“It seemed an advantage to be traveling alone. Our responses to the world are crucially moulded by whom we are with, we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others…Being closely observed by a companion can inhibit us from observing others; we become taken up with adjusting ourselves to the companion’s questions and remarks, we have to make ourselves seem more normal than is good for our curiosity.” – Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel
Months ago, when I was trying to decide where I should travel next and who with, I made a a decision that did not seem that profound to me- I would travel alone this time. In the past, I have traveled internationally with friends, with family, in groups, with a significant other, with my sister (best travel buddy to this day).
But this time I decided I wanted something different. 2016 has been a challenging year for me personally. And I decided I wanted some time alone to just “be.” I wanted time to revel in myself, experience new cultures, meet new people, and simply to do whatever the fuck I wanted.
Anyone who knows me knows I love to travel. And I love people! So when most of my friends and family learned I had decided to go overseas alone, they were a bit horrified. “Why not just go with friends???? You have so many friends!” And I do LOVE travelling with friends and loved ones.
But this trip taught me I also adore travelling by myself.
- You can literally do WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT WHEN YOU WANT. I.E.: I am going to explore this museum; ok, over the museum- i want to shop; ok, i want some ice cream; ok, I want to explore this park and just relax for a moment; ok, i am exhausted and need a break; ok, i want more ice cream; ok, i want to go to the pubs for the third night in a row; and on the way home, i want more ice cream. 🙂 SERIOUSLY- I think everyone should go somewhere- doesn’t have to be international- BY THEMSELVES. It is liberating!
- You meet people you would not otherwise meet. When you are travelling with others, even if just one other person, you get comfortable and explore the city together- WHICH IS FINE. But travelling alone opens many new doors. I did a free walking tour in Dublin, Ireland and met many other single travelers there. Later that night, we all grabbed drinks. Also, fun fact– on that same walking tour, I met a married couple that was from Sterling Heights, Michigan and their son lived in Depot Town, Ypsilanti!!
- You are forced outside of your comfort zone. It is completely YOUR responsibility to navigate a new city in a new country. You may have to navigate a language barrier, traffic signs you don’t understand (traffic direction!), food you can’t make out, etc. My favorite example of this is trying to find a SIM card in Budapest, Hungary so that I could have data on my phone (all praise Google Maps). I tried to do a little research beforehand about where to find one- and I thought I would be able to purchase one in the airport.But the little store in the terminal at the airport was sold out. So I hopped onto a bus and headed to the city center to figure it out there. I was exhausted at this point- my plane to Budapest left Dublin around 5:50AM and I was at the airport long before. So there I was meandering around Budapest with my massive backpack trying to find a SIM card. I walked into a few stores with no success. And just as I was about to cross the street to try another pocket of the city, I saw an indoor mall. I went up to each floor and looked and looked and finally on the third floor there was a cell phone store! The digital menu for getting a service ticket was all in Hungarian (makes sense obviously), but a very kind bi-lingual staff member helped me. And just as I was about to leave the store, another English speaker walks in looking desperate and simply asks “SIM card??” I chuckled to myself and let him know YES they have them! He had just arrived from Israel–and we bonded over the necessity of Google Maps.
- (P.S. you may be fine navigating without data if physical maps are your thing. They are not mine-LOL. Also, having data and keeping in touch/Facetiming was my mother’s ONLY request as I went abroad alone).
I have gotten a lot of questions in regards to if I felt safe travelling alone as a woman. My answer- yes. I think every individual, regardless of sex or gender, needs to make smart choices abroad- i.e. keep cash in your suitcase and purse in case of theft, make sure your passport is safe, keep your eyes alert to your surroundings. With that said, I did not let fear keep me from experiencing local culture. I went to the pubs every night I was in Dublin and that was one of my favorite parts! I met a lot of locals and other travelers. And when I was ready to go home, I did because I was alone and could do whatever DA FUQ I WANTED. 🙂
At the end of the day, it is empowering to travel alone. And if you haven’t done so, I encourage you to give it a try. This will most definitely NOT be my last solo trip.