For me, the most frustrating part about traveling alone used to come at the end of the day, when I’d call home. “How was the day? I saw your tweet and it looked incredible,” they would say, eager for a full rundown. I would have absolutely loved it if they could have been there with me. And if you’ve ever tried to express a life-changing experience after an exhausting day on the road, you know how impossible it is. “It was great,” I’d reply. “You feel like you can touch the sky.” “That’s so cool,” they would say. “I hope I can go back with you.”
I’ve come to learn that it’s better to wait until I get back to really share my experience. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss my family, because I do, a lot. But my work and my wanderlust have led me to travel alone more often than not, and I’ve grown to embrace it, and even crave it. When I’m alone, extraordinary things happen on ordinary days all the time.
Here are three reasons I love hitting the road solo:
1. I am the master of the day. How often can you do exactly what strikes your fancy, and indulge every whim you might have? Traveling alone can be like a giant playground for adults, and there’s no one around to tell you when recess is over. I can stay up late and sleep in or call it a night at 9:00 p.m. and wake up to watch the sunrise. I get to linger as long as I want on a sunny day in a beautiful park, or talk to the tea vendor at a local market for an hour. Or I can rush through five sites in thirty minutes. The experiences are mine and mine alone, so I’ve had to really learn to like myself, and enjoy spending time with me. Inspiration often strikes, so I have a notebook and pen at the ready. Sky’s the limit.
2. I become a braver person. The Indian Himalayas are one of the most dangerous places in the world when it comes to travelling at night. Living in the city has enabled me to approach new places with a sense of openness to new experiences — to feel caution, not paranoia. When I’m alone, I tend to reach out to people and culture more than I might otherwise because I don’t have a security blanket to fall back on. In my experience, the world is full of good people who want to help you and show off the places where they live. There are exceptions, of course, but I trust the hairs that stick up on the back of my neck. Instincts are everything when you’re traveling, but especially when you’re traveling alone.
3. I get to eat what I want. I love eating at restaurants alone, wherever I happen to be. Many solo travelers prefer eating at the bar because it allows for the possibility of striking up a conversation, but there are times when I don’t feel like playing the “get to know you” game. I’ll sit at the bar if I really love the bartender, but usually I try to snag a table so I can experience the restaurant as most guests would. And, on those days when you’ve run yourself ragged, there is no better way to soothe your soul than a little old fashioned room service. I usually limit myself to one night of indulgence per trip, which makes it feel more special.