I’m a big advocate of traveling solo. I think it’s important, fun, and satisfying. But there’s a difference between planning a solo trip and unexpectedly taking a trip alone. The difference is huge, but it’s also all in your head. With travel, like most things, perception is everything.
This weekend, I was going to meet up with a friend in Porto. I was excited mostly because I hadn’t seen her since January when I was last in my hometown. We’ve had the trip booked for a couple of months, and everything was set. And then, on her flight over from Miami, the plane was struck by lightning and they had to turn around. And because it was a low cost airline, she wouldn’t be rebooked on another flight for two days. (Side note. Fuck Air Europa.) So she would definitely not make it to Porto.
I would be going alone. This has only happened to me once before, in Norway. And despite the fact that I have absolutely no problem traveling alone, I was disappointed because I didn’t expect to be traveling alone on this particular trip. This makes a world of difference.
And I realized my concerns were very similar to ones that keep many people from traveling solo in the first place.
I am never scared of traveling. I always feel relatively safe and excited in a new place. And it doesn’t take very long for a brand new location to feel like home. Honestly, I don’t even know what home is anymore… Miami, Prague, the aisle seat of a Boeing 737. But even in a place that is totally foreign, the excitement always overcomes the fear. Except when you realize you’re going to a place alone that you didn’t plan to visit alone.
Will I be safe? Is the apartment in a good neighborhood? Are there terror threats in the city? What if I feel sick and I’m alone? What if I get taken? Is my friend not coming a sign that I shouldn’t go on this trip? I mean, her plane got struck by lightning… if that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is. These are all silly fears that are the product of a creative and anxious mind. But they’re fears I wouldn’t otherwise have if I had planned to go alone to begin with.
I may be a travel blogger, but you’d be surprised to know I hate planning. And I can always count on this particular friend to look up a ton of interesting places in advance. When we’re traveling, she always takes us to the best restaurants and the coolest bars. Suddenly, on the morning I was set to fly there, I thought, “What the fuck am I going to do in Porto now?”
So starting from scratch, I looked up the most beautiful churches and the most delicious restaurants. I bookmarked a couple of wineries. And all I could think about was how much more fun it would be if she was going to do the tastings with me, getting as silly drunk as we did when we went to Napa Valley together.
Because you’re also bummed
“Ugh. I’m not going to be able to share a plate of meat and cheese. And a wine tasting all by myself? How depressing.”
And this is probably the number one reason people don’t like to travel alone. Because there’s a perception that there are things you can’t enjoy alone. That a winery tour or a nice dinner would be wasted on a solo traveler.
You consider cancelling
After you let all these stupid thoughts wash over you for an hour, you consider scrapping the trip altogether. “I could use some rest anyway. I’ll save money by not going. I can always go another time.”
Excuses. They’re always excuses that you use to justify a stupid decision. So you go on the trip. Because you would never actually cancel anyway. And worrying about cancelling is just a waste of time.
Start by planning
Let your mouth water looking pictures of all the places that you want to eat. Make a list of sights you want to see and relish the fact that you don’t have to coordinate with anyone or compromise to see them all. Turn your unexpected trip alone into a last minute solo trip, custom-made especially for your interests and tastes. Treat yourself!
Get excited and go
You’ve been working your ass off and you deserve a vacation. And nothing is going to stop you from enjoying it. Go to the beach. Walk as little or as much as you want. Try every wine in town. Sprawl out in the room you would have otherwise shared. Send pictures to your friend every day. Tag them, “Wish you were here.”