Today I turn 38. It seems so strange because only a few years ago I was eating a hamburger the size of my face in Nicaragua, and unbelievably 3 years ago I was writing about being a traveling spinster. Last year I shared 37 travel lessons but this year I have only one to share.
At some point in your life you should travel solo.
It seems like such an arbitrary proclamation but here’s why:
The fear of being alone is the single most terrifying fear and it’s one that unites us as humans. It’s also our biggest downfall because it’s holding us back. It makes us stay in relationships that are long overdue, it makes us wonder if we should have children, it even prevents us from going to movies or dinner when no one else wants to go. It prevents us from traveling.
Instead we stay home.
Over the years I’ve accumulated a few hundred emails from readers asking if they should travel solo. They reach out to me because they’re in a relationship or just timid.
I’ve hesitated over the years to give advice to people I haven’t met. Usually I respond with a standard “If you’re asking a stranger whether you should end your relationship to travel you already know the answer.”
But today on my 38th birthday I feel a bit more brash, so here’s what I want to say.
Traveling alone is exhilarating, terrifying, joyous, crushing, and the single most important gift you can give yourself. It’s a fantastical struggle and at the end you will be stronger for it.
So if you’re in a relationship that should have been over long ago, end it. Immediately buy a plane ticket and focus your energy on where you’ll go instead of where you stayed too long.
Don’t let being alone prevent you from doing amazing things. When you travel solo you aren’t always alone. But you do learn to eat alone, go to movies alone, watch sunsets and marvel in the fact that you took a chance and decided nothing would hold you back from seeing the world. You learn to make new friends, reach out to other solo travelers who look lonely, start conversations with people you have nothing in common with.
In my traveling spinster post I admitted I didn’t want children but what I didn’t share, was that I started to believe my path in this world was solo. That I’d never really find anyone for the long haul.I believed I’d have romantic interludes and move on, but no great love.
And I was ok with that.
Not because I wanted to be alone but after 3 years of traveling solo I realized I was enough. I didn’t want that Jerry Maguire moment where someone would complete me. I had completed myself. I wasn’t afraid of being alone any longer.
Now of course shortly thereafter I met Dave and my world changed. But in so many ways I don’t think I would have been ready for him if it hadn’t been for what I learned traveling. If I hadn’t felt complete on my own.
If you have the itch. Don’t deny it. Because the worst thing in life is regret.
And if you’re in a relationship with someone wonderful like I am then go for it in a different way. This summer I’m taking some time to travel solo yet again. As amazing as it is to travel in a relationship I still love the thrill of traveling solo.
I love this! As someone who could never imagine herself traveling solo, I have to agree with everything you said above. I got to the point where no one would come with me and I refused not to go because of that. So I packed my bags and off I went. Best decision I have ever made. People at home can’t believe I travel by myself, but I always try to tell them that it’s better than not going at all. 🙂
I really like how you use your birthday to reflect and share some of the wisdom you’ve earned over the past year. What a great gift to yourself and your readers. Happy Birthday!
Iʻm a FIRM believer in traveling solo . As you know, traveled with my man and solo, both were life-changing in their own ways. This blog reminds me to make time for another adventure.
Congrats on your awesome life. Iʻm thrilled itʻs come full circle my friend.
Love and aloha,
I absolutely agree with the mantra of “if you need to ask, you already know” – just go is probably the best advice you can give!
Wow! Great post! I, too, believe that everyone should try solo travel at least once. It’s so much fun! And, it’s not so scary as it may sound to some people. Once you step out of your home, you know you will be able to take care of yourself.
One of these days, I’ll get the opportunity to travel alone. I’ve still got small children at home, but that just gives me more time to save for the trip of a lifetime. Can’t wait!
I am totally with you. Once my kids are out of the house, so am I!
Traveling with friends is nice but most times they’re too chicken to commit to travel, or aren’t thinking long-term enough to save enough money for a nice long trip.
Reminds me of this quote from “The Beach” – “And as for traveling alone… f*ckit. If that’s the way it has to be, then that’s the way it is.”
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!! I have always been ok with doing things on my own (like going to my 8th grade formal, dining out, showing up to parties/weddings/family reunions solo), even traveling; but in the back of my mind there has always been this longing to find “my person”. After recently celebrating (mourning is a more appropriate description, but whateva!) my one year anniversary of breaking up with the man I loved completely but knew was oh-so-wrong for me, I decided to set a new goal for myself. Instead of looking for my person, I am going to look for adventure!! I started my own blog and have a 5 year goal of traveling the world by myself and writing beautiful words. I just stumbled across your blog while I research what other people are doing in this field, and I am inspired by your honesty and candid voice. I look forward to reading more of your work and want to wish you another fantastic year of fantastic living!
I was 20-something when I traveled extensively…but now am 60’s…and off I go!
Decided to be a ‘traveler’…and mostly due to what is about to take place here
in the U.S…I feel our bogus govt is about to raise the violence against the people
to a whole new level. We have a Dictator…end of story. I’m excited to visit Mexico,
Chile, Australia, NZ, Philippines, Vietnam, U.K., France, Germany, Iceland (not
when it’s crowded)…and so on. Glad to find all this great info on traveling… I will
also tutor ESL,, housesit, waitress, nanny…etc..whatever I can get…Have a blast
in your traveling!!
Your post was ok. ha joking, wonderful as others have stated! My favorite line:
“Traveling alone is exhilarating, terrifying, joyous, crushing, and the single most important gift you can give yourself.”
I’m 34, have travelled the States extensively, Alaska for a year, Hawaii, DC, NYC and SF but a year ago I decided to take a job in Scotland. I’ve been here 9 months. I arrived right before Thanksgiving and the fact that it wasn’t celebrated here was the first of many ‘normal’ holidays this past year I spent alone – BUT – it forced me to explore a new town in a new country solo and, as a result, not only have I met some incredible people and seen the unbelievable, I’m far, far stronger than I’ve ever been.
In fact, I have my PhD in Biochemistry, I came out here for a postdoctoral position in Cancer Research – this job offer was a chance for me to travel and advance career. Now, however, I’m finding that I’m being forced to remain at a lab bench all day on one of the dozen remarkably beautiful and sunny days out in Scotland (the country should deem working on those days illegal).
While I love science and always will, the situation with my boss out here has forced me to see the harsh reality with my career – I’m in a sector overloaded with postdocs vying for a small percent of tenure track positions, which, is then followed by continuous pressure to publish, publish publish etc etc etc.
I would rather be renting out bicycles on the French Riviera, serving Beers in Brussels or teaching a new place each year than spending another year chasing the ivory tower definition of success and worth. Through my solo travels, I came to develop my own definition of success and worth that involves doing me right and not feeling guilty about it. I’m going to quit next week then leave for Amsterdam, Brussels, Germany then Spain (on a trek to see one of the few remaining true wild cats in Europe).
This last realization – while a couple years ago would have never happened due to fear, is now the most liberating thought ever. I’m free. Finally.
PS Happy belated birthday!!
Very impresive post, with so much truth. For most people this is mission impossible, becouse of they life line. Work, kids, maybe holding parrents and similar, but for trully bealivers in nomadic life there is no limit, only sky good ride and peace in there mind.
Have a nice wind, best wishes from Vrnjci spa, Serbia.
I TOTALLY agree! I was very weary of travelling alone. But honestly, now that I’m in Montreal for 3 months alone, I have realised that it’s quite fun to travel alone. In fact, it’s pretty interesting to do your own thing!
Will definitely recommend to others 🙂
Couldn’t agree more!! Solo travel is exhilarating and exciting! and there’s nothing like fostering a sense of independence and confidence that comes along with it! love the post <3 xx
I love this post! It reminds me all the joys and liberating sensations of solo-travelling!
You took the words right out of my mouth! Travelling solo has opened my eyes to what else can exist if we have the strength to take a risk and jump into the unknown. And sometimes the decision to do something outrageous and against the grain can lead us to so much happiness!
Twenty five years ago, at the age of 39, I was in a relationship that was going nowhere and in a very stressful job, I thought to hell with this, I’m getting out of here. I handed in my notice, told my boyfriend I was going, bought myself a rucksack and a round the world plane ticket and took off. I joined the YHA (Youth Hostel Association ) and the only thing I was concerned about was, was I too old to stay in youth hostels. I needn’t have worried, there are people of all ages staying in them and it’s a great way to meet people, I rarely felt alone. You get talking to people and if you get on, you hook up for a while, then move on. I think it’s better to travel on your own, it makes you meet other people, if you are with someone you can become insular and your always having to think about the other person, on your own, you can do exactly what you want.
I travelled for 18 months and loved every bit of it, I would highly recommend doing it.
PS. I’m now married to a man 11 years younger than me and living on a boat in Spain.
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