The Zen of Solo Travel

I’ve recently become a big fan of solo travel. Until recently, I had always been afraid to try it. One of my friends told me that a big guy like me has nothing to be afraid of, but it was never my physical safety that I questioned. I never wanted to travel alone because I was afraid I wouldn’t like the company. And chances are, I wouldn’t. It wasn’t until I worked on my self-esteem issues that I had the desire to venture out on my own.

Having a Say

Traveling solo is very different from traveling with others. First off, you have to take the initiative. Before I started my solo travels, I relied on my friends to plan everything. The upside of this was that I could relax on vacation and just go with the flow. The downside was that I had no real say in what we were doing. Plus I was taking advantage of people’s goodwill, even those friends who really didn’t mind planning everything. That’s not to say that you should never let friends or loved ones plan a trip. It’s just that such things should be more of a conversation and less of a mandate.

Prep Work and Anticipation

One of the things I used to dread about solo travel was the prep work. Since I couldn’t rely on my friends to pick out fun things to do, I would have to find my own lodging and transportation. I thought this would be a burden. I thought the work involved would outweigh the fun I would have. Thankfully, I was wrong. Very wrong, in fact. It turns out that planning my trips was almost as fun as taking them. Where my vacation may last a couple of days to a week at most, my trip planning could go on for months. I could sit down at a coffee shop and make lists and maps of places I wanted to visit. It turns out that the sheer anticipation was one of the best parts.

New Friends

When you go on a trip with someone you know, one of two things can happen. Either you will grow more close or more distant. Travel has a way of making and breaking friendships and relationships. But when you’re traveling by yourself, you have to reach out and make new friends. For me, solo travel isn’t really solo. It’s an opportunity to meet new people and make new connections. It’s a chance to really get out of your shell and talk to strangers. More importantly, it’s a chance to listen. When you talk to locals, you can get a better idea of what to see and what to skip. And when you talk to fellow travelers, you can learn all about new and interesting places to check out. I love the friendships I make on my solo travels. And while most of these friendships don’t last longer than a single conversation, they are just as real as any another human relationship.

Finding Yourself

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the greatest benefit of solo travel: finding out more about yourself. As I mentioned above, this was my biggest dread. For someone with self-esteem issues, the idea of spending so much time along was flat terrifying. But thanks to pre-planning and trying my damnedest to live in the moment, I found it wasn’t an issue. Especially once I focused less on finding myself and more on having fun. You can’t force an epiphany, and you can’t grab happiness. But if you set things up just right, you might just come home happier and wiser than you left.

Privilege and Solo Travel

For the most part, I heartily recommend solo travel to anyone with the means to try it out. I understand that the concept is in many ways a privilege. Not everyone has the time and money. People have kids and marriages and jobs that get in the way. But even if it’s just for an afternoon, I think it’s healthy to get out a bit on your own.

What do you think about solo travel? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

Steve Lovelace

Steve Lovelace is a writer, photographer and graphic artist. After graduating Michigan State University in 2004, he taught Spanish in Samoa before moving to Dallas, Texas. He blogs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at http://steve-lovelace.com.

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