Here's why I think vacationing alone is the best way to travel
“Wow. I could NEVER do that.”
“Won’t you be lonely?”
You’d think I was set to orbit the Earth for six months, with nothing but freeze-dried ice cream and zero-gravity somersaults on the horizon. In reality, I had just revealed my plans for an upcoming two-week vacation in Tokyo to a group of close girlfriends. And I’d be making the trip — *waits for gasps* — alone. Their collective shock made me chuckle. Why it was it such a bold move for me, a 35-year-old woman, to vacation solo? It had become such a commonplace occurrence in my life, I had never given it a second thought. I believe that vacationing alone is not only empowering, but one of the best ways to get to know yourself better. Still not convinced? Here are my favorite things about vacationing alone.
You’re on your own schedule.
This one’s a given, and perhaps the single most satisfying thing about traveling alone. You get to do exactly, precisely, 100% what YOU want to do. All. The. Time. Think about that. If you’re like me, you probably don’t even get that kind of luxury in your everyday life. Your boss sets the deadlines at work, the doctor is late for your appointment (again), and who are we kidding, we are all at the continued mercy of our produce drawers (“I JUST bought that damn avocado. It’s squishy already?! Better eat it.”). Flying solo on vacation means that you call the shots — even if that means skipping out on your pre-scheduled plans to sleep in and order mid-day room service.
There’s almost always room for one more.
If you’ve ever organized a group outing — whether it be to a restaurant, a ticketed event, or otherwise — you know how logistically tricky it can be. Trying to score a table for 12 at the hottest restaurant in town will likely be met with raised eyebrows and barely-there smirks from the Pendleton-clad hipster hostess. But guess what? There’s almost always a single seat available wherever you want to go. Squeeze in at the bar of the hottest eatery in town, where they’re likely serving the full menu. If live performance is your jam (I look forward to getting “Broadway drunk” on theater each time I visit New York City), there’s bound to be a single seat with your name on it (and my money says it’ll be one of the best seats in the house).
Talk with the locals.
Sure, you could do this while traveling with others, but you know what? Nothing makes you more eager to strike up a conversation with a total stranger than being alone in a foreign country for two weeks. As a huge Disneyphile, I spent several days at the Tokyo Disneyland resort during my recent visit to Japan, and I scheduled my Disney visit halfway through my two-week trip. I was shocked (and embarrassingly excited) when the front desk clerk at the hotel struck up a conversation with me…in English. After we had talked for about five minutes, I looked up at her and said, “You know, I think this is the most I’ve spoken aloud this whole week.” She was thrilled to practice her English (which was quite good) and it felt great for me to actually talk to another human being instead of, say, singing Taylor Swift lyrics to myself in the bathroom mirror, or talking to my sock drawer while deciding which pair I would wear that day. Vacationing alone will encourage you to chat it up with the locals, and you might make some new friends, too!
Brush up on your problem-solving prowess.
I’ll admit it: I like it when things come easy. I wish I could be one of those people who finds complex challenges exhilarating instead of completely maddening. And as anyone who has traveled extensively will tell you, with every extended trip, you’re almost guaranteed at least one “oh, shit” moment. A problem so hairy, you can’t possibly see a way out. But guess what? There IS a way out, and when you travel alone, YOU are the only one who can get yourself out of a jam. Once you do (and after your endorphin levels have settled), you’ll feel about 100 times more confident in your ability to “adult.” Problem-solving ain’t pretty, but having no one to rely on but yourself builds character that stays with you long after you’ve returned home.
You don’t have to wait for anyone else to go on an adventure.
Don’t get me wrong – I really enjoy traveling with others. There’s nothing like poring over the day’s events and comparing Camera Roll shots from the comfort of side-by-side beds, or trying (and loving!) something you never would have considered otherwise, all because it was on your travel buddy’s bucket list. But here’s the thing — companionship is not a requirement for adventure. As cliché as it sounds, we are never promised tomorrow. There are places to go, people to meet, trains to catch, treats to eat, dogs to pet, all around the world — and they’re ready for you. So get out there and see the world. I bet there’s a single plane ticket just waiting for you.