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Traveling Solo, Tips and Tales (Part 1 of 3): Best Things May 17, 2009

Posted by Onely in Great Onely Activities, Secret Lives of the Happily Single, single and happy, solo travel, We like. . ..
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View from Castle Rushen

View from Castle Rushen, Isle of Man

Hello Copious Readers!

I’m back from my two-week adventure in the UK! I visited the posh university town of Cambridge; then traveled by bus and ferry to the Isle of Man, located in the middle of the Irish Sea; then met up with a friend in Northern Ireland for two and a half days and visited the Giant’s Causeway, among other beautiful sights; and ended my trip in London.

As you know from my earlier post, some of my experience was a bit more adventurous than I would have liked (my wallet was stolen in London), but overall, I am so happy that I decided to make this international trip a solo one. I’ve traveled through a lot of the US on my own, but traveling abroad – even to the UK, which in some ways felt like “cheating” because there was no language barrier – presented both a unique challenge, as well as a very rewarding experience. For those of you who are dreaming of taking this kind of a trip yourself, I’ve composed a series of lists detailing the best and worst aspects of traveling alone, as well as a set of tips for anyone planning an international trip alone. Here’s Part One of Three:

Lisa’s Best Things about Traveling Alone:

  1. As our readers Alan and Singlutionary pointed out in earlier comments, there really is something wonderful about having total control over your touring decisions. One of the most interesting places I visited was called the Williamson Tunnels, in Liverpool – I got a private tour of this strange series of underground tunnels because the site is off the beaten track and I turned out to be the only visitor at the time. It was a blip in the guidebook, and a traveling companion may have been more interested in other places, but I got to go because I was on my own schedule.
  2. Speaking of the schedule, you get to set your own pace: I tend to have a relatively short attention span and would rather move from one thing to the next than reading every plaque or informational brochure thoroughly. I can count several friends and family members off the top of my head who would have been bothered by my speed (and hell, that would probably have made me feel bothered about myself!), so it was nice not to have to worry about my effect on others.
  3. When you meet other solo travelers, it’s easy to bond, and refreshing to have a companion for a while. I met two other women on the trip who were both traveling alone, and who I probably would never have talked with if I had been traveling with a friend or a family member. When you’re with someone else, it’s easy to isolate oneself and only pay attention to those people with whom you’re most familiar; meeting these other women (both more courageous than me — they were both traveling for months, not weeks) was invigorating – I really appreciated having someone to talk with for those few hours. On the other hand, if you’re alone, you don’t have to talk with anyone if you don’t feel like it. And that’s nice too!
  4. When you encounter trouble, you make it through, and afterwards, you feel super strong and much less afraid. I was stunned by the story that our regular reader, Autonomous, shared here about being pick-pocketed in Argentina at the age of 22 — she said, “I’ll never forget it and I know I’ll manage somehow if again I’m ever stranded!” I concur: now, after having my wallet stolen and losing my passport, I know that I can and will be able to handle it in the future — not to mention knowing a lot more about what I need to be prepared for my next trip.
  5. Coming back from the trip just gets you excited for future trips! I am so ready for the next one!

Look for Parts Two and Three, to be published in the next few days!

– L

Comments»

1. bobby - May 18, 2009

Welcome back :)
I like the points that are made here and agree (I am a solo traveler). The first solo trip is a bit nerve racking, but after that it becomes a cake-walk!

onely - May 20, 2009

Bobby — that’s my feeling now, exactly! — L

2. Lauri - May 19, 2009

Sounds like it was a good time despite the wallet/passport issue! The funny thing is, I’ve gotten more nervous traveling solo for short weekend trips in the US than I have for trips to the UK and Ireland. I think I get nervous when there is driving involved. Like last year I was in Seattle alone for a few days, and for extraneous reasons I had a rental car. It was very nerve-wracking driving around a strange city. But I don’t mind at all if someone is with me. I think I don’t trust myself to not get lost.

onely - May 20, 2009

That’s interesting. I am totally comfortable being lost — that probably helps me, in general, at all times, but especially while driving. My problem, recently, has to do with flying — I have become terrified! And it’s awful!!

My sympathies! :) L

3. Monique - May 20, 2009

I’ve never traveled solo, but it looks like it’s time I get started! It does sound like you had a great time.

4. Traveling Solo, Tips and Tales (Part 3 of 3): Tips! « Onely: Single and Happy - May 21, 2009

[...] spending the past two posts enumerating some of the best and worst aspects of traveling alone, I figure it’s about time for some practical advice. So, [...]

5. Alan - May 22, 2009

Another good thing about traveling alone is the ability to quietly reflect on what you’ve seen and done, something much harder to do if you’re with someone.

onely - May 22, 2009

YES! Very well put, Alan :) — L

6. Singlutionary - May 23, 2009

I love love love number 1. I love the experience of kinda finding yourself in a place instead of finding a place and having a wonderful unplanned experience. I am a big planner but when I get there I am willing to let it all go. This has happened to me several times on solo outings and has made me glad that I (reluctantly) took the trip on my own. I feel like every time I travel I grow a great deal, hear my own voice and come home changed. This is especially true of solo ventures where there is lots of time for my quiet inner voice to get the courage to speak up and tell me something I might not want to hear about myself just yet.


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