I think it was Rick Steves , one of my favorite travel personalities, who said in one of the many guides he’s written (I forget which one) that he felt the best way to see Europe was to travel alone. He had a couple of reasons for thinking this. The first was that if you travel alone there’s no debating or negotiating about what you’ll be doing or seeing on any given day. That’s true enough. But it was his second reason that intrigued me more. He pointed out that if you travel as a group the people you encounter along the way will treat you as part of a group. In other words with the same frightened frenzy that occurs behind the counter of any McDonald’s when an unscheduled bus filled with teenagers on a class trip pulls up. Not an ideal situation by any means. But, if you travel alone, you’ll be greeted as a person and likely have a better experience.
Well, due to certain life decisions that I’d rather not go into, I have often traveled alone and I have to agree with Mr. Steves that there are certain advantages to going solo but there are some other considerations, too.
- You are treated like an individual: no one sees you coming and yells out to someone in the back “oh %*!@ here comes another bunch of ’em!”
- There is often room for one more on tours or at attractions that are otherwise sold out: there have been several times that I was allowed to squeeze onto a tour because “what’s one more>” or because there was still one seat left and everyone else was in a group of two or more. In some amusement parks there are also single rider lines which let you avoid an hour of waiting for the top new coaster.
- If you like solitude and the great out-of-doors you can’t beat hiking to the sound of your breath and heartbeat only: want to really understand nature? Find a secluded trail with literally no one else around for miles.
- Flexibility when dealing with last minute changes to your plans: for example, once on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington the mountain I wanted to visit was socked in by fog. No problem – I went whale watching instead.
- You learn to make friends easily: see my entry on Talking to Strangers.
- You are treated like an individual: it’s sometimes easy to blend into a crowd and not be noticed. Even when they are looking for single riders at your favorite amusement park.
- No one to assist or commiserate with when problems arise.
- Danger of walking into the woods and never walking out again is greater: or frankly, walking down a city street at night. A lesson I learned the hard way one evening in Atlanta when I took what I thought would be a shortcut to a downtown restaurant.
- Selfies are harder to take: a selfie stick and tripod are a must!
- No one to talk with about the day’s adventures at the end of the day: probably the worst thing about traveling alone.
- Meals in restaurants can be awkward at best – down right lonely at worst.
So in my opinion there is nothing wrong with traveling alone as long as you are prepared. In fact, some of my favorite moments have been while traveling alone. But some of my least favorite moments have been traveling alone, too.
As long as you have an adventurous attitude, enjoy solitude, making decisions on your own, can make smart decisions, and you make it well known to loved ones at home where you are and where you’re going – just in case (cell phones are great but they don’t work everywhere) then going solo might be right for you!