Xmas in Peru, 2008
Xmas in Peru, 2008

Traveling alone, especially as a woman, can seem like a TERRIBLE idea (ask my mother). There are some downsides to it, (as I discuss with a sense of humor here) but it can be really awesome. It was something I always wanted to challenge myself with after my first “big” trip to Europe in a large group, then backpacking CenAm with two of my girlfriends in 2008.

A natural progression would be to travel alone, and I really wanted to do Ireland and Spain by my 30th birthday. I’m 29 this year, and stars aligned that this would actually be possible. After much internal debate and weeks on kayak.com, I settled with a week in Ireland alone, a few days with a friend who was working during the days in London, with her again in Barcelona, and then two alone in Barcelona.

And I have to say, I had a GREAT experience. Technology is making it so easy to keep in touch, felt mostly safe the whole time, made tons of friends and memories. I was forced WAY out of my comfort zone, learned a lot about myself and this sweet old world we live in, and I would totally do it again!

Here’s what is so great about solo travel

  • my first beer in ireland! Always let them know what you're drinking.
    my first beer in ireland! Always let them know what you’re drinking when taking selfies.

    I can wear the same outfit several times without judgment. However, there is no one to tell you if you have underwear lines, you look chubby, or have stains. Just assume you have all three, and move on with life. You’ll never see these people on the streets ever again!

  • I can retake as many pictures as I need to without question – You end up taking a lot of selfies when you’re by your awesome alone-but-not-lonesome self! Sometimes I felt dumb angling my head into a shot with Westminster Abbey/random cute alley/Irish countryside in the background, but everyone else is doing it, and when you’re alone, you can take twenty million shots until you get it right – no judgment.
  • I can be who I want – I wish I had taken more advantage of this one. I could have made up fake names and stories and been someone different everyday! “Hey, I’m Zelda from Canada. I’m a farmer, and I have a dark secret in my past that I am running away from in Ireland. Buy me a drink?” And no one can contradict you.
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral. Got really lost finding this place, and made myself ask for directions.
    St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Got really lost finding this place, and made myself ask for directions.

    I feel brave. – This is important. I am overcoming fears on this trip. Fears of flying being a big one. Fears of getting lost. Of being alone and just being with myself. It’s a powerful thing to do.

  • I can listen to music – one day in London I walked for FIVE HOURS listening to the Beatles and the Stones and sometimes the Sound of Music and taking selfies in front of buildings. It was awesome.
  • I can go where I want – In London, I went into the National Gallery, because it was free, had toilets, and I felt I had to just because it was there. After wandering around for a few minutes, I remembered that I don’t really like art. And I didn’t have to stay! So I got to walk back out and go see the Rosetta Stone again, because that ish is bananas. And I love it.
  • Abbey selfie!
    Abbey selfie!
  • I decide what I want to eat and when – brilliant. Dont want to sit in a cafe for an hour? Don’t have to! Want to go back to the same chorizo spot as you have for the last three days? Go ahead now! But no one to say if you have food in your teeth. Take a selfie.
  • Long walks alone – just because.
  • I can sleep when I need to without feeling guilty – Before, when traveling with people, I would suffer from Fear of Missing Out. I didn’t want to sleep in case the coolest thing I couldn’t anticipate would happen. You know, when you decide to stay in one night and journal or finish a book, and your friends come stumbling in at 4am with some great story about taking tequila shots with the prime minister and rappelling off a cathedral and you’re like, I’m an idiot. When traveling with people, you go ALL OUT, but eventually, you get exhausted and sick and annoyed with people. But when traveling alone, I can say “hey, this is an adventure, but it’s also vacation. Take a freaking nap if you want! Read a book if you want! Go to sleep!” and it feels great. Afterall, my mom always says “nothing good happens after midnight.” Not necessarily true, but helpful advice all the same.

Overall, I would totally recommend it as a personal challenge, an adventure, a retreat. It doesn’t have to be major, or international,  or long. Just go. Just. Go. Travel.