On Why Solo Travel Can Be a Good Thing
“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever seen before.” - Albert Einstein
It had long been an idea of mine to do some solo-traveling. Likely, this was the result of an ever-busy work schedule, but also an incredible independent streak that I have. Plus, I’m continually inspired by the friends and clients that I have that - they are all, strong, self-motivated, amazing women - who jetset across the world at a moment’s notice.
One of my most favorite trips - and even thinking about it still makes me sad - was with my friend Jannah. We went to the Bahamas, rented a seaside condo, and spent most of the time in one of three states: sunburnt, drunk, or napping. It was the perfect laid-back, no-frills type of vacation that I was immensely craving. Plus, looking back at that trip years later and knowing that Jannah has passed, makes me realize that if I want to do something, well, I damn well better do it. Because when will I have another chance?
I settled on a solo trip to San Diego. It seemed the logical choice since I was refunding some Southwest flights to Denver and would have a bit of flex money to spend. From Austin, there is a direct flight to San Diego (another win), which made it perfect for a 3-day trip. Aside from the obvious gorgeous weather, I was just looking for someone simple, domestic, and laid-back. No frills, no expensive dinners. Just give a girl her book, a beach, and a comfy spot to crash at night.
I lucked out and found the cutest little Airbnb around. (Click here if you want to see where I stayed!) In fact, where was this kind of studio when I was in college? It was absolutely perfect for a person traveling on their own and combined an incredible amount of privacy (hello separate entrance and shaded patio!) with all the amenities of home.
I love Airbnb for a lot of reasons, but aside from the reduced price point of a hotel (plus the advantage of getting to live like a local!), each host goes out of their way to make their home something special. In this case, the studio was stocked with everything I could possibly want for breakfast - great coffee, oatmeal, and a plethora of restaurant recommendations.
I didn’t have any concrete plans, but the most important thing to me was getting a lot of R&R. I wanted to sleep in, have lazy, coffee-filled mornings, watch trashy tv judgment-free, read my Kindle by the beach and generally ignore anything and everything I didn’t want to do. THIS is the point of solo vacations, I am quite sure. I like the no-plan, beer-and-a-nap in the afternoon, only-sort-of-scheduled excursions that allow me to be home by 5pm, sitting in my underwear, preferably petting a cat.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Gearing up for a lot of big hiking and camping adventures in this coming year has me completely jazzed! But, there’s a time and a place for those, and a time and a place for getting away.
Taking a solo trip, I can only imagine, is, for some, a daunting task. Most people that I know won’t go out to dinner by themselves for fear of being looked at pitifully. (Case in my point, one of my favorite episodes of Sex and the City, Anchors Away- fast forward to 2:20 unless you’re ready for serious Samantha sex-talk). However, when I told friends that I was going to San Diego by myself, I was more often met with exclamations of “That is so cool!” and “Good for you!” than anything even approaching negativity.
But for me, traveling solo is the best way to reconnect with myself and recharge. But for those women (or men!) who are afraid to travel alone, let me give you some reasons why you should travel alone.
YOU ARE THE MASTER OF YOUR DESTINY.
“I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.” - Olivia Wilde
It’s the simplest and best part of traveling alone. What do you want to do today? What are you in the mood for? Not only are you alone to do whatever you want, but you’re also completely free to avoid anything that you don’t! The beauty in traveling alone is that you are the ultimate planner. Even better, if something doesn’t work out (say, the museum you wanted to go to is closed), you can turn on a dime and adjust your plans. Want to stay out past midnight? Do it. Want to sleep until noon? Why not? You are absolutely not tied to anyone’s plans but your own. You didn’t disappoint anyone by doing nothing today.
BUILD AMAZING SELF AWARENESS.
“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” - David Mitchell
When confronted with traveling alone, you are solely responsible for yourself. How are you feeling? How do you feel in this situation? On an even grander picture, you learn your likes and dislikes about yourself. It seems silly to think that you might not know something about yourself. But, if someone were to ask you what your ideal day would be, would you be ready with an answer? You learn something new about yourself by taking the time to listen.
TRAVELING ALONE BUILDS CONFIDENCE
“The best part about solo travel is rediscovering that I enjoy my own company.”
It seems in today’s society, for all the advancements that women have had, there seems an underlying fear that it is somehow unsafe to travel alone. In truth, my experience has only been domestic, but it still remains true. Walking down the streets of San Diego, it’s highly likely no one even knows that I don’t live here. It could be very plausible then, that I’m simply walking to work or happy hour with some friends. When you consider your day-to-day lifestyle, how is that any different? Is it because you’re in a new place? If I told you that I’ve lived in Austin for eight years and still couldn’t tell you ever nook and cranny of the city, would that change your mind? Part of the beauty of traveling alone is that you’re never out of place until you put yourself there. So smile and walk out the front door.
GET YOURSELF OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.
“Travel is never a matter of money, but of courage.” - Paulo Coelho
Much along the same lines of building confidence, a solo adventure requires you to get out of your comfort zone. There’s no one else with you to bounce ideas off of. No one to use a safety blanket in public places. Traveling solo represents that rare time when it’s sink-or-swim, do-or-wish-you-did.
YOU INTERACT WITH THE LOCALS
We, as is the millennial curse, have a tendency to shut ourselves away from human contact, in search, instead, for the comfort of our technology and phones. But, put in the predicament of having to fend for yourself on a solo excursion, one might find that getting out of your comfort one requires talking to the locals. Sure, social media sites are great for getting broad recommendations, but some of the best advice that I’ve ever gotten on trips has been from spontaneous conversation wth the locals. In fact, I found some of the most amazing ice cream in San Diego, simply by asking my Uber driver where I should go.
YOU SOAK UP THE MOMENT
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” - Henry David Thoreau
This might be the most important statement of the entire bunch. When, taken away from all the outside distractions, you’re left to simply just be. It’s amazing how much more you’re actually able to enjoy. Yesterday, on a solo beach excursion, I sat in the sand and read from my Kindle. But, I could tell you exactly how the sea salt spray smelled. How the wind, sometimes cold, flew across my face. How the seagulls were scooping up clams from the ocean and dropping them perilously to the sandy shore to crack them open. I could tell you how calm it felt. How quiet the beach was. How the sand felt between my toes. When was the last time you felt this way?
So in the words of my fellow friend, Bailey, “Whether you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right.” (Also Henry Ford, but you know.)