“What? You’re going all by yourself?”
This is the usual response I get when I tell people about the solo trip I’m planning this April. In a tone of voice that says they think I’m crazy.
Every solo trip up until this point has not really been solo.
For example, many years ago I took a two week trip to Guatemala. My husband had less vacation time than I did, and I heard about the language schools in Antigua, so I signed up. I spent two weeks staying with a host family and studied Spanish every morning. It was great.
But I wasn’t alone. I had my host family. I had my Spanish teacher for one-on-one lessons. I ended up meeting an Israeli girl I spent some time with.
In the last decade, I have led workshops for the International Baccalaureate in various cities throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Each workshop lasted three days, so I was busy with other people for those three days. But whenever I could, I added a day before the workshop and/or a day afterwards to explore the city on my own. I enjoyed it every time (except in Moscow when it happened to be a national holiday so I was unable to set foot on Red Square or see any of the Red Square sights for the entire day). Sometimes I spent that extra day with other people after all, often ones I’d met at the workshop, so this wasn’t solo travel either.
I’ve gone to London by myself several times, but never for more than a few days.
Mostly, though, when I didn’t travel with family, I traveled with a friend, or went to visit friends or family, so that doesn’t really count as solo travel either, does it?
Now, though, I’m planning two trips, one to Guadeloupe and Martinique in April, and one to Asia, probably Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, in the summer. I’m on sabbatical and my husband isn’t, so they’ll both be truly solo trips.
These trips will be longer than any solo travel I’ve done before. I’m looking forward to them but, yes, I’m nervous about traveling for so long on my own.
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What I like about solo travel
- Doing what I want, and only what I want, at whatever speed I want. That means that if I don’t want to visit that “must-see” museum, I don’t have to. Or I can move through it quickly, seeing what I’m interested in and skipping the rest. I can choose to just sit in a café and watch the people go by, or I can choose to eat as I walk so I can see more of the place. This is the main selling point for going solo, in my opinion.
The rest of this list, I realize, falls under number 1:
- Sleeping late or getting up early, depending on my mood.
- Taking a day off and just sitting and reading a book or writing.
- Lying on a beach and doing nothing if I feel like it.
- Packing a lot of sights into one day, if I feel like it.
- Not feeling embarrassed if I snack my way through the day instead of eating balanced meals.
- Skipping a meal if I’m enjoying what I’m doing.
- Talking to complete strangers if I want to, or not talking to anyone if I don’t want to.
- My internal monologue that turns into blog posts. It’s harder to carry out that monologue when I’m talking to people.
What I don’t like about solo travel
- Feeling lonely. While I don’t mind being alone, sometimes that turns to loneliness. Talking to strangers or just getting busy doing something helps reduce that feeling.
- Missing my husband and kids. There’s often so much I know they’d like to see, especially my husband, but they’re not there to share it with me. Even after 25 years of marriage, and more if you count the years we were together but not married, I still like traveling with my husband much better than traveling alone. (Except when it involves a museum, where he’ll read every single informational sign in the place, taking hours longer than I would. In museums, I don’t miss him.)
- Eating in restaurants. It’s awkward eating alone in a restaurant, especially in the time between ordering and receiving your food. I always bring a book with me so I have something to do.
- Possible dangers. I suppose in theory it’s not as safe to travel alone. I could get sick or injured or mugged. I’ve never felt like I’m at risk, but perhaps that’s because I’m not shy about talking to people and asking for help. And I’m pretty savvy about avoiding dangerous situations.
Number 2, missing people, especially my husband, is what makes me unsure about my upcoming trips. There’s no way I’ll cancel, though. It may be outside my comfort zone, but I love and even need to travel, so I’ll go anyway.
Yet many people talk to me like they think I’m crazy for planning solo travel.
Do you think I’m crazy? Have you ever traveled by yourself? How was it? Please add a comment below!