There are mixed opinions about the idea, and actuality, of traveling solo for pleasure, especially as a young female. When I first started traveling on my own as a young 20-something, naturally many of my friends (and more specifically my mother) expressed concerns. Not only for my general safety, but also for what my desire to journey alone indicated.
My decision to book a random destination to journey to was never based on anything other than my love of movement, seeing new places, and, I’ll admit, ongoing introverted tendencies coupled with a deep fondness for my own company. I had endured more than one relationship with individuals who, for whatever reason, did not enjoy traveling which hindered my own adventures. When I was on my own there was nothing to stop me. I didn’t think about it long and hard, I just did.
For me, traveling alone was the opportunity to disengage from everything that was a part of my every day world, including the aspects of myself that weren’t the most forgiving.
Solo travel offered me a freedom to just be. I could engage with small talk if I chose to or hide away in my own thoughts.
I could walk a city’s streets for hours without an unhappy companion complaining. I could hide in galleries all day. I could wake up each morning with the only plan for the day to be to get lost somewhere new with my camera, my notebook and my thoughts.
All of my memories of traveling are vivid and detailed, but none more so then when I travel alone. For me, it really is the most sincere feeling of freedom. Even when it goes a little wrong – especially if it goes a little wrong. Traveling alone became my drug. Every other month or so I would feel the corners of my mind stroking up memories of climbing mountains in Budapest, or walking the cobbled streets in Copenhagen and it wouldn’t be a harsh leap to me seeking the next flight out for a long weekend somewhere new.
One of the last times I travelled solo was a deep breath for the soul for me. After a year with a lot of lessons learnt, but a lot of memories to forget, I knew I needed to take some time out. I booked a flight, a hotel, packed my backpack and in the middle of December landed in an exceptionally cold and foggy Switzerland. It was everything I needed. Over the course of my stay the weather kept step with my emotional state. Intense thick fog gradually started to clear up until by my final days it was clear blue skies. It sounds like something made for fiction, and no doubt time has evolved the memory a little, but when I look back through my journal and photos of that trip I know my memory today is actually not too far from the truth.
I needed the solo journey to be better able to come back and be the me that had gotten lost over the last year. I was excited for where the coming year might lead but not expectant for anything.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”.
I let go of a lot on that trip and it wasn’t easy but it was definitely worth it. I set my feet back down in London. My flatmate advised she had a friend visiting and planned for us all to meet that evening for dinner. I spent the day walking the streets of London, with my camera, my thoughts and a smile.
It’s funny when you look back on the smaller moments of life before they become the big moments. All day I knew nothing of the person who would be joining us for dinner, I never thought to ask my flatmate anything about them, not even their name, yet he has now become the person I want to know everything of. He is the first person and last person I speak to everyday and has been such nearly every day since we met at that dinner table.
I didn’t realize that Switzerland would be one of my last solo adventures. The last time I travelled on my own was to make the 20 hour journey to move from London to Australia to be with the man I met at that table. That is another story in itself, one full of ups and downs, but one I wouldn’t ever change.
I have no doubt over the years I will travel alone on occasions, but having travelled with my partner by my side, I know that those future solo journeys will rarely be through choice.
I can’t recommend traveling alone enough. It is one of the scariest, loneliest, most exciting, rewarding and soothing experiences you can go through. It helped me build so much of myself when I needed it the most and there is no greater joy than traveling somewhere unknown only to be greeted with a part of yourself you didn’t know was missing.
Travel far and near on your own for as long as you can. It will aid you become the person you might be and that is the person the rest of your Life will want to greet. A part of Life happened to be ready to greet me at a small Vietnamese dinner table in South East London after a soul fueling trip to Switzerland. Now all my journeys start and end with him and the person I want to be – for myself and for the rest of our shared travels together.