We all love to share experiences with our friends and loved ones, but sometimes you just want to get away from it all – including friends and loved ones – for a little while. Traveling solo
can be a great experience, and affords you unique opportunities that may not be available to larger groups. You may have to make extra preparations for safety and planning, but here are some of the benefits of long-distance quality “me” time.
Go your own way
It’s a basic law of travel that the more people there are in a group, the more compromises have to be made. No matter how flexible your companions are, there will inevitably be a conflict of interest somewhere along the line and you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to drive 50 miles out of your way because someone really wants to visit the World’s Second-Biggest Ball of Twine (or worse, stand in line to go up the Eiffel Tower
). By traveling solo, you get the freedom to decide definitively what you want to do and what you want to skip.
So you’ve planned to do your trip a particular way but at the last moment you’ve been presented with a golden opportunity. Do you continue on to the museum as planned or do you scratch it and go see your favorite band play a surprise rooftop show on the other side of town? Or, say you have an unexpected layover
and you now have 3 hours to kill in London—where to? In a group, the decision can be agonizing, but on your own you can change plans at a moment’s notice if a more interesting option emerges.
Long transit times in close quarters with the same person or people can lead to undue tension, and that’s no fun for anybody. Just like moving in with your best friend can cause friction over time, sitting next to the same person in a car, train, or airliner for hours and hours can make both of you testy, and set an unpleasant tone for your trip. Long-distance travel on your own can be a relaxing, therapeutic, even meditative experience. Making a 2,000 mile road trip alone might sound boring at first, but how many chances in life do you get to fine-tune your power ballad sing-along technique free from critical ears?
Make new pals
If you’re used to talking with people, you might be hesitant about going into unknown territory without someone on hand to hear you say, “Wow, look at that!” But wherever there are people, there are people to talk to, and being away from familiar faces can motivate you to chat with strangers. Say you want your picture taken in front of the local landmark--you’ll have to ask a stranger to take it for you anyway, so why not start a conversation while you’re at it? If they’re local, ask them what’s good around town; if they’re a fellow traveler, swap road stories. Who knows where this can take you—it could just be passing remarks, or you might end up with some far-flung friends.
Savor the solitude
If idle chatter isn’t really your thing, then traveling solo can be a great opportunity for you to be alone with your thoughts without fear of awkward silences between you and a companion. There are few situations in everyday life where we are not expected to talk regularly, so spending time away from familiar people can be a rare treat for some folks. Plus, if something strikes you as particularly profound, you can sit and stare in silence for as long as you like. You may find the view from the rim of the Grand Canyon
or the top of a mountain even more awe-inspiring in silent isolation.
Erin Leigh, our guest blogger, is a solo traveler connoisseur. She's roamed alone to the California coast and South Africa and oodles of places in between. When she's not traveling, she's a writer for New American Funding, a Fannie Mae Seller/Servicer, FHA Direct Endorsement – HUD Approved, and VA Automatic mortgage banker with more than 550 employees.
Comment by xeric on December 2, 2012
I've been travelling solo for years, often arriving at a destination with only the briefest of itinerary's and a decision to progress in whatever direction the hire-car may be facing.
If there is no hire-car booked as is likely in SE Asia, I just go wander and this actually allows the most useful of glimpses, i.e. that of my place of abode prior to payment.
It also means I don't get palmed off with a room next to a lift or the stairwell as is often the case with pre-booking.
Travelling in company can be a wonderful sharing experience. It can also be a right-pain! Given the choice...I would prefer to walk alone simply because of the opportunities to mingle & mix which isn't always possible in a group or duo.
Ultimately, better to travel than not and better somewhere new than revisiting old memories.