You may or may not know that I took a six-week trip to the UK last August and September by myself. It was a wonderful experience, just as I expected (although of course everything didn’t always go according to plan)! Although I met up with several friends along the way, and enjoyed their company tremendously, much of the time was spent traveling, sightseeing, and wandering alone.
Out and about in London To the theater in Bath
Adventure on the SouthWest Coast Path Off to meet friends in Cornwall
Tea for one, with a view.
Traveling alone is a gift that anyone can, and in my opinion, should, give themselves. We all are our own best company, and although it can be nice to share certain events with other people, it is very important to feel comfortable in one’s own company. So many people seem to think that traveling alone is brave (or maybe foolhardy), and look at me as if I’ve done something unimaginable. Really?!
Ok, granted, not everyone will want/be able to travel across the pond and all over the UK by themselves, but I think I have figured out a way for you to ease yourself into the experience.
I realize that not everyone has spent a lifetime going and doing by themselves; most of us have obligations that prevent us from just picking up and going it alone even if that was our fondest desire. But even in the days before husbands, kids, and aging parents, many people don’t take advantage of their freedom and just venture out alone, and that, to me, is a missed opportunity.
If you have even a limited amount of freedom, may I suggest taking yourself away somewhere? Step out of your comfort zone as far as you dare. I’m not suggesting you fly off to some dangerous foreign country or attempt some hazardous extreme sport! Just get to know yourself a little better by going to the places and doing the things that YOU want to do. This is the luxury of solo travel-please yourself!
If you have never traveled alone, your first step could be to go someplace familiar by yourself. No passport or even plane ticket required; it could be something as simple as getting in the car and driving to a favorite haunt close by; just go by yourself and please yourself. Be selfish.
If you are already comfortable visiting familiar places on your own, may I suggest someplace new? Again, no language classes or passports are required. Think about those places you’ve never seen because no one else was interested. Pick one and do it, and if you don’t have a lot of time, make it local. Unfortunately most of us rarely see and do many things right outside our doors! Or get in the car and drive someplace about which you’ve always been curious. Attempting this on your own doesn’t mean that you go completely blind; when I travel alone (or even with others) I always do my research in advance. Things don’t always transpire as planned, which is fine of course, but it’s nice to have a basic framework in place when traveling somewhere new.
A little sidebar here about flying solo in restaurants, theaters, and the like. So many women are hesitant to go out by themselves, even in their own hometown! Ladies, the days when a woman eating out or attending an event by herself labeled her a friendless old maid are over! Get out there and enjoy yourself! If eating alone in a nice restaurant, sit at the bar if you’ve not comfortable at a table for one. Most restaurants offer many menu items at the bar; you may even stumble on a happy hour! If you are at your own local, chances are you’ll know someone there, and if you feel uncomfortable by yourself in a new place, pretend you are traveling for work. In fact if it makes you feel better, you can even make up a story. What the hell-have some fun! (PS if you don’t want to talk to anyone, take something to read.)
If you are someone like me who is comfortable traveling alone, I dare you to challenge yourself by taking off somewhere totally unfamiliar. Get on a plane and go! If you’re not comfortable trying to cope with a different language, find someplace where English is the lingua franca, or at least widely spoken. If you do your homework in advance, your destination won’t seem so foreign, and you’ll look forward to the trip.
So what qualifies me as a solo traveler expert? Have a traveled around the world to strange places on my own? No, not really. Before my UK trip I traveled solo abroad once, to Prague for a summer abroad in college, but I’ve never shied away from traveling alone to cities in the US, and traveled solo for work for years. Thinking back on the UK trip, I now realize that I was testing myself-at 54, did I still have the moxie to plan and execute a big trip alone (six weeks in planes, trains, and automobiles, 15 hotels/B and Bs)? The answer of course was a resounding yes! I am now planning to go back next year and spend some more time driving around Cornwall. Next trip after that? Australia, in 2017! One of my dearest friends wants to go back to Australia in a big way, so I hope she will accompany me, but she is right when she says she knows I will go alone if she can’t swing it.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Thanks for reading, and if you have some stories about your solo travels, please tell me about them. (Hey what a cool idea for a book!)