The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

Five Reasons To Travel Alone

After several requests for tips or hints about solo travel, I’m breaking a bit from the usual quick tales for a Five List. Feel free to let me know if you have questions, or if you’re someone who doesn’t travel alone and manages it. I do worry that I’ve lost the ability to travel accompanied, so I’ll gladly take tips on how you handle taking others along!

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So, not at all an exhaustive list–Five Reasons that I Love to Travel Alone

1. “Are you Having a Good Time?” I think I asked my brother this 50 times on our last trip together, so it was obviously a genuine worry for me.  I took him to Bosnia, which I’d loved, and I wanted to be sure he enjoyed it too. It may have permanently altered our relationship if a place that meant so much to me wasn’t incredibly fascinating for him as well. Thankfully, we’re close enough that he didn’t ditch me because of my ceaseless singular question and he loved being there. However, this can be a concern in buddied-travel that isn’t an issue solo. “Am I having a good time?”–this is a somewhat easier question to answer.

2. See What Others May Not See.  When I traveled with a friend, we could get lost in a conversation, in our own little paired world, and not pay attention to what was going on around us. I’ve found a lot of sweet moments on trains, planes, and buses because I was alone. With no one to entertain me (or to worry over) I paid attention to where I was and the lovely human beings going about their days. This can wear off, of course. When I lived in Vienna, I got used to the remarkable sights somehow. I’d go for a jog, listening to Johnny Cash, and just happen upon an apartment where Beethoven lived. I had to remember to pay attention. And never underestimate how nice it could be to smile to myself.

Vienna, Beethoven

3. Rely on the Kindness of Strangers. Yes, people can be kind for no reason. When I was alone, I had to grow bold enough to ask for help. At home, people often wanted to hear my horror stories, but I haven’t had any. I’ve had people not-super-excited about helping me or pointing me to the correct bus, but solo travel was a lesson in admitting I was unsure about something–important for humility and perspective.

4. Sharpen Your Instincts (a counter-balance to #3 so Dad can stop panicking). I learned to read people because I was alone. I couldn’t pass off the responsibility for my safety to someone else. I really only ran into about two situations where the hair on the back of my neck stood up, which isn’t bad after 6 years of travel. However, being alone, I discovered how to strike the balance between paranoid and oblivious. I learned to make better judgments and to trust those evaluations.

5. Go Where Your Heart Leads You! This was it for me. This was the most important reason that I traveled solo. I wanted to roam to certain places for certain reasons. I read a book, it made me cry, so I wanted to see where it had been written. How many people want to sign up for that tour? Just one, usually. I could go to Sarajevo, go to Lisbon, go to Istanbul. When I felt a tug of interest, I would go. When I didn’t, I could skip them. I didn’t need to use my money and resources to see everything. My goal wasn’t to see everything, but to take away what I could from what grabbed me the most. Perhaps one day I’ll want to see some places that don’t hold my interest just now–I hear Paris is pretty. Yet, I’ve let my heart be my travel agent thus far, and she has served me well.

Mostar, Bosnia

Mostar.

Your thoughts?

Paige

29 comments on “Five Reasons To Travel Alone

  1. Amy Louise
    January 17, 2014

    I loved travelling alone, number 5 was my reason for doing it too. Nobody else’s needs or wants to consider but your own.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      January 17, 2014

      Amy Louise,
      I may have found some people to go along, perhaps, but even matching schedules can be tough. It’s empowering to be able to set off in one’s own direction. 🙂
      Thanks,
      Paige

  2. Our Adventure in Croatia
    January 17, 2014

    very much agree with n.2. I travelled alone on many trips and all of the above is correct. But now I enjoy travelling with my other half, so I have done the solo and the “couple” travelling.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      January 17, 2014

      Thanks! I know people who have a significant other often enjoy the new endeavors as a pair. I think that’s a very good way to know if you’re compatible. 🙂 Croatia is fun solo for sure, but it might have been nice with someone else.
      Paige

  3. johnhesketh7
    January 17, 2014

    Number was my reason as well.

  4. johnhesketh7
    January 17, 2014

    5

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      January 17, 2014

      Excellent, John! I’m glad to see some others echoing my sentiments. Sometimes I wonder, “Is this just me?” 🙂
      All my best,
      Paige

  5. AirportsMadeSimple
    January 17, 2014

    Yes, Paris is pretty, even if you travel solo! But carry lots of change to use the ladies room, keep your clothes on in your hotel while sleeping if you’re modest (the window washers will peek in- the cigarette smoke warns you), and try to stay somewhere with a view of the Eiffel Tower (there are lots of places, and many aren’t that expensive but clean and nice). 🙂

    I do both: I make it a point to go somewhere alone at least once/year, to clear my head. Most of the time, I travel with my hubby (our test before marriage: take a trip together!). We are very similar, so he’s used to me wandering off to places by myself, or striking up conversations with strangers, even when we’re traveling together. It takes a special balance, I presume (and believe me, we sure have our share of now funny but then not-so-funny stories!!).

    One example: him yelling and me sprinting towards the gate in Mexico City (it wasn’t a pretty sight).

    Great post! D

  6. deanjbaker
    January 17, 2014

    always traveled alone ..

  7. heavenhappens
    January 17, 2014

    I am planning a trip to Venice after reading Miss Garnets Angel by Salley Vickers. The story is all about a lone women traveller and it really struck a chord. The book is about a great deal more of course and I found it in put downable x

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      January 17, 2014

      Sounds like an interesting book! I’ve also been inspired to go to places because of a book. Often, actually. 🙂 Books and stories from former students have led me to more destinations than anything else.
      All my best,
      Paige

  8. Walter Pereira
    January 17, 2014

    You’re brave, Paige. I did both: I traveled alone and I traveled with a school friend. I spent my semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, and sadly it seems I wouldn’t be able to visit Marseilles alone- or even with a friend-now. Still, I have some fond memories of traveling in my younger days, and like you, I’m so glad I did it!

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      January 20, 2014

      Hi Walt,
      I’m glad you’ve managed both. I may need to try again at traveling with someone else. I’ve had only about 4 trips that way, and the people with me were really great, but they were very different experiences. I have almost no notes in my journals about those trips. 🙂 Maybe I’ll just need to request a writing break.
      Take care, my friend!
      Paige

  9. suej
    January 17, 2014

    I agree with number 5, best reason to travel!

  10. vanbraman
    January 18, 2014

    For me, sightseeing during work travel is best done alone. On vacation, it would be nice to have someone to share with, but make sure you don’t lose contact with your surroundings.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      January 20, 2014

      That sounds like a good idea. I generally work while I travel, so I can’t even think of the last time I’ve had a proper vacation anywhere–though I can’t complain.
      All my best,
      Paige

  11. Robert M. Weiss
    January 18, 2014

    Great advice! Thanks for sharing.

  12. sowayfarer
    January 18, 2014

    amen to that!

  13. nomaggsrush
    January 20, 2014

    I’m about to retire (64 days to go!) and drive off into the unknown alone in my motorhome (yet to be delivered!) My reasons are 2 and 5 and because I can. As a keen photographer when accompanied I may not get the image I really want as I’m conscious of my companion having to wait for me. One exception is my brother from whom I caught the photography bug and no worries with 1 with him, the other is my oldest friend we’ve known each other since we were 18 and revert to that age whenever we travel together, huge fun! Luckily I have good experiences with both forms of travel.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      January 20, 2014

      Best of luck in the countdown to retirement! I think it’s great that you’ll really take off in the motorhome. That seems to be a dream of many, and what a fun way to go. You can literally stop wherever you wish!
      I’m the same when it comes to trips–I don’t want anyone to wait on me. However, there have been times when I wish I’d just taken the time.

      How awesome that your brother and oldest friend are both fun travel companions. My brother is also great to roam with, though I still have that anxiety about checking in. Perhaps that’s more about me than it is about him. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by the blog! I’ll be following you! 🙂
      Paige

    • bebs1
      February 23, 2014

      I have to agree with you. Your companion needs to have the same interest as you so they won’t get bored if you want to explore more and take pictures. You eliminate this by traveling alone. I’ve done both.

  14. johnageddes
    January 22, 2014

    Totally agree with this.

  15. Steven Wordsmith Lincoln
    January 25, 2014

    I like that you are a wanderer and not a tourist. You find what is great about where you are (especially the people and the lifestyle). You aren’t beholden to “I have to see this monument and that painting and the other amusement park.” I wish more people could learn to experience a place, not just visit.

  16. Tim Shey
    September 30, 2015

    I have been hitchhiking the United States for most of the past 19 years and I travel alone—or maybe I should say, that I walk alone until I get a ride. I think I have hitchhiked with another person two or three times. But I am not really alone, because the Presence of God is with all the time.

    “The Things I Carry”
    https://hitchhikeamerica.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/the-things-i-carry/

  17. bykabitablog
    September 14, 2016

    It’s really nice piece. Love the idea of travelling alone. However, I love to travel with my younger sister. She is fun and responsible. She could manage everything. We usually go to the Himalayas which is quite difficult and risky to get alone.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 14, 2016

      Kabita,
      Yes, on something like that, going alone would be rough. I like to travel with my younger brother, but even he doesn’t always wants to get dragged to where my heart wants to roam. 😀
      Have a lovely week–
      Paige

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