Confessions of the lone traveler: Why I am traveling alone
When I announce that I am traveling alone, or that I am the lone traveler, people are usually either shocked, amazed, or dismayed (Or all three. And I can’t decide which reaction is most annoying. When I figure it out i’ll get back to you). But regardless of the reactions I get to traveling alone, people inadvertently make me feel like I am a total weirdo for wanting to travel alone when they say things like, “Wow, you’re so brave!” or “How can you travel alone? I mean, you actually LIKE that?”
These responses make it seem like I am going on a twenty year, deep space trek in which I’m risking life and limb, exploring the deepest reaches of Mars. And while I appreciate the kind words and admiration, such comments amuse me because it’s really not that big of a deal. The reason why I am traveling alone is that to me, traveling the world alone is a fun and exciting way to travel on my own terms.
Things like traveling Europe alone (One of my favorite solo female travel destinations. Love me some castles) allow me to do what I love without relying on or even considering the needs of another person (Selfishness for the win! Lol). To me, such an idea is invigorating and liberating since it represents one of the truest forms of freedom.
I simply book a trip wherever I want and go. Yup, its that simple. No debating destinations or begging people for money. I just decide where I am going on holiday alone and boom, I’m gone. It really can’t much simpler than that (I guess it can but then you probably wouldn’t be going on any solo trips for women)!
And the beauty of this level of freedom is that it removes a lot of the hurdles that often prevent people from traveling. You know, like finding someone to travel with who is free when you want to travel and has the money to do so; a feat that I have found to be almost impossible since people always say they want to travel with you but then rarely ever do.
So instead, I just go anywhere at any time and embark on one of my many solo trips for women. But I can only do this because in my heart, I know I am a resourceful, confident, capable woman. I don’t NEED to find a travel partner so I can go on vacation because the more I travel alone, the more I realize that I can take care of myself (Doesn’t make deciding where to go on holiday alone any easier. And totally not dissing other forms of travel here because traveling with like-minded people is great too).
Because of such
1. Builds Self-Esteem
By nature, I am a very uncomfortable and self-conscious person (Hard to believe right? Kidding, if you saw me socially you’d know why I say this). I tend to think that basically anyone and everyone is better than me and question a lot of what I say and do with thoughts like, “Omg, did I say or do something wrong? Do they hate me now?” and so on and so forth.
And while yes, professional therapy has helped a great deal with my lack of confidence, finding places to go by yourself has also really helped too. I mean, any time I have found places to go alone, the experience has forced me to step out of my comfort zone and interact with others (sometimes out of sheer necessity). Whether it is because I am lonely or because I am totally lost and need help finding my hotel, embracing young solo travel has forced me to engage with locals and travelers that I would have otherwise, never bothered to converse with if I had a wing woman there with me. See, when I am with my friends, I tend to stay with them and with what I know to be safe and comfortable. As a result, I don’t interact much with strangers because of that ever insidious fear of the unknown (one of the gifts of finding trips to do alone is letting go of this fear).
But like in normal life, when I find fun places to travel alone sometimes bad things happen. Only in this instance, I have no one to help me resolve the situation since I am by myself. Therefore, I am forced to confront whatever horrible thing has happened (Like the time my wallet got stolen or the time my bag got stolen or the time the ATM ate all my money right before my flight. Somehow insanity always finds me) and find a solution since I travel by myself.
Yet, once the proverbial dust settles after the storm of ickiness that is sometimes the life of someone who says, “I want to go traveling alone,” I am always amazed at both my resilience and ability to cope with seemingly disastrous situations, on my own. I don’t know why but I was always under the delusion that I couldn’t do things on my own. But the beauty of planning to travel alone and embracing solo tourism is that I finally realized that this assumption was a big, fat LIE. Not only am I traveling the world solo but I do this and problem solve at the same time. So navigating foreign public transportation? No problem because I can generally take care of myself, with the help of some awesome travel apps. That’s why now I can see that frankly, I don’t need anyone to save me; an understanding of self that creates a level of pride and self-esteem that can never be taken away.
2. Meet New People (Cringe)
Okay, in fairness I am not THAT socially awkward but I am definitely an introvert who gets anxious about any and all forced human interaction, especially with people I don’t know. I just always feel so odd going up to random people in this forced way and being like, “Hi, my name is Kelly! Want to be my friend?” It feels so bizarre to me, especially if I get all self-conscious and forget how to speak.
And when I travel alone, this feeling doesn’t just go away. Rather, I just kind of have to learn hoe to deal with it. Because when I’m alone, I can’t just send my friend over to scope things out for me and do the dirty work of social interaction. Nope. When I am out in the trenches, exploring some of the best places to vacation solo, talking to people is necessary. I mean whether I can’t find my hostel or I am totally lonely and need some actual human contact, I am forced to talk to well, strangers (Some of which are indeed strange).
But not just any strangers, like people from totally different walks of life that I would never have met if I wasn’t continually figuring out the nuances of how to travel solo (A lifelong process for this crazy chick who always seems tospa attract insanity. It is seriously like a moth to the flame). I mean I remember when I was in Peru and staying on the Yavari (a boat) in Puno, I met this kickass British couple who were traveling around Peru after recently summiting Mount Kilimanjaro. They were in their 50s, super nice, and even invited me out to dinner with them. It was a ton of fun and a nice break from my self-imposed solitude. In fairness though, they chatted me up first but still, they probably wouldn’t have spoken to me if I had been with a herd of people.
Now I know some of you skeptics out there are probably thinking, “Yeah, but what happens when you are having this crazy traveling alone experience and all of a sudden, boom, you get hit with a super creeper that you really don’t want to talk to and can’t seem to get rid of.”
Well, let me assure you that I have met my fair share of creepers, like this crazy lady who spit at me in Athens, Greece and for no reason, started cursing me out. I literally speed walked away from her but alas she decided to follow me. But because I was an area full of people, she eventually decided to walk away. But this is the reason why I always try to stay in crowded areas with a ton of people. This way, if anything happens, there are tons of witnesses or people that can help out. Also, try and let your hotel/hostel know where you are and where you’re going so that if something does happen, they will realize that they need to call the police. But for the most part, people are not out there trying to murder you or steal your first born. They are just living there lives so I wouldn’t stress about safety too much because safe solo travel is a reality and the norm for most my solo adventures (Obviously safety is important but most of the time, just use your common sense and you should be fine. That and never tell strangers you are traveling alone because they could exploit that fact).
3. You Get to Be Selfish
Planning to go traveling alone? Awesome because you get to be the most selfish human being on the planet. YES! The moms out there are probably like, “Selfish? What does that even mean?” A serious shout out to all the moms who think of everyone but themselves like 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But the one place you do not have to do that is when you’re doing trips by yourself because NO ONE ELSE IS THERE (talk about heaven). You get to sleep when you want, eat when you want, go sightseeing when you want and all without consulting anyone. I mean how awesome is that? And really think about it. How often can we just do whatever we want and not have to talk to someone about it? Exactly, like never. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your new found freedom because once you get back from finding a good place to travel alone, its back to being selfless and actually showing up for work when you’d rather be sleeping (more coffee please).
And just remember that even though compromise is an integral part of our lives with friends and family, t it is okay to be selfish sometimes. Seriously, every so often we just need to do what we want, when we want, and not ask anyone’s permission or opinion. So don’t be afraid of solo travel and embrace the joy of ultimate freedom.
4. If you wait for others, you’ll wait a long time
I have learned through bitter experience that it is really hard to coordinate trips with other people.And by hard I mean it is virtually impossible and generally never happens. Either someone can’t get off work or someone can’t come up with the money or someone’s friend’s cousin’s boyfriend’s sister’s cat died and they need to be at the funeral (So many excuses, so little time). Whatever the reason, people are always super excited about travel, until you want to book it and ask for money. Then they all disappear. They look at you weirdly as if to say, “Travel? What travel? Did I say I want to travel?”(Kind of like when you fart and pretend it wasn’t you? That sort of thing).
So rather than stamp my feet and throw a temper tantrum where I curse the universe for my lack of reliable, travel enthusiastic friends, I just go by myself. First of all solo travel is hella awesome and second of all, if I wait for others to travel, I will probably die waiting (I honestly believe I am not being melodramatic here). And frankly, I don’t want to be a literal zombie when I finally do go on my dream vacation. I mean I know they are all en vogue now because of the Walking Dead, but I really don’t look good with drool and extra pasty white skin since people already need sunglasses to look at me (Yes, I am indeed THAT pale).So yeah, that’s the long answer as to why I travel alone now.
5. You Learn to Face Fear
People always ask me, “Kelly, how do you travel alone? I mean how do you become ready to do it? Aren’t you scared?” This questions always cracks me up because the truth is that no one is ever really ready. Sure, a thousand and one things could go wrong (and have) when I travel alone, but I don’t think about it, I just do it (Shout out to Nike for the verbiage). Because anytime I think about things, it’s usually not good. I’m never like, “Oh, I’m gonna go to China and meet a unicorn while climbing a rainbow that leads to a hidden treasure.” I’m more like, “OMG, we are all gonna die in an explosive and fiery ball of atomic mass destruction that will incinerate all of mankind.” Yeah, I think all of that and all I did was chip a nail. Like really? Get it together.
But that’s why I can’t overthink it and just book the flight, no matter how fearful I am (Within reason. No, I’m not gonna go to some war-torn country where I’m gonna get kidnapped and held for ransom because my dad is broke and not Liam Neeson. I’d be outta luck).
Plus, where in the rules of life does it say that you can’t do something scared? Because in all honesty, if you weren’t a little anxious about going to a strange place all by yourself, I think there might be something wrong with you. Its human to fear the unknown. Just don’t let that fear stop you from doing all the things you love because the sad fact is that if you let fear prevent you from traveling then you’re probably letting it prevent you from doing a lot of other things in your life (#justsayin). Sorry, not to get all Dr. Phil on you but solo travel is a great way to learn to face the fear and just do a bunch of crap scared. Even if it all goes to hell, at least you tried and you don’t have to sit there mulling over one of the most awful phrases in the English language, “What if…” (So profound, they should put it on a fortune cookie. Kidding! I am not the Dalai Lama).
You Made It (Insert raucous cheers here)
Hot dog, you made it! How does it feel? Have you had an epiphany about the meaning of life? No? Yeah, I didn’t think so. This post isn’t THAT insightful but it is honest. These really and truly are all the reasons why I genuinely enjoy solo travel. So I swear, I don’t travel like this just because I am a total weirdo who has no friends (Actually…). I genuinely love solo travel and have finally found a way to enjoy my own company, no matter where I am in the world.
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