Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why I Travel Solo

Posted on February 10, 2010 - by Guest

Why I Travel Solo

Welcome to guest blogger, Andy Hayes. Andy is a professional writer, published author, and probably not as introverted as he’d have you think. He’s the editor of Sharing Travel Experiences, an online magazine that shares rich and authentic travel stories, whether they’re solo travel or not. Click over and check it out – maybe you’ll find the inspiration you’ve been looking for.

Empty seats along the promenade at Birzebugga

There’s an awful lot of talk about whether one should travel alone or not. Sure – there are issues like safety, security, and your own physical health that influence a decision like that. But the bottom line is only one person can make that decision: YOU. I’m not going to tell you whether it’s right or wrong, and nor can the next person. What I can do is tell you a bit about why I mostly travel solo. I hope it leads you to some internal thought and possibly a better idea of what kind of travel is best for you.

Reflection. Maybe it is because I’m a writer or perhaps I’m a bit of an introvert. (Those of you that know me, stop rolling your eyes!) No, really, when I travel I like to soak up the experience. Notice the details. Feel something – the sounds, the taste, the smell. As a solo traveler, you can give your undivided attention to the experience. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy myself or the destination with another person – just to say that when I’m alone, it maximizes the potential for personal reflection.

Flexibility. I am location independent so my businesses come with me while I travel – that’s what enables me to travel a lot. So I need to be a tad flexible; if a client is having a major issue, I like to be able to take a timeout and solve it so I can move on without having that on the back of my mind. Plus if say it is rainy, I can choose to spend the day holed up in a café instead of out in the thick of it, without having to negotiate it with someone else.

Going All the Way. Sometimes I like to do stuff a little towards the edge of the box. And I find it hard to find a travel companion who’s in for the ride. (Ok, there are one or two I know – hi if that’s you!) For example, when I was in Fox Village in rural New Zealand there was a problem with my luggage. It’s a very long story but the thing was I didn’t have any proper shoes, just sandals. But I had planned on seeing sunrise on mirror lake the next day. It was going to be the only sunny morning so I had to go. Alarm clock at 4:30AM, 3 miles on a bicycle [no lights], and then a trek through the woods using my mobile phone as a guide [yeah, I know – no luggage]. Oh, and did I mention it was absolutely freezing and I had on sandals? And the mosquitoes? Anyway – that sunrise was priceless. Truly priceless.

Uncomfortableness. Ok, so I know that isn’t really a word, but it’s about being uncomfortable, so let’s get started, shall we? I’m a worrier by nature, and add introvert on top of that and I’d probably be happy in the corner of a coffee shop with dim lighting or maybe a padded cell would be better. But solo travel forces me to do all the uncomfortable stuff, because there isn’t anybody else to do it. Eating dinner alone, navigating complicated train stations, forcing conversation in foreign tongues – that stuff is hard even when you’ve got a teamwork thing going on. But solo? Yeah, it’s mildly terrifying. But it builds confidence, builds character, and makes you a better person. So lean into the uncomfortableness and roll with it.

Reprinted from

(I couldn't agree more with Andy.  As to reflection, I discovered the joys of aloneness in my 30's on a motor coach trip across Europe.  Opting for cafe-sitting and soaking up the "flavor" of Paris and the Parisiennes instead of doing a side trip with the group, the benefits of quiet introspection became quite clear to me.  I enjoy my time with others just as much;  I just need a balance of the two.  Once I spent 11 days alone in London and was never lonely.  Now I don't hesitate to go almost anywhere alone.  It is nice to have complete flexibility, and I sure have "leaned into uncomfortableness and rolled with it." 

As to the "going all the way" (crazy, daring) aspect, I once (foolishly, I see now, and would never repeat something so risky) accepted a car ride in Paris to Galeries Layfayette from what turned out to be a Morrocan or Algerian man who asked me during the ride, "Êtes-vous marié? Veux-tu m'épouser?"  (Are you married?  Would you marry me?)  Yikes!  Talk about wanting to get to America!  This guy wasted no time.  Amazing how your French returns when in a situation where you really need it!  I feigned fright, saying "J'ai peur. Je veux sortir." (I'm afraid!  I want to get out!")  Luckily, we were in a very busy business district mid-morning.  His eyes opened wide when he said, in French, "Of me?!  Okay, I'm stopping."  Guess he thought I'd call the "gendarmerie!"  Oh, some of the dumb things we do when young.)

Update June 13, 2010:  This now seems more than a harmless incident to me.  Please go read June 13th's post, Caught in a Con Game.