I knew I had made the right decision to travel alone when an old man from Alabama propositioned me at the Philadelphia airport. After a series of airline mishaps (looking at you, American Airlines!), our flight to Amsterdam had been cancelled, and both Larry and I were resigned to staying at the airport for the night. If he had been traveling with someone, he would never have come on to me. The sweet Santa-like man with the southern accent would never have asked me if he could “hold me through the night” if someone was already by my side.
But I’m glad you did. Because in the midst of an annoying situation made worse by an even more annoying situation, that’s when my humor and patience kicked in and I knew, even before I made international landfall, that traveling alone would teach me lessons I didn’t know. necessary to learn.
There is power in numbers. You are more likely to avoid some of the more complicated things in life.
situations, the lonely Larrys asking inappropriate questions.
I guess traveling alone and saying yes to a 2:00 am dinner with a stranger only to put off sleeping on the airport floor for another hour isn’t for everyone. There is power in numbers. You’re more likely to avoid some of life’s stickier situations, the lonely Larrys who ask inappropriate questions. There are at least two of you to read a map, shake off an aggressive yell, or share a bottle of cheap Rioja that’s likely to give you a headache. A travel companion is an integrated second brain, security guard and soundboard.
However, being a stubborn Taurus, I prefer to do things on my own. Including telling Larry, no, I don’t want you to hug me, I don’t want you to touch me at all, ever, and thanks for sharing your bag of corn chips and your life story with me, but I’m leaving. now. Cheer up. I felt independent. I felt strong. I felt that rush you get when you do something, say something, decide something that no one else in your life knows yet.
By traveling solo, for a couple of weeks, across Europe, for no reason other than the flight was cheap and the timing seemed right, I learned more about myself than I had in the last decade or so of being an adult. I am now very aware, perhaps too much, of my weaknesses (learning languages), my strengths (an innate sense of direction), what bothers me about others (indecisiveness), and what bothers others about me (I can be stingy). ).
By saying yes, by relying solely on your own eyes, two ears, and that beautiful brain sandwiched between them, by putting yourself on the other side of the world, you realize that even though we have different alphabets and accents and eyes. forms and gods, we are all human. Travel teaches you this. Traveling alone especially teaches you this.
So here is my take on why you should travel solo. Next month, next year, whenever you can. Take advantage of those vacation days and send your children to my house; they can stay with me for a while.
Some people won’t understand. Some people won’t think it’s safe. Some people will make snide comments about how selfish you are. Some people: “I wish I could do that!” – will be inspired. Choose to be inspired.
(And if you run into Larry at the airport, tell him I said hello. It’s still a no-go on the whole hugging thing, though.)
WHY YOU SHOULD TRAVEL ALONE
You will become a problem solver.
What way to the train station, what word on the menu means pork, what hints of a man to ignore. Once you navigate a foreign city with a foreign language without wifi, you will feel like you can do anything. There is no one to tell you left against right, unless you ask someone, which sometimes you should. Other times let your sense of direction and memory take over.
You will face your weaknesses.
If the internal compass spins in circles, it will soon remind you again and again. If you constantly need a bathroom, you’ll realize it when you’re handing out a euro here and a euro there to use the public toilets. If you don’t have a lot of money, next month’s credit card statement will put it right in your face, but so be it. While traveling alone, you’ll end up working out some personality issues, solely because there’s no one to judge or bother you except, well, you.
You will be on your own schedule.
Do you want to wake up at dawn? Do it. Do you want to skip the dance club scene? Of course, I would too. There’s a forgotten freedom to schedule your day how you want, not when you and your travel companion decide is probably a good time to start your day and arrive at the museum/church/restaurant. Your mornings are your mornings where you’re not waiting for someone to dry your hair. Your nights are your nights when no one is sitting idly by your side as you sip a last glass of Sancerre to flirt with the bartender. There is no “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” or “Are you hungry?” Eat, sleep and do what you want, when you want.
A funny thing happens when no one is around
complain: you don’t complain.
You will learn patience.
Traveling is not all sea views and Parisian patios. Sometimes your roommate snores. Or you miss your train. Or you wear the same pair of pants five days in a row. A funny thing happens when there is no one to complain to: you don’t complain. Take a deep breath and practice your patience. It’s all part of the process, right? Also, the bad experiences (lonely Larry) eventually turn into good stories (see above).
You will go at your own pace.
If you want to wander the Louvre from breakfast to dinner, do it. (And you should. Because it’s the size of a small country and you probably waited a couple of hours in line to get in.) When traveling alone, you can look at a Picasso piece for as long as you like. You can sit in a park for an hour to write a journal. You can stop worrying if someone else is hungry, tired, or having fun. All that matters is you, you, you; embrace some selfishness.
You will meet friends forever.
It is human nature. Eventually, you’ll crave conversation and companionship, and unless you’re backpacking through the wilderness, you’ll find it. You will chat with the bartender or someone interesting will sit on the empty bar stool next to you. Or, without saying I did this or anything, you’ll exchange numbers with a Lebanese man your mother wouldn’t approve of. I now have a collection of friends (Hello Alexa! Hello Juan!) who grew up on different continents than I do and speak different languages than I do, but whom I now consider lifelong friends. You guys are stuck with me! – because we met and fell in love at a formidable moment. I would let them sleep on my couch any day, tomorrow or two decades from now. That is priceless.
You will become a better traveler.
The more you travel, the better you become at traveling, especially when you have no one to trust but yourself. You’ll learn how to streamline your wardrobe, bring a set of backup contacts, and you’ll get the airport route down to the letter. And best of all: you will understand how the world works simply so much further.
You will spend as much (or as little) money as you want.
If you want to eat exclusively in Michelin-starred restaurants, who’s stopping you? If you’d rather snack out of your bag, go for it. We all know that money is a touchy subject. So, with no one monitoring your spending, you can spend as much as you want on whatever matters to you. Me? I buy art. I skip meals. I could put down I-don’t-want-to-know-how-many-dollars on a set of lingerie, but refuse to spend a few dollars on a taxi ride, deciding to walk instead. Whereas, with fellow travelers, I have a good time, splitting the bill evenly even if I didn’t order the $17 cocktails. I will take any means of transportation. they prefer.
Bonus: when you’re traveling solo, you open yourself up to so many (!) many (!) more (!) flight options. When a flight deal comes up, I got the flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam for $380! – You can get on it, without having to wait for a friend to get the approval of her free time or for her husband to agree on a place.
Image sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4
But if you travel with someone, let it be a photographer.
Megan is a writer, editor, etc-er who reflects on life, design, and travel for Domino, Lonny, Hunker, and more. Her rules of life include, but are not limited to: zipper when merging, tipping cash, and contributing to her IRA. Be a friend to her and sign up for her Night Vision newsletter or follow her on Instagram.