For me, travel is the best form of education. I find I learn and grow so much when I place myself in environments outside the one I live in, the one that is so familiar. I’m an independent person so I’m pretty comfortable being on my own. Journeying halfway around the world last month reminded me of the many benefits of traveling alone. On the long ride home I jotted down some thoughts on the topic.
I’ve taken dozens of business trips on my own so I’m comfortable getting around and relying on myself, and last week I returned from a trip to Australia, a trip I took without friends or family. A friend of mine expressed on my return how nervous she’d be if she was on her own and how I felt about traveling alone. Years ago I was inspired to begin taking trips alone after reading Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gift from the Sea, a short and easy read but still relevant and inspiring even though the book is over 50 years old. It’s about a woman who spends a week by herself in a cottage on the ocean and in the book she reflects on motherhood and how we complicate our lives too much. I try to read it once a year.
Traveling alone takes confidence, it requires courage and stepping outside your comfort zone even in the face of nagging insecurities or fears. You can practice being brave by traveling alone. You can learn so much about yourself by exploring the world without a travel partner.
Too often as mothers and wives we get stuck in the routine and everyone’s dependence on us that we feel either guilty for leaving, or unable to because of our circumstances. Perhaps the kids are still too young to leave or there are more important things to spend the money on. My children are at an age where they’re just fine without me for a few days or even a couple of weeks, and knowing myself and my love of travel, I always save up a little money each month for a future trip I want to take. I’m lucky to be in that stage of life.
There are many legitimate reasons to avoid traveling alone like time and finances, but nervousness shouldn’t be what holds you back. Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is where so much personal growth occurs. Some of my favorite perks of traveling alone are:
You Can Go At Your Own Pace. I love waking up when I want to, whether it’s early to catch a tour or late because I can sleep in. When I was in Salzburg last year I took the Sound of Music tour on my own, something that would bore my family. When I was in Melbourne, I visited art galleries and ducked into boutiques at my leisure. I love being able to stop and look at something for as long or as short a period of time as I want. I love to walk when I’m in big cities, and I can go for miles (these shoes help!) and when I’m on my own I need only worry about my own level of fatigue and no one else’s.
It’s Cheaper. One plane ticket, one shuttle ride, and one day of meals costs one fourth the price that it would if I went with my family. If there is someplace I really want to see, I plan ahead, work out a schedule with Matt, and off I go, and he does the same.
No Need for Conversation. When I’m with someone I always feel that additional pressure to be pleasant company, to make polite conversation, to have something interesting to say or observe or a funny anecdote or story to tell. When I’m alone it’s just me and my thoughts and I only need to speak when I’m ordering a meal! I can spend hours in silence listening to the sounds on the streets or the music on my phone without worry or care for anyone else’s conversational needs.
Meeting New People. Without a travel partner, I’m more likely to strike up conversations with others. The bartender, the concierge, the cute family sitting next to me in a restaurant. I’ve made so many friends this way and had some of the most delightful conversations with others, ones I’d likely not have at all if I had travel companions. I feel more connected to the human race when I do this.
Maneuverability. I find I can duck into corners at events or in restaurants and get a better view or seat when I’m alone since I only have to worry about the space that I take up! You can get lucky with “sold out” events too if you’re a single!
Etiquette. We’re all attached to our smartphones these days, myself included. When I’m with someone else I don’t look at my phone during meals or when I’m spending time with them, but when I’m alone there’s no guilt in browsing Instagram over lunch or editing photos on my phone in the pub.
Food and Beverages. When I travel alone I can eat whatever I want, whether it’s from a local fruit stand mid afternoon or dim sum at the local dumplings bistro or a cocktail at the hipster bar with that cool vibe. I never have to worry if they have chicken nuggets on the menu :)
You Get the Bed All to Yourself. This is one of my favorite perks, when I check into my accommodations, falling flat on my back on the bed and doing imaginary snow angels on the covers in celebration of the fact that it’s mine, it’s all mine! :) Sounds selfish, but when you live in a house with several people and pets, having a bed all to yourself for a few nights is a welcome indulgence.
You’re More Interesting. The more I travel the more connected to the world I feel. Travel has opened my eyes on so many topics: poverty, healthcare, lifestyle to name just a few. When I meet someone who’s from a place I’ve been to or visited it too, we share an instant connection. My favorite thing to talk to people about is where they’ve been and what they’ve seen in the states of my country or the nations of the world. When I meet someone from a different place I always want to hear what they think and learn how they live. When I meet someone who shares a passion for travel, I find them more interesting.
I loved this article rounding up inspiring quotes on reasons to travel more. I encourage all of my friends out there to take the opportunity to travel alone and if you’ve never done it, start small. Book a room in a city nearby, one you’ve always wanted to visit, sleep in, take yourself out to lunch, walk around, or go to that art exhibit you’ve been wanting to see. You’ll return home with all the benefits, I promise!
How many of you have taken trips alone? What did it teach you?