Goðafoss Waterfall, Iceland
Me and the waterfall of the gods, what a fantastic sight.
On traveling alone. the how-come and how-to guide.
A few months ago, I was on a date with a boy and I was regaling him with tales of my solo summer adventures. He stopped me and asked, slightly appalled, “you went alone? why would you do that?”
(there was no second date)
This boy isn’t alone in his inability to fathom how I could travel by myself. I’m often met with “how? what? why? huh?” when I tell people I’m going to Denver or California or Seattle by myself. I have found one of the biggest challenges of traveling by yourself isn’t so much being comfortable with your decision, but making others comfortable with your decision. it’s silly, but I was met with a lot of resistance and challenge when I told people of my plans to travel alone.
so, the very first thing to do is to not let other’s opinions sway your decision to go it alone. I booked a single plane ticket to Arizona days before leaving because I was sick of saying “I love traveling!” but never really going anywhere. and I was sick of waiting around for someone to come with me. If I wanted to experience new cities, then I just had to come to terms with going it alone.
It is scary - to go a few thousand miles from home by yourself. it is scary not to have anyone to rely on. it is scary to go into a restaurant and eat by yourself (this was my biggest fear, honestly). it is scary to get lost in a new place all alone. it is scary to sprain your ankle when the nearest loved one is a six hour plane ride away.
but I promise you that it is worth it. in these moments - these terrifying moments you experience in between the incredible - is when you will discover the depth of your bravery. and courage. and independence. you will be scared, I have no doubt about that, but you will push through because there is no other choice. and then you will know what it means to be fearless.
I’ve had a few people ask me “how” I travel alone and while I don’t know that there’s any secret or that it’s that different from traveling with someone else, these are the things I do to stay safe alone:
- splurge for a nicer hotel in a safe area.
- typically, I don’t explore after dark
- I don’t tell people I meet along the way I’m traveling alone
- always look like you belong there and that you know where you’re going. even if I am so freaking lost I don’t think I’ll ever find my way back, I try my best not to panic or look frazzled
- I use a “far away” buddy system - I call my mom every morning and every evening to check in and let her know I’m still alive
- I’m hyper-aware of my surroundings.
and that’s it, really! it’s not so different from going somewhere with someone else. you just have to be a little extra cautious because you’re all you’ve got.
I think I might even prefer traveling by myself. you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. want to take a nap at 11 AM? you can! want to eat ice cream for breakfast? you can do that too! want to just sit in a park for two hours and cry over a pretty book? go right ahead!
if the only thing that that’s stopping you from exploring a new place is not having someone to go with: go.