~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #220
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“It seemed an advantage to be traveling alone. Our responses to the world are crucially moulded by the company we keep, for we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others…Being closely observed by a companion can also inhibit our observation of others; then, too, we may become caught up in adjusting ourselves to the companion’s questions and remarks, or feel the need to make ourselves seem more normal than is good for our curiosity.” ― Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel
What if I lose my keys to my rental/car/etc. while I am traveling? No one knows me where I am. I am the only source of income – what if my wallet gets stolen? My passport? As a woman, is it really smart to travel alone? But I will be by myself – won’t I become lonely? I don’t want to eat alone the entire time – and I love to eat!
Above are just a few of the fears I have heard from those contemplating or dismissing solo travel, and at times, some of those fears have danced in my own mind when jetlag was severe and my mind was not being mastered well. And while these are all natural fears to utter if you have never traveled alone, each can be assuaged and should be, after proper preparation, dismissed and not to be worried about.
I have written extensively on this topic (see all of the posts at the bottom of this post), so I won’t go in detail which has already been shared, but rather share a few thoughts on the wonderful opportunity and insights traveling alone provides the traveler.
As I type, I have just returned from a month-long excursion throughout France, as many of you already know. But I am writing that as a reminder. I would advise travelers who may have shaky nerves prior to traveling alone, even myself, to read this post before stepping on a plane for any future trips on our own. Why? Because even I, prior to traveling, especially if my schedule has been busy and harried leading up to the trip, will consider the worst-case scenarios. And every time I return from the trip, I recognize that doing so was energy wasted. All of my energy should be split between preparation and excited anticipation. After all, part of the gift of travel is the time leading up to the trip as studies have shown that it as well can increase our overall happiness.
Traveling alone in many ways is a misnomer, as we are never completely alone if we consider our fellow travelers we find along the journey, Mother Nature, and conversations we have with loved ones when we check in from time to time if we choose to do so. The difference is we are never with the same person or persons the entire time which can not only provide variety, but as Alain de Botton shares above, free us from conforming in ways we often do unconsciously.
Ironically, when I travel, my barriers tend to come down moreso than when I am at home in ways that allow me to relax and be more fully present. Now that doesn’t mean I do not take precautions to protect myself for security purposes, but those are habit at this point when I travel as I have traveled alone for more than a decade and doing so is merely functional as opposed to the emotional barriers that tend to become activated when I am going about my everyday life. The truth is, it was travel that revealed to me this dichotomy of instinctual behavior based on geographical location which caused me to dive deeper into what made me keep my barriers up so adamantly. This examination led me to shift a few things in my everyday life – move away from some friendships, step more intimately into others, etc., and yet this is another example of how travel can improve our lives.
~My luggage for the return flight (one more bag was gained!)~
If we consider the headaches that we worry might happen by choosing to travel alone, most, if not all, could just as easily happen when we are traveling with someone or multiple someones. While yes, you will have at least two heads to solve the fiasco, you will also have two heads to step into a fiasco that could cause the headache in the first place. I guess what I am trying to say is that neither is better; they are just different.
The common gift of traveling alone that is universally shared is that your confidence increases as you recognize you can do things you perhaps dismissed were possible previously. And this is true. As well, traveling alone, especially if I have not done so in a few years time, reminds me that I need to trust myself. Traveling alone clears away the cobwebs from my intuition, if I have not trusted it as much as I should have, and shows me that I need to stop doubting so often and instead calmly keep listening to its direction and striving forward. And most importantly, traveling alone brings me back to myself, centers me and shakes me awake if that is necessary.
~Looking up in Paris in late June: I find that when I travel on my own, my feet follow my eyes. Whatever catches my attention is where I often go, and I don’t worry about leaving someone behind.~
Speaking of the shaken awake part. It has happened in the past that I was shaken, but not to a clear state of what to do upon returning; however, it was a start, and I chose to see it through, continued to shake upon returning until the cobwebs and learned behaviors that were not aligned with my authentic self finally fell away. Such a shedding doesn’t always happen quickly, sometimes it has taken years, but if we keep ‘shaking’ so-to-speak, our truth emerges, and it is then that we look back at our travels with even more gratitude. And gratitude for having traveled alone.
There are truths that I have only been able to experience because I was traveling alone. Partly because at different times in my life, I didn’t have the confidence or support to speak up enough to those I was traveling with and say clearly what I would prefer to do or at least in a way that yielding an enjoyable experience. And sometimes I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I just followed what the alpha person suggested. But if I had been by myself on those journeys, I would have just followed my curiosities without worrying about what anyone else thought, when I was supposed to return, etc., which is exactly what I do now.
“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” – Anna Quindlen
For me, traveling has led me to the life I want to live. Without travel, I would not be and be doing what I am, today. As Anna Quindlen’s quote shares, the life I was leading when the trip began, especially the first trip I made to France (which was by myself), is not the life I live now or will be living in the future.
~A journal for your travels is a wonderful way to upon returning, reflect on the person you were when you traveled – where did your mind go, what curiosities caught your eye, how did you feel, why did you feel that way?~
Traveling alone will show you quite quickly where your weaknesses are that can be strengthened. For example, if you immediately are not comfortable in your own company, that is something you can strengthen, and for your best self, you should. As well, if you do not know how to communicate well or engagingly, even if you do not speak the language, perhaps that is a hint that your awareness of the power of clear and effective communication needs to be tended to (which includes body language). One of the lessons I learned on my first trip to France which was in 2000 was to relax, let go of the worry and frazzle that perhaps we have learned when things are not going perfectly, and look around. Ask for help, take a deep breath and know that there will be another train if you miss the one you were scheduled to be riding.
More importantly, since you are traveling by yourself, you learn to step outside of yourself. And while yes, you are taking care of yourself, you begin to see that when we only focus on ourselves, our inner world, our potential is limited. When we instead choose to examine “how can I contribute?”, “how can I improve so that I can be effective not only for myself but the community I am currently in?”, we begin to get out of our own heads and become more present. And when we become more present, the experiences of travel become far more rich and memorable.
~With moments to engage and moments to observe and moments to reflect~
If you are considering traveling alone for the first time, be sure to read the below posts that have been previously written. They will help you prepare specifically and clearly for a successful trip. And if you have traveled alone, but haven’t done so in a long time. Or you find yourself settled and perhaps desiring a boost – consider traveling alone. Not only will it boost your confidence if you need it, but it will remind you how amazing the life you life already is or perhaps share with you how to make tweaks and changes that you couldn’t see had you stayed in one place.
~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~International Travel Prep List, episode #183
~Chicken Marsala – view the recipe here
~SPONSORS of Today’s Episode:
- HelloFresh – www. hellofresh.com/sophisticate30
- promo code: sophisticate30 to save $30 off your first week
Images: (1) Gordes, France; (2) Charles de Gaulle airport; (3) Paris – right bank; (4) & (5) Loire Valley