All the life lessons I've learned while traveling solo
“Who are you going with?”
An innocuous question, and a standard one from my parents for a large part of my life. In middle school, they asked it for my safety. They wanted to know who was I with when riding bikes, walking to the park, or getting ice cream. You know, just in case it got dark and they needed to call someone’s parents and reassure themselves that I was accounted for if I wasn’t home yet. Same with high school. Before I had a license it was “who is picking you up?” And when I passed my test it became, “Who are you picking up?”
In college, it came when I announced I was going on spring break. “Who are you going with?” They asked in a tone that hinted they’d recently watched some kind of Dateline and 20/20 episodes entitled “Spring Break NIGHTMARE.” I accepted it. It always made them feel better to know that I was going somewhere surrounded by my friends. And it wasn’t just my parents. Friends asked the question. “Oh you’re going to Vegas! With who?” Or “I heard you just got back from San Francisco, who went with you?” It was like the concept of traveling alone wasn’t even a possibility. To be fair, it hadn’t even occurred to me yet to consider solo travel. I didn’t personally know anyone who traveled alone during that time in my life, the only thing that came to mind was Jon Krakauer’s book “Into The Wild,” where the guy died. And yeah, no thanks.
But as I got older, I realized that often when traveling en masse often left me feeling unsatisfied, like I was being stifled by the overall group mentality of deciding where to go, what to do, and when to do it. Suggesting a few hours off by myself tended to make someone else say, “Oh no, I’ll go with you,” which again often led to a watered down version of my original intention. And I also realized that while some people are great friends in your home city, they can still be terribly incompatible travel companions. So I stopped waiting to be invited on a trip or coaxing others to accompany me somewhere, and just began booking jaunts that satisfied my personal plans. It made all the difference in the world.
I learned to be self sufficient.
I’ve learned to roll with uncomfortable/crazy situations.
I’ve learned what I really like to do.
Having freedom from compromise is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.
I am my own best company.
Currently I’m participating in a writer’s residency abroad. When I was accepted several months ago and would say that I was going sans a companion I was met with raised eyebrows, proclamations of my “bravery,” or the question, “why don’t you find someone else to go?”
The answer? Because I don’t need to.