I received a frantic text from my sister recently. She had just departed for a two week cruise in Asia and was meeting two of our cousins at the starting point of the trip. She was texting to let me know that her travel buddies had royally screwed up and didn’t receive the appropriate visas and that she was going to be stuck on this epic cruise itinerary alone for the first week. While sending the obligatory ‘that sucks’ response, I thought to myself: “She’s so lucky.”
When I first started my wild back-to-back travels for work, I typically always preferred to travel with someone else — usually another travel writer. And don’t get me wrong, I still love to do that every now and again. But what I learned from the first few solo trips I did was that solo travel is seriously good for you, like all around good for your mind, spirit and soul. It can also force you to have some seriously deep internal conversations with yourself.
What I most feared about traveling alone was what people around me were thinking, as if anyone really cared, but I couldn’t control the insanities that my wandering mind would come up with. Eating alone, exploring a city alone and just not relying on someone to help me make those never ending decisions that come along with traveling was something I had to overcome. Once I did, my travel experiences changed drastically. Now I make sure to not only plan amazing trips with my friends and colleagues, but to also plan some equally great trips for myself. Although they could be great shared with someone else, I can make them great just going alone.
Solo Group Travel
An easy way to dive into traveling alone is to travel with a group of strangers. Some might even argue that this is harder than being alone ,because of the social anxieties some of us face when forced to interact with people we’ve never met. Particularly as a queer person, taking a trip where you’ll literally be stuck with strangers that could potentially make you feel uncomfortable is yet another layer of concern.
We’re all unique, but when meeting strangers, I don’t tend to immediately discuss my personal life and prefer to casually let my sexuality come out through natural conversation. On my recent first-ever group trip, it was a week before I realized one of the other travelers in our group was also a queer man. He, like me, was not keen on disclosing his sexuality unless the right moment had presented itself. That had taken both of us more than a week, and still might not have happened had our group not merged with new people. One of them, a very confident gay man, walked up to us individually and asked about our sexual orientation.
Once the ice was finally broken and I knew I could be more comfortable being myself, my trip completely changed for the better. That said, even if things didn’t occur the way they did for me, the trip would have been a success. I was forced to interact and socialize with people from all different walks of life, even those I normally wouldn’t spend time with. That’s a win for me.
What I realized about traveling alone is that you are left alone with your thoughts, which can be scary because let’s face it, the shit that runs through our minds at times is the reason why we typically avoid our thoughts. With all the alone time, you are forced to actually listen to your inner ramblings and make sense of them. But after the initial shock of having all that time to yourself where you are forced to make decisions wears off, you’ll surely come to realize how great it is to not rely on anyone but yourself.
Doing what you want, eating when and what you want or even just blowing off an entire day to just end a lazy day with an evening stroll around a new city can be exhilarating…once you’ve realized how great the freedom of being alone can be. Fair warning to yourself though, solo travel can be addicting and can lead to full on recluse status, so enjoy your time alone but invite a friend on a trip every now and then.