The joy of traveling alone

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” — Mark Twain

People often ask me if I get bored when I travel alone. The answer is always no. Sometimes it’s people-watching over expensive hot chocolate, sometimes it’s whiskey with strangers at hostel bars and other times it’s just an early night with a good book. I have met some pretty amazing humans on the road that I would have never encountered had I sat next to a friend.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have traveled extensively with friends and family and nothing compares to the sweet privilege of sharing travel memories with a loved one. But every once in a while, I pack a tiny pink suitcase and ask Ryanair or DB where to go next. Even though more than a year of “house arrest” may not put you in a solo traveling mood, there are so many benefits to it, especially after a period of time where your own company may have become more of a nuisance to you.

Now that you’re in Europe, the next metropolis is never more than a train or plane ride away. If you look out for deals, this trip won’t blow a dent in your wallet either. First you should decide on a type of trip (city trip, spa, camping/ hiking), means of transportation (plane, bus, train, car), type of accommodation (camping, hostel, Airbnb, hotel) and off you go!

Here are some great perks to travelling away from your comfort zone, straight into an adventure:

  • Become a problem solver. You will inevitably be faced with unforeseeable situations and there will be no safety net to take care of it. Thankfully, you’re smart and fearless and just needed a little nudge.
  • Go on a tech detox. You may want to use social media as a crutch to feel less alone at first and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that but once you get the hang of being by yourself, you might want to consider blocking electronic distractions and truly enjoying your time off. This will feel amazing after potentially having been glued to your screen throughout the pandemic.
  • Learn to love and appreciate yourself more as you become more self-aware.
  • Learn the language. You will hear a lot more of it once you’re not surrounded by fellow English speakers.
  • Meet new people. This one sounds like a cliché but it’s true nonetheless and there hasn’t been a lot of that in the past 15 months.
  • Go at your own pace. Breakfast at 2? Dinner at 5? It’s all up to you!
  • Find out what you like doing. Whether it’s shopping, museum visits, sightseeing, picture taking or sitting in a park with a magazine, nobody can reschedule your plans for you.
  • Become more decisive and boost your confidence as a result.

As you can see, some of these are quite obvious and some are simply inevitable. You can’t go a whole weekend without eating by yourself at least once or trying to understand a foreigner at some point (unless you go to an English speaking country). Waiters will give you a certain look when you ask for a table for one but once you remind yourself that alone does not equal lonely, you will feel independent and liberated rather than lost and stood-up.

Lastly, some tips to avoid feeling lonely:

  • Plan your itinerary in advance. A packed schedule will not leave room for self pity.
  • Set goals for your trip. Do you want to learn how to take amazing photos? Read three books? Try as many pains au chocolat as possible? Follow your mission and keep your mind occupied.
  • Follow your gut. If you feel unsafe, stick to more crowded areas.
  • Don’t feel bad if your screen time increases. Our phones provide comfort in unfamiliar situations and that’s okay.

There’s a chance you won’t like it. There’s also  a chance you’ll never want to travel with a friend ever again. The most likely outcome, however, is that you will have simply spent a nice weekend in a wonderful city.