I love traveling alone. It’s wonderfully terrifying in that it forces me to conquer a lot of my fears. It offers a unique solace; every solo trip I take is an endeavor of self-love and self-discovery. A friend of mine recently told me that my solo travels have inspired hers. I don’t know that I’d ever considered what my trips do for others, but it was a reminder that we have no idea how the things we do affect other people. When I started solo traveling, I dipped my toe in by starting the journey by myself and having someone join me later in the trip. Now, I’ll gladly hop on a plane and get out of dodge solo. Along the way, I’ve picked up a few things I like to do:
1. Start a Travel Journal
I do this everywhere I go, and it’s always a fresh book. I figure, I’ll either come back and add to it, or pass it down to a relative who can add their own chapters. I think I started in Peru, which technically wasn’t a solo trip. In hindsight, I wish I documented that trip better, but I’ve learned since then. I write about where I am, what I’ve eaten, who I’ve met, and the barrage of emotions I’m feeling. If you hate sitting alone at dinner, this is the perfect way to have a conversation with yourself without looking crazy. Put your phone down, take out your notebook and let whatever you’re feeling guide your pen. It also functioned as a conversation starter with a cute Uruguayan chef/restaurant owner. I have one for France that I continue to add to because I try to visit every year or so.
2. Rent A Car & Go
Gosh — I’ve cried from the sheer joy of that open road. I think learning to drive a manual transmission car is one invaluable skill I’ve honed in my life. Honestly, I hate driving when I’m stateside because I only have access to automatic cars, but give me a tiny stick shift car and a road somewhere far far away and it’s utter bliss. I just do not get the same rush driving an automatic car, but I’m sure the stick vs automatic thing is just one of my quirks. Last year, I jumped off a plane from NY to Paris and drove for hours on end to the South of France. At some point, I broke down crying, in part from the exhaustion I’m sure, but mostly from the sheer joy of these intense moments that I experienced alone.
3. Take a Class
Cooking, surfing, dancing, whatever — take every chance you can to learn something new, when are you ever going to need to debone a chicken? When you end up on an amateur special of Chopped, you can say you learned to do it at a cooking school on the Seine. Last year I took a surfing lesson, and I highly recommend Escuela de Surf Los Dedos if you ever find yourself in Punta Del Este, Uruguay. They had me riding waves by the end of it, I left physically exhausted and emotionally open. It was the first time I’d spent my birthday completely alone, reveling in my self-awareness.
4. Use Tinder (or another dating app with global reach)
Look, I know this sounds crazy, but since most people on those apps aren’t looking for the deep, incandescent love Jane Austen wrote about, this is kind of perfect. I’m an outgoing person, but I really kind of suck at meeting people when I travel. I guess this only works if you’re single, but I’ve had a lot of random good times thanks to people I’ve either met or met up with via Tinder. I went Salsa dancing with a Chilean in Paris and I made a really good friend in NOLA. That friend in New Orleans has always told me the best things to do every time I’m there. We never even met up on that visit – we actually met in person when he and his new girlfriend visited NY several months later. Tech gets a lot of flack for ruining us, but this little app has been the gift that keeps on giving. If there’s a language barrier, google translate can help. If you maintain a healthy level of distrust of strangers, like I do, at least you get to see if you can have a conversation and feel them out first.
5. Just be…
There is something so incredibly liberating about solo travel. People will call you brave, and some will say “I don’t know how you do it.” Allow yourself to be present in those moments, gain some self-awareness and become in tune with your surroundings. All the things in your life bring you to these beautiful moments and it’s important to feel them. Do whatever you want — when you travel alone, the itinerary is 100% in your hands. You don’t have to get a consensus and make any concessions. The mere thought of being alone with your thoughts can be scary, but you don’t know where your life will take you.
The long and the short of it, when it comes to solo travel, is that you get to be selfish. Contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t have to be a negative word. You deserve to be selfish, to save moments for you and you alone. You deserve to love yourself, to question who you are, and trace back how you got to where you are, without anyone else’s voice in your head. You deserve it all.