Inspired by the charming Christine of C'est Christine (her post here), I decided to post about the joys of solo traveling. I am expert in few things, but I can safely say that I am an expert in enjoying my own company. I am an only child, I live alone, and I spend most of my time alone. I love spending time with my friends, with my family, and with perfect strangers in other countries, but there is a freedom and a peace to being all by yourself on an amazing holiday.
What I love about traveling solo...
Meeting New People
I find that, when I am with other people, I feel less of a desire to branch out and meet new people. Actually, it's not so much that I don't desire it, but I don't seek it out. When I'm alone, it happens, whether I like it or not. When I was in Tunisia last year, I decided to head out to the Sahara desert (alone!). I had no idea what to expect or bring, and I certainly had no idea of where I would stay upon arriving. All I knew is that I could quickly take a taxi to the internet cafe and look up some bus schedules for the following day. Armed with a notebook and pen, I jotted down a sloppy list of bus times. The next morning, I packed up half of my stuff (doing that always makes me think of George Carlin) in a duffle bag and took a taxi to the medina in Tunis. When I got there, I realized I had been taken to the wrong station, despite my perfectly-spoken, early morning French. I opted out of waiting for another taxi, which was proving to be impossible, and I decided walk for at least 30 minutes to the bus station. When I got there, I was energized by my hunger, sweat, and confusion. I bought a bus ticket for a 10+ hour bus journey to the Sahara and sat down. Because I had missed the "luxury" coach (read: has a toilet) by 30 minutes, I was forced to take the bus that locals take. This was absolutely a blessing because I sat down and, within minutes, a lovely Turkish woman in her early 30s struck up a conversation with me. She told me she had been living in Tunisia for a few years and has some family in Tozeur (where we were headed). About an hour in, my notebook was half full with recommendations. About an hour before we arrived, she already called in to her family to arrange for them to give me a ride from the station, help me find a place to stay, and help me arrange to start camel trekking the next day. I find that, people see that you are by yourself, and they feel a natural pull towards you. It opens you up to wonderful experiences and people.
Okay, so, "cafés" isn't a reason, but you get the point. There is nothing more amazing than being in a group of 4 or more people, having a 4 hour long dinner and walking home together. I've had some of my most amazing nights doing just that (especially in Spain). But, I find no greater joy than being in café, alone, for hours with a delicious coffee and a good book. I also enjoy this because when I'm alone, I can quietly observe, eavesdrop, and people-watch. Also, there is no one to judge you when you order 3 coffees in a row and decide that you need that extra croissant.
Doing Whatever the Fuck You Want
You can change your plans at a moment's notice, you can decide not to have a plan, and you can enjoy and be free. It's so wonderful to explore and really experience things by yourself. It's nice to take long walks without wondering if your companion is tired, or bored. And, it's nice to sleep in, or wake up early, without worrying about somebody else's schedule. I also find (like Christine) that you get more opportunities when you are alone. My wonderful driver in Morocco, Jalil, was able to take me to the Imlil Valley on a day's notice when a Cuban family hired him to go there. There was one empty seat in his van and I was able to tag along for half the price and explore and hike for hours, alone, when we arrived.
Go somewhere, by yourself!