A no-go on traveling solo?
One of my goals for 2017 was solo travel. If you haven’t read or seen the movie adaptations of Eat, Pray, Love and Wild, or read one of the many articles about solo travel like this one or this one, chances are you at least know the underlying premise of self-growth and discovery through experiences that take you completely outside of your comfort zone. While I haven’t done solo travel in the context of a trip/vacation, I have lived abroad for extended periods and was forced to navigate foreign cultures on my own, which is a big part of the solo travel experience.
During college, I spent a semester studying in Stockholm. Yes, I was with a program and had the support of the staff, along with my roommate (we were matched perfectly and were pretty much attached at the hip for those four months) and other friends I made, but, I was still thousands of miles from home, in a country where English was not the primary language. My semester in Stockholm was one of the best experiences of my life and I became absolutely enchanted with the city and Sweden in general. Surprisingly I haven’t been back since, but if someone offered me a ticked right now, I’d be on the next flight no questions asked. Post-college, I moved to London. Although I had some contacts there and a job, which made for a rudimentary support system, I was basically on my own. I always say that going from the bubble of college to London, where I was responsible for everything from setting up utilities to shopping for groceries and cooking (no dining hall here, folks), made dealing with any such things once I was back in NYC a breeze. Fun fact, in London (at least in 2009), setting up your phone, TV, and internet are self-service tasks.
When solo travel comes up, you often also hear about the art of being alone. While I am perfectly comfortable being alone and taking myself to a movie, dinner, museum, etc., I prefer being around others. I will take time for myself when I need a break, but in general, I feel happiest and most energized when I’m connecting with those around me. I thrive on making connections and interacting with people. Earlier this week I was discussing being an introvert vs. an extrovert with a friend and came to realize that my nighttime wind-down is not, as I had long thought, about recharging from interacting but actually what I do to settle myself. When I am out at night (i.e. not in my apartment, your girl is not up in the club), I know that I will go to bed late because I get so amped up from being with others. Even seeing something fun, interesting, sad, etc. on the street, can prompt me to call a friend or family member because I want to share it. Maybe this is exactly why I should do some solo travel and yet, I can and do enjoy things solo, I just prefer not to.
It’s funny but by taking the time to think about why I wanted to travel solo, I realized that everything I was looking for, was already right here within me. Seems I should have paid more attention to three-year-old Leah’s daily viewings of The Wizard of Oz, as Dorothy says after waking up at the end, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” I do still want to see the world and am not one for sitting things out just because I don’t have anyone to go with. So what to do? I’m not totally sure but I think the answer may be a group retreat or travel to cities where I know people so that I can balance out the solo with the social and if I have to take a just me, myself, and I trip, expect lots of calls and posts so I can share my travels!
Have you done any solo travel? What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?