Personal Insights on Embracing Solo Travel
It's been a week since I said a tearful goodbye to my hubby at the Milan airport. We parted ways as he headed to the opposite terminal for a flight back to Seattle, and I boarded a tiny plane directed towards Brussels. My extended travel schedule had been planned months prior, and even though I had time to prepare for it, I was surprised at the surge of emotions.
My first and last large solo travel happened in 2011. Fresh off a break-up and an energetic itch to travel, I booked a one-way ticket to Australia and backpacked around the continent for 3 months. I remember specifically wanting to make it an independent trip and can't recall any anxiety about being alone. I had huge advantages traveling to a country that spoke my language, was known for it's safety, and catered to backpackers from all over the world. It was a perfect country to explore alone and was a life changing adventure.
With an overwhelmingly positive experience, I knew I would want to travel alone again.
So even as the days with my family and Jared wound down in Italy, I was still covertly excited for some solo exploration. Fast forward to saying goodbye and all of a sudden I was second guessing the decision entirely.
What was the allure of being by myself again? Why had I wanted this? Was traveling actually going to be that fun without someone to share it with?
After a week of independent traveling, here are a few things I've learned to appreciate about myself and time spent as a lone wolf.
1) Thrifty is My Middle Name: I've always been a saver and that fact doesn't change when I'm traveling. I know a lot of people that set aside specific amounts for a trip, and then let loose once they get to the destination; shopping, big dinners, once in a lifetime experiences, etc. I also recognize that it's easier to spend money in places you may only visit once in your life. I've found that spending money doesn't always equate to a more enjoyable experience. In fact, I tend to keep my wallet closed unless something really excites me. Sometimes that means following my heart and not the guidebook.
2) Less is More: An advantage to being by yourself? You only have one schedule to worry about! My time in Belgium has felt like a step back to simplicity. I still want to see and do as much as possible, but my day is less structured. I choose one larger endeavor for the day (visiting an exhibit for example) and plan small side trips getting to and from the exhibit. I stop and linger when I want, skip things that don't interest me and don't worry about the pace I've chosen for the day.
3) My Priorities Get Rearranged: When I'm traveling with another person, an emphasis is put on the collective goals and experience. Even though I tend to travel with people whose interests reflect my own, there is always some compromise when working with two or more people's needs and desires. What and where and when to eat? Tickets to this monument or that one? Walk or take public transportation? Alone, I find myself taking the time to integrate what's important to me, even if it takes time out of sightseeing. I've started meditating again, practicing yoga and seeking out healthy vegetarian food options.
4) I'm a Creature of Habit: I love my rituals and find them much easier to keep when I'm on my own. That means making my breakfast at home every morning, journaling the day's events and honestly, wearing the same clothes over and over again. ( <- They get washed whenever possible, sometimes in a bathtub if need be!) Keeping my rituals brings a sense of grounding to what can be an overwhelming experience of being in a new place and culture.