Let’s talk about solo travel, shall we?
My friend Annette wrote a piece recently about why you should have a travel buddy.
Her point was that travel, especially full-time travel, requires some bravery. It requires you to step up and handle unexpected things, to roll with punches, to stand up for yourself (sometimes in another language). And having two people to share the burden is a welcome relief. Because sometimes you need a break from being brave, from being the one to hold up the world.
I think this applies in normal life, too, but in travel it’s amplified.
And so people laud and applaud the loveliness of having a travel buddy, a partner, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a best friend. Because sometimes you just need someone to hold your purse while you brave the grossest bathroom in the world (which, of course, has no hooks to hang a purse). And sometimes you are just tired of trying to ask for directions in French.
Two heads, as they say, are better than one.
But here’s the question people don’t ask: what if you don’t have the option of a travel buddy?
The whole idea is posed as a choice. You can either go it alone or take a friend! But what about when those aren’t your choices—when you don’t have a willing and travel-loving boyfriend, friend, sister, or parent? What about the times when your choice is either to travel alone, fully accepting that both the freedom (to make all the choices) and the burden (to make all the choices) are greater, or not to travel at all?
The truth is that this is sometimes our choice, not between two ideal options—solo travel with its ultimate freedom or partnered travel with its shared experiences and responsibilities—but between flying solo, braving that full burden ourselves, or missing out on the experience.
I’m reminded of a story my aunt told me a long time ago, about a woman she hired when she was running her company. The woman had planned a trip to Europe with her girl friends. And every single one of them ended up backing out. And that woman still went on the trip. Because maybe traveling alone wasn’t her first choice, but to bail on the trip completely? That wasn’t an option.
So she went and she had an amazing time. And later in her life, my aunt hired her because she was impressed by her courage.
My friend’s essay struck a chord with me because this is my story. I didn’t choose to travel alone. I chose to travel. And the alone part came with the package.
And is it harder sometimes? Absolutely. Especially in the past six months, being ill, dealing with unexpected moves, and all the financial stresses that come with those things.
But for me if it’s a choice between traveling alone, having to handle a solo hospitalization, an unexpectedly filthy rental, and a host of other hassles and tragedies, or not living a nomadic life, I choose the former. I choose travel. I choose experience. I choose circus school and Alpine hikes and early mornings at 13,000 feet. I choose sea kayaks in Mexico and motorcycles in Croatia. I choose an interesting life.
And so this post is for the rest of us, the ones not wrestling with the question of traveling with friends or going it alone, but wrestling with the question of traveling alone or staying at home. There’s no right answer, really. Home can be a lovely place, too. But if what you want is a life of travel, don’t let being alone stop you. Go. Do. Be unstoppable.