Why Not . . . Travel Alone?
Wednesday June 5, 2013

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“My solo travels in Paris have brought many perfect hours of being alone but not a moment of loneliness. People who depend on other people are often in hiding from themselves. Two and a quarter million people live in the City of Light: you will see many of them and you will pass them in the street, but when you see Notre Dame after dark and walk home and perhaps stop to have a drink in the Marais, you can feel that the only thing that is missing from your experience is the common dependence on someone to distract your attention.  You are living without it: you are on vacation.” –Andrew O’Hagan in “Party of One” article in T: The New York Times Style Magazine

The subtle mystery, confidence and elegance of a woman who chooses to travel alone knowing precisely where she is going and knowing exactly how to dress for it is the image that dances around in my mind when I envision a woman traveling solo to her destination of choice. Whether it be Paris, the English countryside or the wine country in California, I can’t help but smile and count the days until such a trip commences.

One of my first flights as an adult was by myself, and since then I have only traveled fewer than a handful of times with others compared to the innumerable times in my own company.

I have come to enjoy both options and highly recommend traveling by oneself to gain experience that only traveling solo can provide. Whether domestically or internationally, making the choice to unleash your wanderlust and allow yourself to see whatever may be calling your attention or curiosity should not be quelled simply because you don’t have someone else who is interested or available. Life is far too short to wait around for a travel companion. You are your best travel companion with the right arsenal of advice and pre-planning because you get to go wherever your interests which to lead you.

Today I would like to begin a two part series on an absolute must-do at least once in your life, and in doing so, perhaps you’ll fall in love as I have and regularly incorporate solo travel excursions into your travel plans.

Benefits of traveling solo:

1. Get to Know Yourself

“Traveling alone offers the chance to test the limits of what you think you know about yourself.” –Andrew O’Hagan
2. Be Reminded of What Stirs Your Passions
Each time I travel alone, I end up doing something, seeing something, tasting something that causes me to be fully present and absolutely moved. It is in these moments that I am reminded of what I’m truly passionate about, and I immediately have to write it down in my journal. As to what becomes of my journal entry, it could be a handful of different outcomes – a change in my daily routine to incorporate an evening tea, a blog post to share with my readers about Parisian style, or a dream to pursue that I had long ago let go. The beauty of traveling solo is that you wander unexpectedly, but almost certainly into the direction that you were meant to go.

3. Seek Out What Piques Your Curiosities

Perhaps the theater district is calling your name while traveling through London or maybe you are giddy about the flea markets in France. Prior to stepping on the plane or train, make a list of what you want to experience, learn as much as you can prior to boarding, and then . . . make it happen. Traveling solo allows you to satiate your travel curiosities. There is no excuse not to try to learn how to surf or take that culinary tour that’s been pinned to your idea board in your office. Remember, you are the curator of your own life.

4. Flexible Itinerary
Creating an itinerary prior to your trip is a must. Map out where you would like to go, make reservations for tours or dinner if need be and make sure you have done your homework as far as what clothes and supplies you will need. But then . . . go about each day in such a way that is in sync with your mood, your energy levels and your interests. Feel like spending the entire morning in the Louvre? Go for it. Would rather sleep in and enjoy a late breakfast at Café de Flore watching passersby? Why not? Perhaps you’d rather jump on a train and head to the country? Do it. The flexibility solo travelers have is a wonderful gift for those who are self-motivated and do not need to be told how to best enjoy their vacation.

5. Build Your World Social Community
One of the gifts I have discovered as my travel resume lengthens is that having people to visit at your destination is a wonderful way to feel more connected and at home while on vacation. Since the people you are meeting up with are people you most likely already know and care about, you are able to thoroughly enjoy a dinner, relax and be yourself, feel safe and then return to your hotel or rented apartment and enjoy your personal, private space as well. The best of both worlds.

6. Boost Confidence
Each time I travel somewhere alone, I try something new. And if I happen to have the opportunity to travel to the same place again, I take a few more risks and attempt to visit a few new sites because my footings is more secure and my understanding of how the culture or city works is more familiar. In doing anything new, we reveal to ourselves what we are capable of and often are pleasantly shocked. This newfound knowledge lifts our confidence and when we return to our daily routine, we come home different and often more motivated and inspired to create the change we now know we are capable of.

7. Realize the Difference Between Alone and Loneliness

“The first rule of travel is that you should always go with someone you love, which is why I travel alone.” – Andrew O’Hagan
If you have never spent time alone while traveling, you may have moments of loneliness, but I encourage you to come to understand why you are lonely. Because once you truly enjoy your own company, the opportunity to travel alone will strengthen your appreciation for the time you have with those you love, but it will also strengthen your inner purpose, clarify your direction, and remind you of what you want your life to become. Alone is simply the physical description of not having other people you know around you, but loneliness is best described by Paul Tillish . . . “Language… has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”
When you choose to travel alone, you have the opportunity to revel in solitude and unearth the priceless gifts it has to offer. Imagine the combination of spending time in a destination of your dreams when you are fully at peace with yourself and thoroughly enjoy your own company – not running away from anything, not hiding from your life, simply reveling, celebrating and enjoying – a dream realized.

Whether you wish to travel to a different destination each time or get to know your favorite travel locale by returning each year, indulge your sense of wonder and have an amazing, life-changing and unforgettable experience.

Click here to read part deux of the series which includes tips on how to travel safely as well as ideas on how to create a trip that meets and perhaps exceeds your expectations. Bon voyage!


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16 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Travel Alone?

  1. Great post!! I love traveling alone, possibly more than with a companion. Thank you for sharing this is very inspirational.

  2. This post came at a great time. I recently planned my first solo vacation, to take place the first week in July. Women like you have inspired me to make that leap. Thank you.

  3. I don’t mind it at at all. In fact my last trip while vising parents in Europe my boyfriend could only spay with me for a week. After that I went solo to Barcelona and had such a great time. I would love to take solo-trips more often…

    And now I am being reminded of an older English lady that we met on our last trip in Fiji. Her husband died and now she just travels all over the world. We could not believe the places she has gone to (solo!) – from Pakistan through India.. I was absolutely speechless. She was truly amazing…

  4. You are so right. I truly cherish the times I have traveled alone. I felt so free, made awesome friends and had experiences I likely would not have had if I was traveling with someone. It is something I love, but a little harder to do now that I am married. It’s kind of hard to go on a vacation (and use the money saved for vacation) and leave the other person at home working! ; ) I have yet to work that one out.

  5. Azrakun Blue, Olivia, Sarah Watts, and Lisha,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with traveling alone. Simply by hearing others have the same beneficial experience is motivation for others attempt it as well. Happy travels! 🙂

  6. You all are brave women! I am scared to death to travel alone internationally. Locally is no problem for me but internationally sure is. Maybe if I had been somewhere before with someone, then I might be comfortable going back by myself. Right now though, just the thought of going out of the country alone stresses me out.

  7. Hello Shannon.. I so loved looking back at all your stunning articles about my passion.. TRAVEL.. I’m with the comments Porcelain Lotus just wrote about…. and that’s the main reason behind our fully escorted acclaimed tours aimed at doing what us girls like to do.. shop.. eat.. cook.. pilates.. and more.. This is not an advert for myself however.. but.. I just wanted to say ‘Well done’ for great post once again, and to all those ladies out there who need to explore S E Asia.. ‘hello’.. x j

  8. I love to travel, and I think that traveling alone is the perfect time for self-reflection. Hope to plan a trip to France soon! Have you seen the beautiful French blog Manger? It’s all about life in the French countryside…sigh…


  9. I have travelled alone before, but last summer was the first time I did it overseas (and also, my first time overseas, period). I went to Paris, then the south of France, over to Florence, and then Rome. I didn’t worry too much ahead of time, but it amazes me looking back that I navigated through trains trips, languages etc. that long way by myself with no major problems! It sounds alot more intimidating than it actually is. When you’re in the moment, you find you way (and yes, I did ask for help alot too!). I was so busy “taking it all in”, that I never really noticed that I was alone. I discovered some really cool, now favourite spots that I might not have if I’d been distracted with other travelers.

    Dinners are a little more challenging, but to be honest I just enjoyed fully concentrating on the delicious food and not having to really talk after tiring days. Plus in the summer and Paris especially, I felt like everyone was outside, sitting at an outdoor cafe. You are one of many, and it was fun to people-watch. So I never felt quite as lonely in that sense.

    I am 29, and am looking forward to a similar trip this summer – London, Amsterdam, Brussels and finishing off in Paris. When describing my experience last summer to a 30 year old woman who had never been overseas either, it inspired her enough to take the leap and she has just returned from doing the same thing. She told me that I was her inspiration for it and it is a wonderful feeling to know that!

    I think it sometimes depends on the type of trip you want to do too. While summer of 2014 is quite far away yet, I am already in discussions for a trip then that I would like to take with my mom, as it would be fitting for the 2 of us together. I have to say though, that my solo adventures have been just as great.

  10. If you are confidant enough to get out there and explore on your own, it can be so rewarding and allow you to connect with yourself a little more. I travelled to NYC alone with my baby when she was 3 months old and it was so nice to just go to museums and travel around at my own leisure. 🙂

  11. I spent a week in Paris alone last year and it was a dream come true. I had always imagined myself exploring Paris on my own terms, and it was perfect. I highly recommend traveling alone to that one special place you have always dreamed about.

  12. Great subject, Shannon. I travel every chance I get and have learned a lot along the way. I’ve gone alone, I’ve gone with a single companion, I’ve gone with family. For me, an underlying theme for choosing to travel alone is the message of freedom to experience a different self, to codify an articulate self. Growth at the edge of one’s comfort zone. To quote Natalie, a contributor to awomansparis.com, reflecting on knowing oneself, writes: “Perhaps in Paris, a woman found herself sufficiently removed from her other life, from her attachments, to recreate herself. Her own opinion, she discovered, was the most powerful.”

  13. Brava Shannon! I’ve traveled the world on my on and, even through bouts of loneliness, I loved every minute. Something about venturing out solo lets us be selective about the baggage we carry, physically and emotionally, an experience we can bring home as the best and most enriching kind of souvenir. Thank you, Frances, http://www.FrancesSchultz.com

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