels pretty darn empowering.
It’s also the only time I’m acutely aware of my soloness – and so is everyone else in the restaurant. I really don’t mind the stares. I mean, a girl eating dinner alone at an upscale restaurant does beg the question: “What’s her story?” (And to that I’d say, read Why I Adventure part one and two.) But no doubt, mealtimes are more enjoyable when shared with others.
I may not use a real camera, but I snap just as many photos as someone who does. Solo anyway. When I travel with others, I try to be more conscious of their time and agenda, and inevitably stop less for photo ops. But when I’m alone, I might take 50 shots in the span of a city block, or make regular photo pit stops on a hike. It’s freeing to know that my sporadic and spontaneous photo-taking isn’t annoying anyone.
But when I want a photo of myself, that becomes a challenge as the options aren’t ideal. Selfies. Selfie sticks. Setting up a tripod. Or, asking a stranger who may completely botch the shot. And, while I do want photos of myself to forever capture the moments, I know very well that my most treasured photographs are the ones of me with other people.
So let’s recap.
I travel solo because right now I can. I sorta skipped that 20-something, independent stage, so this is that time for me. Time to figure out who I am. Test my strengths and weaknesses. Pursue my life-long passion for travel and adventure with a fervor. I stopped saying someday because this is someday to that 20-something me – a girl who really didn’t know herself OR believe she’d ever see as much of the world as I’ve seen this past year and a half.
In a way, I travel solo for that girl. The younger me. Not to make up for lost time, but to know that someday me will look back at current me with no regrets – and instead be thankful for the life experience and self-assessment, AND practical application of the two.
Whether I travel solo 50 more times, find a guy who makes me never want to go alone again, or stick to traveling with family and friends, my first 4 international solo trips will remain among the most memorable and valuable experiences of my life.
And if you wanna know whether solo travel is right for you, take my 7 question quiz.