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