Traveling Alone

I love solo travel. The sheer freedom of being able to do whatever you want is great, because rarely will one find a travel partner who wants to go to all the exact same places you want to check out, even within the same city. Of course, there are downsides too – it can be nice to have some of the burden of logistics shared when you travel with another organized person, and also being able to share the experience with someone. But for an introvert like me, I like being able to really experience a place solitarily. And now, with social media, I can instantaneously share the beautiful vistas and unusual situations with my friends and family and not really feel alone anyway. The biggest drawback? The awkwardness of taking selfies and/or asking strangers to take my picture. But I’m working on getting that down.

I’ve been going on extended group trips since about middle school and never got homesick – an early indication of a future love of travel. I rode a plane on my own for the first time when I was 20 – a relatively short flight to Los Angeles on the way to meet my group for New Zealand, but I think that trip helped me get more familiar with airports and the process of flying. With a decent amount of travel experience under my belt, it seemed only natural to me to go on a trip alone. So in February of last year, during a seemingly random burst of wanderlust, one day I booked a round-trip March flight to London for a week.

Why not? I’d wanted to visit England for years and years, I’d saved up money to travel, and I knew no one would want to go with me. I had full control over what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. I didn’t even ask anyone if they wanted to join or request the time off work before I booked the flight. This was happening, and nothing was getting in my way.

So I was surprised when I talked about my trip and people asked me who I was going with. Really, you’re going alone?! Wow, how brave. (And I could tell by the looks on some faces that they were thinking, How strange.) This gave me some doubt about how well the trip would go or if it would end up horribly, but really I wasn’t too worried. It was an English speaking country and I had friends over there to meet up with, so perfect for traveling alone. And it was a wonderful trip! I fell in love with London and had a fantastic time in my friends’ English towns and Cardiff. There were of course some kinks, but I really didn’t mind being by myself.

Later last year, I took an even more spontaneous trip to New York City to meet Julie Andrews and experience the city for a few days, since I’d never been there before. That trip was fantastic too! Now people who know me seem less surprised/worried about my traveling alone, because clearly I can pull it off. But I’ve often wondered, why is this such a strange phenomenon to them? Plenty of people travel alone.

Upon exploration of various articles and blogs on the internets, it’s now my theory that it’s because I’m female, and also probably because I’m introverted and it just surprises people that I’d want to be so adventurous. Would you be surprised to find out that an outgoing guy went on a trip to London on his own? Is that because guys can obviously take care of themselves?

If you’ve ever wanted to go on a trip but couldn’t get anyone else to go with you, here’s my advice: just go. Don’t wait around, because usually things don’t just happen on their own, contrary to popular belief. Don’t let your significant other hold you back if they don’t want to go. Find a way to make it happen. Do your research, go somewhere safe, and in all likelihood you’ll be fine and have a great time!

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