How I discovered my love for traveling solo
I vividly remember the first time I ate alone at a restaurant. I was in high school. The bistro was dimly lit; this was before the era of cell phones lighting up public places like stars. I brought a book, but even then it felt like all the couples and groups were eyeing me up, wondering what was wrong with me that I was companionless. It was only a matter of minutes into my solo-date that I vowed: never again! I’m not sure I even tasted the food as I swallowed it whole and asked for the check.
I have come a long way since that one quickly consumed meal. Now, my work has me jet setting all over the world. I have been coast to coast in Canada, where I live, and have hit up most of the major American cities. I have even traveled as far as Scotland and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Close to a hundred flights later, I have learned one unexpected yet blissful fact: traveling alone is AWESOME! Here’s why:
5 Reasons You Should Travel Alone
The power of presence
When you travel alone, you are responsible for everything. While that may sound daunting—who doesn’t love an extra someone to carry the passports and monitor the departure time—yet, being in charge of your trip is empowering. Getting your mind around all the details instills ownership and excitement, both before you take off and while navigating a new city. Being aware of your surroundings, and belongings eases you gracefully into a mindful, present state.
Where at home, in the harried pace of life, you may misplace your phone or keys, or be so busy that important to-dos are forgotten; here on your solo-trip, it is easier to be in the here and now, partially out of necessity. When I travel alone, I feel like there is nothing I cannot figure out, that the world is completely open to me. This mentality allowed me, for example, to make a new friend in New York City while on a work trip. This person then invited me to listen to jazz in Astoria, an area I had never ventured to before. These experiences would never have arisen if I hadn’t been present and aware.
The rhythm of your own drumbeat
While I love traveling with family and friends, there is an air of negotiation that accompanies such trips. With my husband, it’s when he will golf. With my kids, it’s when they will go to the zoo and play on their computers. With my girlfriends, its when we will shop. Yes, I enjoy spending time with the people I love, I also love myself and sometimes I simply want to do my own thing. Traveling alone means I can visit an art gallery and wander through it as long as it takes me. It means I eat when I’m hungry, go to sleep when I’m tired, and see the sights that are meaningful to me. This is not selfish, it’s self-love and self-care.
The wisdom of observation
I find that this mindfulness and sense of personal adventure translates into an acutely observant mind. Slowed down from your regular routine, you will now have the ability to truly see the places and people around you. This is a gift, particularly when visiting a city for the first time. I no longer feel awkward eating alone, especially when I can peek up from my book or phone to watch the intersection of lives at the tables that surround me. One time I was enjoying a solo-meal in Amsterdam and noticed a group of sports fans at a nearby table, all dressed in matching jerseys. I asked them what was happening and learned there was a big soccer game that night. I scalped a ticket and attended myself.
The spaciousness of your mind
Alone does not mean lonely. You may just discover that you are great company. I find that at home, my brain buzzes a million miles a minute. When traveling alone, there is quiet, downtime, room to breathe, and white space. I try to avoid filling in this spaciousness with mindless noise—like movies and music for their own sake—and instead, embrace the chance to check in with myself and see how I am doing. When in this headspace, inspired by new surroundings and people, I find my productivity increased, my creativity magnified, and my sense of self strengthened. I can think clearly as if I’ve stepped out of a fog. It is easy to become so busy in life that our minds never shut down. While traveling solo, this is not the case. Rest comes easier, along with revelations—both personal and professional.
The memories of a lifetime
It is no wonder with all of the above, that we can remember solo-adventures that much more clearly. They are imprinted in our memory in a different way. Traveling alone heightens the five senses. This puts us in touch with ourselves and our surroundings more intimately. Some of my most treasured memories are from my solo-trips. Biking the streets of Amsterdam. Discovering new restaurants in Cambridge, Mass. Meeting up with old friends in Toronto. Making new friends in Ottawa. Road trips closer to home.
And speaking of home, there is also the fun of sharing your solo-adventure with those you love upon your return.
ALEXIS MARIE CHUTE is an award-winning author, artist, filmmaker, curator, and inspirational speaker. Her memoir, Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing, and Pregnancy After Loss, and the award-winning YA fantasy series, The 8th Island Trilogy. More at alexismariechute.com