One of the responses I hear most from people while on the road is “you’re alone?!”
It’s probably the way my sister felt going to a Sandals Resort without a +1. It turned into a running joke because when we’d ask for a table of 5 they’d correct us and say “You mean 4, right?” The words three or five just weren’t in their vocabulary. Our society is built for couples so when an outlier of one is thrown into the mix it confuses people.
This is especially true in the travel industry where it is so common to find people traveling in couples or groups. But I can say that traveling solo was the very last thing I was worrying about when embarking on this adventure.
Similar to how one would train for a marathon, I did some training to prepare me for a big solo traveling trip. And it’s all about baby steps…so I started with going out to eat by myself. I’ll never forget the first time in my life that I ate out by myself, only about two years ago. I was scared sh*tless thinking everyone was staring at me wondering what was wrong enough with me to compel me to eat a meal out by myself. Then I realized people are too caught up with their own lives to be worrying about mine, and all my fear seemed to melt away.
I also booked a series of solo trips…consider them my 5ks to prepare me for a marathon.
First was Martha’s Vineyard. I specifically chose it because it’s hard to get to – they also have a nude beach there that was really enticing to me. Requiring a plane, bus, ferry and taxi to get to and from my destination excited me and seemed like the perfect challenge to test my street smarts. I saw the fireworks for July 4th, sun bathed on the nude beach (duh, I was nude), walked through an adorable storybook cottage neighborhood, and considered that trip a great success.
My next solo trip was Iceland. With this being my first international solo-trip I had some anxiety about being by myself for so long, but then I’d think about all the freshly downloaded books on my Kindle and got really excited about having the time to read them. I did a Game of Thrones tour that showed me some sites where the show was filmed there, spent a day at the Blue Lagoon, saw a celebrity at the iconic church tower, and did a tour where I learned about those adorable Icelandic horses (they don’t like being called ponies, because technically they’re not ponies…they’re horses, just cuter with shaggy hair).
After Iceland, I was hooked on travel, in general, and learned I really loved traveling by myself. I was so appreciative that I had taken the plunge to book the Martha’s Vineyard trip. It’s like it unlocked this side of me that craves experiences and seeing the beauty of the world we live in. For so long I thought I needed to wait to meet someone compatible enough to travel with in order to see the beautiful sights of the world. But once I discovered solo travel, it’s like the world had been unlocked for me. I could go where ever I want, when I want. No need for waiting and holding back my life for someone else.
My third solo trip was to Zion National Park. I’ve talked about that trip a lot but just to reiterate, it was life changing. Only a month after my return, I’d made the decision to commit my full-time to seeing the parks and going hiking. I had booked a Labor Day weekend trip to hike in Rainier National Park before I quit my job and once I returned from that very fast trip (I think I was only at the park for something like 30 hours) I was itching to hit the road and be able to enjoy the sites without the crunch of time.
Do I hope to travel alone for the rest of my life? Of course not. I hope to meet my life partner and we travel together, hopefully with a beautifully big family, but I’m not holding out for it. Our world is too vast and beautiful to be seen, “hopefully one day” with a companion. But one thing is certain to me, if I do meet my life partner and have a family…I’ll always allow myself one solo trip a year because being in solitude is like having a key that unlocks your mind to new insights about yourself.
If you decide to take the plunge and do a trip by yourself and find you’re getting dirty/weird looks from people, one of two things is happening: (1) it’s all in your head and they indeed aren’t paying you any mind because they’re too busy with their own life or (2) that says more about them than it does you; you’re not a mind reader and they are probably envying your adventurous spirit and wish they could be in your place enjoying your trip. Just keep smiling and let the adventure unlock a new side of you.