“Hello, welcome to you.” That’s the voice I hear inside my head when I get down with some solo travel. There are plenty of blogs, tips, and tricks to being a successful solo traveler. However, that is not what I’m here to share. Instead I hope to offer some of my own personal insights into what I get out of a solo travel and why I value it.
Solo travel doesn’t include meeting up with your local friend and crashing on her and her husband’s couch in Melbourne (thanks Gianna & Fabio!). It means that you’re just going out, on your own. Maybe you’re traveling with others and spend some time alone. Maybe the whole trip is done from start to end of your own means. But it does mean those times when you have autonomy over where you go, why you’re there, and what you are accomplishing. I often think about how my life has transitioned as a married woman, from the single one I was just over 2 years ago. I’d rarely had any stable, long lasting, monogamous relationship in my life before my husband. This meant a lot of freedom on my end where I rarely had to consider the impact of my actions on others, except in the case of family.
During my trip to Oz, I have three stops planned. I’ve just finished my leg in Melbourne. I’ve collected photos, stories, and observations which will soon follow. But my second leg is 5 days in the beautiful High Country of Victoria. It is what I have been most looking forward to as it means I will be alone. A beautiful amalgamation of sweeping mountains, beautiful vineyard plains, and fresh agriculture are nice. Not to mention the first place I’ve ever been with such a pro-bicycle movement! As an adolescent I would bike ride to friend’s homes, only to be forced into a car at the end of the night to ensure my safety. By high school I knew better than to resist parents’ concern because I’d lost so many “I’ll be fine” or “I really sincerely enjoy bike riding, please don’t put me in a car and take me home” arguments. I suppose they thought I was being polite in the initial refusal. But my real excitement here is challenging myself to be alone.
Solo travel is, in a sense, a long winded meditation with ones self. Or it can be if you want it to be. That’s how I use it. I get to walk, explore, and attract experiences that are suitable to my needs as I’ve done quite often. I took a bus trip to Washington D.C. by myself walking quietly across the empty streets at night (then by pure chance ran into my own family at the protest the following day). I hoped on and off the light rail in Portland, ate a reindeer hot dog, browsed bookstores, and explored the old Chinatown district. My first trip abroad, my grandparents missed their connection flight and I had to make my way into Italy, solo. In reality, I’d hoped for it just to see if I could do it. Be by myself in a place I’d never seen before. New to the customs and the world. The next summer I would return to Europe with classmates, relishing the broken ties at the end to solo travel in Switzerland for a few days. I’ve taken to the streets of Boston by day while crashing on my friend’s couch by night (Thanks Gabi & Andre!). I took my friends bike through downtown Orlando while she was at work, only to stumble upon a completely unknown park. A park that later became the sight of my marriage to my husband.
I learn a bit more about my behaviors and habits over time in different conditions. What do I do naturally when left to my own devices? What do I do because it is local custom that I’ve carried with me? It’s a time for reflection where the desires and thoughts of myself travel more clearly. Of course the cost is the loss of my wonderful companion for the time being. Selfish? Perhaps. But in light of the years of companionship and love ahead of us, it’s a nice feeling to know that it’s okay to go and support our individual ventures from time to time. I get this anxiety while exchanging money in Australia because for the last year I’ve needed to use my right hand in Indonesia to avoid offense.
I make the case for solo travel, but also for solo self. In all its independent spirit, I find that most Americans react really negatively to loners. I hope we can change that in the future. It’s okay to go out to a bar and have a drink by yourself. Go see that movie that you can’t talk anyone into going with you, or even if you can but just want to enjoy your own company. Be by yourself in public! It may take a while as most people can feel uncomfortable, judged, or wonder how they will be perceived. Do it anyway. Some of my best conversations have been in the company of myself.