I’m posting this from Florence, Italy, where I’m staying for a few days – on my own. This isn’t necessarily new territory for me (going solo, that is – Firenze is all new!), but it made me consider the practicalities of going away on my own and why I do it. So I had some thoughts…
1. You have to be responsible for yourself
Perhaps the first realisation you have when you go away on your own is the fact that you actually have to take care of your own shit. That sounds obvious, but when you’re used to sharing the weight of responsibility this can be quite the rude awakening. You’re suddenly painfully aware/unaware of the location of your passport at all times, and you resent the fact that you’ve got to cram your suitcase into the toilet cubicle with you in the departure lounge because no one’s there to keep an eye on it. Then you’ve somehow got to haul your hand luggage into the overhead compartment on the plane, unassisted, despite being a short arse with little arm strength… and don’t even get me started on finding your way to your accommodation once in your desired destination.
Of course this is all very silly, but these were (and sometimes still are) genuine concerns of mine. Some people are naturally chilled about this stuff and some aren’t. Trust me, you get better at it.
2. You’re free to do things at your own pace
One of the benefits of riding solo is that you’re not confined to any kind of plan. It’s inevitable when travelling with a group that you all get caught up in deciding what to do (rather than actually just doing it), whereas alone you set your own schedule. And it’s a schedule full of things that you wanna do, meaning you can really optimise your time away.
3. You’re actually more likely to meet new people
Weirdly enough, being alone can often mean you make more social connections. When you’re in a couple or a group you tend to stick to your present company, and perhaps close off potential interactions with outsiders. But when you’re on your own, there’s no conversation to be caught up in or any kind of social barriers, so it’s actually much easier to engage with strangers. Often people are even more inclusive of a solo traveller, so don’t presume that travelling alone means you’ll be alone.
4. You might feel lonely
Of course, you might not meet anyone on your travels. There’s a chance, whether intentional or otherwise, that you’ll spend the duration of your holiday on your own. This might make you feel a bit awkward. For me, this tended to magnify around dinner time – lots of people are apprehensive about dining alone, and I certainly felt that the first few times I did it. The solution? Have something on hand to occupy yourself. A book, journal or tablet gives you something to focus your attention on and helps ease that feeling of self-consciousness while still enjoying the experience.
You also might feel lonely at times. “Why am I doing this? Why did I think I was ready? I’d have been happier at home.” You might have these thoughts, and it can feel really rubbish when you do. But that’s ok. It’s 100% ok and normal to feel like this. You’re out of your comfort zone, and alien territory feels incredibly uncomfortable sometimes. Try not to let it get you down, because…
5. You’ll be happy you did it
Whatever kind of experience you have, I don’t think you can ever regret it. Time spent in your own company is hugely underrated. It’s time to reflect, to connect with yourself and appreciate what you’re capable of – ’cause I don’t care what anyone says, I think going away on your own is brave and something to be admired. And I certainly feel reassured in the knowledge that I don’t necessarily need anybody to do the things I want to do in life.