One of the most surprising details I've learned about traveling alone is how much I enjoy it. A natural introvert, this should not have come as a surprise to me. I enjoy my own company a great deal when at home, and solo travel has proven to be no different for 3 reasons:
1. My schedule is my own.
I can sleep in if I want, whenever I want. The best thing about taking an extended stay abroad, for me, is not having to rush around everyday feeling like I have to do and see it all. There are a number of places where I want to go and things I want to do, yes. But because there is no sense of scarcity in time, everything I want happens when it's supposed to. Plus, I allow myself the flexibility to change my plans if something else comes up that I'd rather do in the moment. I also move with the sense that I will be back more than once to a place. So, whatever I don't get to do this time around, I will get to the next time. This attitude by itself takes so much stress out of travel because I'm not stretching myself thin with long weary days of checking off a to do list. I just go with the flow and trust that I'm going to have a good time doing whatever I ultimately decided. Which brings me to number 2.
2. I, alone, decide my itinerary.
When you travel solo, you are 100% in control of when you come and go and where you're at in any given moment. For example, if I'm at a boring event or a crappy restaurant, I can just get up leave whenever I feel like it. I don't have to consult with anyone. I don't have to consider if my partner or joining party is ready or not. I'm ready, and that's what matters. If I want to go snorkeling, but the opportunity to go horse-backing comes up and I want to do that instead, I recalibrate and head to the stables. No one is here to disagree with my decision about how my day should go. I choose my adventure.
3. I can choose to be alone (or not).
One of the things I hear other travelers complain about is loneliness. This concept just doesn't phase me. This is one of the powers of introversion, I think. Even back at home, it was common for me to go days without leaving the house, seeing or talking to others. This happens quite naturally when traveling alone, and I'm fine with it. Especially after being out all day on an adventure. Meeting, talking to and interacting with people is fun and a part of the excitement of being in a new place. However, at the end of the day, I'm spent and I need the quiet of being alone to rejuvenate me. On the occasion where I'm meeting and hanging out with friends all day or for the evening, it's even more critical for me to recuperate and re-charge. The thing is I get to choose if I want involve others with my plans, or go along with theirs. Either way, it's up to me. And by the way, befriending strangers has done wonders for my socializing skills. Trust me, learning to be social is definitely something that I've had to practice and work at over the years. It seems the years of forcing myself to learn to break the ice and network in a room full of strangers has really paid off. Now, I'm at the point where meeting and talking to strangers is a completely natural, everyday occurrence.
So, if you're an introvert, traveling solo might just help you poke your head out of your shell much further than normal. But there's also plenty of time to retreat from the world and be alone, even in a bustling city full of people. For me, it's one of the most liberating, exhilarating, peaceful experiences I've had in a long time.
Do you travel solo? If not, why??? Leave me a comment or hit me on the 'Gram.