Confessions of a Solo Traveler

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.

Florence, Italy (November 2017)

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.

But.

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.

Schilthorn in Switzerland (May 2018)
Left this lock in Paris for my future love (January 2017)

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.

Ziplining in Italy (November 2017)

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:

THE ITINERARY

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.

MEALTIME

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.

Grocery haul in Rome (November 2017)
Spontaneous gelato break in Amalfi, Italy (November 2017)
Dinner for one in Barcelona (May 2017)

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.

PHOTOGRAPHY

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.

Florence window selfie (November 2017)
A decent stranger-taken shot in Paris (January 2017)

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.

Airbnb in Minori, Italy (November 2017)

And if you wanna know whether solo travel is right for you, take my 7 question quiz.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s