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The perks of travelling alone

Fat Mum Slim /

 photo Malaysia_zps251422f1.jpg

I paced up and down the busy street, my anxiety growing with each step. I’d officially lost my hotel. I was alone, in a foreign country with a phone that wouldn’t work. Alone.

My heart raced and I fought back tears. ‘I knew you shouldn’t have come’, I told myself. ‘I’m never EVER travelling alone again’, I vowed. And I kept walking, looking up for my hotel. I reached a corner, and spotted a motorway and felt officially helpless. I turned around walked ten metres back up the street and into a building, and as fate would have it, it was mine.

I wanted to get down on that ground and kiss it, but I must have already been giving an odd vibe as the guard approached me and asked, “Miss, are you OK?”

“Oh, yes!” I smiled. I was more than OK. Ten minutes prior to that I was in a complete state of panic.

I marched straight to level 3 and got myself a fancy, relaxing massage to undo all the knots and tensions I just created from my first solo trip in big foreign city. As you do.

It’s only in the past year or so that I’ve really been bitten by the travel bug. We’ve always loved visiting new places, but my fear of flying has held me back. Before each plane trip I used to agonise over mortality. ‘What if I die?’ I’d continually ask myself.

Now I have better perspective. I still ask that question, ‘What if I die?’ but it’s quickly followed by, ‘But what if I didn’t truly live and fill my days with living?’ Deep, right?

On that trip to that big foreign city on my own {which was Malaysia for those wondering}, I spent the days before leaving excited but anxious about traveling alone. Well, travelling alone with a group of people I’d never met. It was one of my favourite trips. There are some pretty awesome perks:

∇ I could do what I wanted without having to make sure the rest of my ‘party’ was happy.
∇ I had a room to myself and a bed to myself. I could wake when I wanted, sleep on whatever side of the bed I wanted, and dance around the room if I wanted {which I may have done}.
∇ I’m an early riser, where Hubby and Lacey aren’t. So usually I lay around waiting for them to wake so we can finally go and have breakfast. Travelling alone means no waiting.
∇ Meeting new people. It’s kinda easier to engage with new people when you’re not caught up with your own people.
∇ Getting a massage without having to justify it. I am my own boss always. But there’s a big difference between announcing to the family that I’m ducking out for an indulgent treatment and just sauntering in to the salon without telling a soul.
∇ There’s something soul-satisfying about being in my own company, nurturing my soul and filling my days with new experiences. It’s hard to describe but it’s a little bit empowering.
∇ Oh, and mentioning to the air crew that I was a nervous flyer and scoring a whole row to myself on the way there AND back. Winning.{Not sure it will ever work again, but it was good while it worked}.

And the downfalls:

∇ Eating alone. I can do it with ease, but eating with friends is always much more fun.
∇ Reliving the memories isn’t as fun. It doesn’t work when I say to myself, “Oh remember that time we went to Malaysia and we did X and saw Y?” Yeah, doesn’t quite work.
∇ There were plenty of moments when I thought that I’d love to be sharing moments with someone I love. I kinda wanted the best of both worlds.

Have you ever travelled alone? Or eaten alone in a restaurant? Do you prefer to be with others, or do you enjoy your own company?

  • Davine

    I have done lots of both and both have their good and bad but there is something extra specially nice about being alone.

  • I backpacked Europe for 3 weeks by myself and joining a Contiki tour by myself! Also spent a few days in Bali by myself! I love travelling with people but I also enjoy travelling by myself too!!!

  • Laura

    As a travel consultant I have travelled alone or with a group of strangers alot. I love the freedom of doing what I want without having to compromise and you do tend to meet more people – when they see you are on your own they are more likely to strike up a conversation, and I have met some wonderful people from all over the world. But, now I would rather travel with my husband and kids and share the experience with them. I especially love watching my kids try things and see things for the first time 🙂

  • Since I have been travelling with my husband for 10 years and now quite often with the children, I absolutely relish those rare moments when I can travel alone. It is total bliss. I can relax and soak it all in.

    I do miss the fam and wish they could be with me for the extraordinary moments, but when I travel alone, the small, quiet moments are the extraordinary ones for me.

  • mary_j_j

    Until I met my husband all my overseas trips were solo – I met up with friends and relos along the way but I always flew by myself. My first trip was for 6 months away, I look back and am amazed at the gumption of my younger self. I just wasn’t going to wait around til someone wanted to travel with me!! Now its been 8 years of travelling with Him, and 6 with the kids – and we have clocked up some serious airmiles! I like to think I could go it alone again, but I can’t see it happening, to anywhere!!

  • At the age of 23 I threw in my job, gathered every penny I had and took off by myself to London – I was going to do the “Aussie thing” of living and working in the UK and travelling around that part of the world. I had done a bit of travelling so that didn’t bother me but this time I was going all by myself, and didn’t know a single soul or even have a job or place to live lined up. The night before I left I had a meltdown over my luggage (way too much) and the enormity of what I was embarking on – by myself – suddenly hit. I was a wreck on the day of departure and cried most of the way to Singapore then cried myself to sleep that night in the hotel. A sweet phone call to my room the next morning from the hotel front desk asking could they help with organising anything I needed for the day suddenly made me realise I was actually doing it! I was living my dream. So I took a deep breath and went out and about for the day, sampling Singapore and loving it. The only time that emotion hit was sitting by myself in the restaurant at dinner, but I pushed my shoulders back and vowed then I was going to do this thing, and ENJOY it.
    And I did. Everything worked out in London with great jobs, meeting great people, sorting out wonderful accommodation and doing lots of fabulous travel. I pushed my return plane ticket back as far as I could and embraced the life and challenges I had chosen. Sometimes I was alone, yes, but never felt lonely. I grew so much as a person, learnt so much about myself and experienced some of the best times of my life.

    And the best bit of all? Meeting my soul mate … I travelled half way around the world to meet my Aussie country boy, on a Top Deck camping tour of Europe of all things. Who would have thought …

  • Belinda

    I have only travelled alone one….. But I found that the memories were extremely vivid. I think the fact that I was alone gave me the chance to see, hear, and smell much more clearly because there were no distractions from a travelling companion.

  • Kris Tina

    Every year, I take at least one vacation by myself. At least one…sometimes more. There is good and bad to each kind of vacation (alone, with someone), but traveling alone – even internationally – gives me a sense of empowerment and fulfillment that I don’t get when I travel with others. It is not for everyone, but it is definitely for me!

  • Kym Piez

    Oh, I love my own company, but I think the downfalls certainly outweigh any of the perks (and the perks put together)! So… when are you travelling? I have itchy feet too. x

  • Terry Barnhart

    Afraid of flying? The first time I flew in an airplane, I made my husband write a will because I didn’t want my kids to be orphans. So, when my son and his family paid for me to come to Texas from Missouri, USA, for nearly a month, without the man I love, I felt a huge difference between how I felt then, 25 years ago, and how much more confident I felt this time, going alone, no husband, no one to make decisions with, no one to guide me. The experience was shocking! I was nervous until I got to the airport, and all the insecurities disappeared. I was finally woman, alone, making my own way through unknowns, and sailing through security, and the clouds, and beyond. I was me, without my husband of 40 years, The experience of me, instead of us, for nearly 4 weeks, was revealing, enjoyable, and I found I like me, just me. Plus, I even LIKED flying! I recommend it!

  • I used to suprise myself when I travelled solo – I always had a great time, made great friends and loved that I was in control of my travelling destiny. However, since I became part of a pair I love travelling together – there’s so much to share. I reckon travelling together is something of an art form, but once you’ve mastered it, it’s the best feeling. For me, nothing beats making and sharing memories with others, whether they be partners, friends or family.

  • sue

    I travel for business a lot, and always try and do a bit extra when possible. You’ve perfectly outlined the pros and cons – the main pro for me is doing exactly what I want to do – even if it’s to go back to the hotel for a nap, or stay in the one spot for hours to get the light right in a photo! It’s nice to be able to share the experience with others though, that’s the main con. Mealtimes I cover by taking a book with me – that way you don’t look lonely. The only time I ever found it too much was travelling alone through the southern part of Egypt. Two weeks by myself with an imaginary ‘partner’ waiting for me at the hotel stricken by food poisoning was about all I could take. However I like flying by myself – that way I can sleep the whole way there if I want without feeling the need to talk to anyone!

  • For my 40th I went to Tahiti. I said to my husband I have always wanted to go to Bora Bora do you want to come with me?”‘ He is also a “nervous flyer”, as he puts it, It’s not the flying I am concerned about it is the crashing to the ground bit”. He asked how long the flight was I told him 10 hrs, he said “have a great time”!

    Another plus for solo travel, (in my case)the money I had set aside for the two of us, now meant that I could fly business and stay in an over water bungalow. The biggest issue for me was arriving in Tahiti at 2.30 am. I had know idea how big the airport was, “could I stay there until my morning flight (8.30 am), how safe would it be to do that?”, I can only speak a few words of french, so I did the best thing I could think of, I booked a hotel with a 24 hr reception and asked the them to organise a private car for me.

    It was odd at first, I felt like I should have been organising something or someone, once I got over that, it was easy to enjoy myself doing whatever I pleased (two massages, a facial a few other spa treatments later) whenever I pleased.

    I did have room service for dinner most nights, only because it is primarily a honeymoon destination and after breakfast and lunch with all the lovely dovey-ness I was over it!

  • Well, this is kinda strange. I left my husband of 23 years this past September… and in that 23 years, we were apart only once for 3 days. Now I live with my parents. Tonight I came home and they announced they are going to Florida for 3 weeks. This will be the longest I have been “by myself” my whole life. Not really “traveling”, but yet – alone. And I’m terrified, to be honest with you. And yet, strangely excited. I’m still new to this area of America, and so I might just use some of my savings and go out on the town a bit, and explore. Terrified, yet excited. Maybe it is time to spread my wings and see what there is out there for me… Oh man, in 2 days I will be responsible for everything all by myself… why am I so afraid – I’m a grown woman, I shouldn’t be so scared! I’m gonna re-read this post a few times and get excited about having some time to explore and do what I want!

  • I love travelling alone. I have been to the US 3 times by myself the last time in 2010 and I managed to do a whole lot in that time…Graceland, New York, Niagara Falls, Kennedy Space Centre, Miami and The Grand Canyon..I had a fabulous time and enjoyed everyminute. When you travel alone, other travellers tend to want to take you under their wing which is nice if you want company, but you have that delcious option of saying no. Like you said Chantelle it’s awesome to be able to go where you want, do what you want, eat, sleep and dance around the room when you want and yes it does seem strange when you get home and you can’t share the memories, but I sort of found a way around that. Facebook..each day on my trip before I went to bed I’d do a little blog about what I had done during the day, upload some photos and voila when I woke up in the morning my friends and family had seen what I had been up to and made comments etc which sort of made me feel like I was sharing it with someone. My biggest test will be when I travel in 2015 (Egypt, Turkey (hopefully the 100th Anzac ceremony), France, Italy and Greece with a group of 10…all good friends but hey when you have always travelled by yourself it presents a bit of a challenge.

  • Liz

    Done it a few times. Currently planning an 8 week solo trip to the US and Canada. Running away for my 30th:). I will have 3 weeks with some really good friends. but this will be my longest solo trip so a bit nervous. I also do some day tours, and have made several friends on these, who I keep in touch with. Only issue can be getting a photo of yourself in all the exciting places you are. But I look for someone else and offer to take their photo and ask if they would take one of me. Either another solo traveller or a couple so they get one together instead of taking one of each other.

  • kylie

    Will never travel with anyone ever again after a difficult European trip with a very good friend! I was VERY scared to travel by myself once we parted ways in Amsterdam…but I grew to LOVE it and felt so liberated! Best thing I ever did!!

  • Gemma

    This was very inspiring. I have a long list of places I wish to travel. I’m very independent and comfortable on my own, though I’m not sure that would be the case in a foreign country. Travelling with family or friends has never seemed that appealing to me. I would like to be able to travel how I want to travel. I want to live as a local, rather than waste time at typical tourist attractions. This is the encouragement I need to commit to start saving for that first solo trip!

  • I have never traveled alone, and I never go to restaurants alone either. But I do love to go on little day trips by myself. A long shopping trip, a long drive through some pretty countryside, anything like that. I do love it.

  • Most of my travel I’ve done alone. Your pros and cons are all my pros and cons too! I backpacked and lived in Australia for a year almost 10years ago! I loved being able to decide what I wanted to do and just do it… talk to people if I felt like talking to people, or just be quiet and talk to no one.

    One thing I find is key when you travel with people is not to be afraid to split up and do things on your own…and then meet up later! This can stop friends from fighting and hating each other on day 2 or 3 of a trip!

    Eating alone in a restaurant is a fine art… sometimes I can own it, and am not bothered…and other times I get room service and stay in my hotel room to eat!

  • Tiia

    I generally like to travel with company, to make the memories together and to feel safer, but I’ve done quite a bit of solo traveling in the past. I love the freedom that comes with traveling alone, and I especially miss the chance to sit in a single place to wait for that perfect photo opportunity. If I’m on my own, it does affect on the restaurants I choose, and in some places it’s just not polite to bring a book as your date 😉

  • Roni Faida

    I travel alone all the time and don’t even think about it at all. One way you can prevent getting lost when you travel is to take a business card from your hotel so you can hand it to a taxi driver. Or take a picture of your hotel and the street sign so you can show that to someone if a taxi isn’t available.

    I like traveling with friends but if no one is available to travel with me, I have no problem going alone. I would have missed so many wonderful adventures had I not taken all of my solo trips.

  • Jane

    I love traveling solo! My first solo traveling experience was in 2009
    when I visited California (went there mainly for a job interview). I like to be able to do things when I want to and at my own pace. I used travelsim data to keep in touch with everyone and answer emails. So, I was not feeling lonely.

  • Kelly Rogers

    Haha. I understand you perfectly. 🙂 I want my children with me all the time, but I know their ways. So now, I know when to bring them along in my travels and when to leave them behind.

    • Kelly Rogers

      By the way, my husband likes our children to experience travel to a faraway place. So now, we’re looking for cheap holiday destinations. I hope he will approve a trip to Manila.