I love to travel and I mostly do it by myself. Why should I hold back just because I don’t always have someone to travel with? Today I stopped by the salon to get a pre-trip eyebrow wax and my longtime stylist (yes, I have a longtime stylist. I like to clean myself up every now and then, I’m not ashamed) said that she thought I was crazy for going to Central America by myself (again). To me it’s kind of normal; I took even my very first trip overseas by myself, way back in the day. My trips on my own vastly outnumber my trips con companion, so I was taken aback by my stylist’s shock. So I got to thinking about all the reasons that traveling by yourself can be – and is – awesome.
1. There’s no need for a pre-trip diet or workout regimen. If you don’t have anyone taking pictures of you, who cares what you look like in that bikini?
2. There is no one to witness your stupid mistakes. The goofs I made during my first trip abroad were legion. But there was no one to laugh at me so what does it matter? They make great stories now and I just don’t tell the really embarrassing parts.
3. You can do whatever the hell you want every single day. There’s no compromising on the day’s activities, no debate about how to spend your time, no one sleeping too late or setting the alarm too early. It’s all you, baby.
4. You can still claim to speak the language. Notice how “no witnesses” is the theme here? You can loftily tell your friends about how easy it is for you to travel since you’re such a language maven, because they’re not there to watch you stumble and stutter your way through a simple request for directions.
5. You make new friends – because you have to. When you travel with a companion, you’re usually focused on that companion. When you’re alone, you have to reach out to the people that you meet or your trip will be pretty lonely.
6. Vacation hookups. OK, so I’ve never done this in my life, not even once, except kind of this one time when I was 12 and my mom took me to this Dirty Dancing-esque retreat in the Catskills (note: not as glamorous as it looks on that movie) and there was this other pre-teen that I thought was cute, so we chased Daddy Longlegs spiders together (not an early bloomer, me). No, I’ve never found my Johnny Castle while on vacay. But the possibility is there. If you’re by yourself, and you do run into a group of hot NOLS students or want to pick up that sexy hitchhiker, there is no one around to besmirch your reputation.
7. Your comfort zone is all that matters. If it turns out that Nicaraguan trade routes are a little too full-on, you can sprawl on the beach for two weeks drinking caipirinias and all anyone will gather from your trip report is “I went to Nicaragua and you didn’t.”
8. One change of clothes is plenty. Who’s gonna know?
9. You can let your bad attitude flag fly. Once I was in the Yucatan after a solo jungle trek, being put up at a five star resort, with all my needs attended to. But I was just not having fun. At all. So, I picked up the phone, called the airline, changed my flight, paid the fee, caught a taxi, and was on a plane home 90 minutes later. I never regretted it. If someone was with me, chances are they would have complained about leaving behind an all inclusive extravaganza in favor of the deep dark of an Alaskan winter.
10. You’ll always, always end up the better for it. Even the worst solo trips produce great life lessons and memories that will last for years. Sure, I felt stupid skinny dipping in the Italian cliffside pool that turned out to have a full bank of underwater windows to entertain the bar patrons, but it was a learning experience that will never leave me. I held my head high walking through that establishment to go back to my room, and you know what? I’ll never forget that hotel, or the people I met that night who proved to be lifelong friends and who, though to this day still laugh about my full-monty gaffe, shared some of my most-cherished, and most-told travel stories ever.