There’s an unmistakable look whenever I tell acquaintances about my solo travel plans. The head tilts, eyebrows pucker, the mouth slightly gapes open—a glance that’s in between mild shock and immense pity.
“You’re traveling alone? By yourself? With no one? Doesn’t that make you sad?”
“Alone is my norm,” is my response. “If I waited for someone to join me, so many adventures would have been missed.”
They nod as if they understood and force a casual smile before walking away or conveniently shifting the conversation.
The thing is, I know their emotions aren’t directed at me. It’s a reaction to their imagination swapping places with me in my travel itinerary, a reflexive response when envisioning the idea of driving into unknown territory alone—and not being able to complete the thought.
I don’t take it personally. Solo travel has been my way of adventuring for close to a decade, so I have the same reaction to the notion of someone else slogging along with me.
It’s all about perspective.
You rarely see solo travel get coverage in tourism commercials. Screen time is dedicated to cheerful families, romantic couples, laughing best friends. Making memories means having someone to share the moment with.
Or does it?
Most recently, I took a solo trip to Tampa. I kayaked with the manatees, dove down steep roller coaster hills, dipped my feet in the rippling ocean current and ate tapas at a café along the downtown boardwalk.
That’s a lot of memories, if I do say so myself.
Many would-be travelers stay put when their desired trip means going alone. As a seasoned solo traveler, I can attest to many perks of solo travel once the fear and discomfort dissipates.
You Decide the Journey
What do you want to do today? When do you want to wake up? Where do you want to eat?
That’s up for you to decide.
If you want to sleep in, you can. If you want to set your alarm for 5AM, you can. If you want to chill out by the pool for the third afternoon in a row, you can. If you want to drive for five hours to the middle of a desert, you can. If you want to splurge on a meal at a five-star restaurant, you can. If you want to eat cold leftovers in your car, you can.
Sounds pretty selfish when I put it down into words. But there are some trips where it’s nice to be the boss of the schedule. With solo travel, there’s no need for compromise—except with Mother Nature.
Some journeys are meant to be traversed alone. Some destinations can only be reached because you didn’t let anyone hold you back from doing what you need to do.
You Can Think Without Interruption
I’ve had some of the best conversations during group travel with family and friends. I’ve also have had over-the-top arguments that escalated too quickly, usually because someone was tired or hungry.
Not saying it was me, but it’s likely.
When traveling in a group, conversation is natural. But sometimes you don’t want to talk. Yet if the expectation is there to keep the chatter going, it can make you irritable or bored.
Sometimes it’s nice not to talk at all.
As a solo traveler, all you have to talk to is yourself. Since talking out loud isn’t socially acceptable, you think. Whether exploring or relaxing, you can let your thoughts wander aimlessly.
I often schedule a solo travel adventure when I need to pause, when I’ve been so busy with the rush of life that I crave to step back and collect my thoughts.
It’s when I solo travel that I discover creative solutions for my writing, strategize where I want to go next in my life, ponder the universe’s biggest questions and make peace with moments in my past.
Solo travel can be quite productive.
You’re Never Really Alone
I find myself frequently in conversation whenever I travel solo. Just on my last trip to Tampa, I engaged in conversation while sitting at fancy restaurant bars, while cranking up the hills on roller coaster rides, while kayaking across Tampa Bay and while waiting in line at the airport.
And, not surprising to anyone that knows me, I did not initiate any of these exchanges.
There must be something enticing about talking to a solo traveler because I find myself in conversation with couples, groups of friends or fellow solo travelers. I always bring a book or bookmarked articles on my phone in case I need to pass the time, but I rarely have the chance to read when I’m out by myself.
But that’s the beauty of the solo traveling life. The adventure is part self-discovery, part discovery of new surroundings and part discovery of new people. It’s an all-encompassing experience that expands across space and time as well as beyond anxiety and awkwardness.
I haven’t had one solo travel experience that sucked. And by keeping this frame of mind, I know I never will.