I’m 27 and female. Since I was 21, I’ve been away at least once a year, for anything from 3 nights to 9 months, alone. I also go on trips with friends, but I make a point of regularly going solo.
When alone, I’ve been met with various reactions, but they tend to fall into two broad camps:
1. Awesome, that must be really fun! (Wide eyes, look of interest, wants to hear stories)
2. Really? You’re on your own?! Why?? (Raised eyebrows, expression of slight distrust, thinks I’m weird)
Both are totally valid. In fact, depending on what’s happened that day, either can feel completely (sometimes painfully) justified.
It’s rare that I forge a friendship with someone from the second camp. And, if they get me on a bad day, their reaction can feel like a gentle kick in the stomach.
As I look to the year ahead, and think about the trips I’ll inevitably make alone, I’m offering myself a small reminder of why it’s necessary and important to me. Just in case I need a little push.
But more than that: I’d like to share my reasons for travelling solo with those who might fall somewhere in the region of camp number 2?—?and hopefully do it a little more coherently than I would if I were standing in a hostel kitchen with my hand in a jar of shop-bought pasta sauce.
So, here they are: the seven reasons I travel solo.
1. Because I can do things my way
I can wander off. Stay. Go. Change my mind. Follow a whim. I don’t have anyone else’s preferences, needs or feelings to bear in mind and carefully balance against my own. I can be utterly selfish and not feel bad about it. For most human adults?—?typically surrounded by and attuned to the needs of children, parents, friends, colleagues, clients, pets?—?this is a strange and wonderful luxury.
2. Because I can see what ‘me’ really looks like
With no one around who knows me, I’m in my own little social vacuum. Stripping out the group norms of my social circles?—?those silent rules of engagement, shared experiences and in-jokes that quietly guide our day-to-day interactions?—?leaves nothing left except… me. Sometimes I like what I see there, sometimes I question it, and sometimes it comes as a surprise. Either way, exposure feels interesting and important.