"To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world." — Freya Stark
I agree with Stark; there is something delicious about journeying alone, because travel broadens both the brain and heart. Of course, most of us travel in the same way we live: family style. This can be fun or totally exhausting, and while there is certainly much joy in having travel companions, but going it alone is a completely different emotional and spiritual surrender—in a very good way.
In fact, traveling alone can be something like a religious experience. The first time I did was on a train, many years ago. That memory has stuck with me ever since; I felt like I was having something of an out-of-body experience. I was headed back home, and while it felt something like a nomad's journey, it wasn't actually traveling alone — as in visiting a strange place.
That happened much later. My divorce was in progress and I took a trip to Vancouver. Alone. It was the first time I went somewhere knowing no one, and followed the travel script all by myself: hotel and touring.
It wasn't until I took a walk down to the water for a solo dinner and sunset and discovered the magic of going it alone: no one but myself to please, and that sensation is not one to take lightly — especially for women. It was pure luxury to focus on the taste of my meal, enjoying every bite, watching the sun turn every shade of orange as I sipped my wine. That trip was a balm to my bruised heart and soul, and it awoke a new sense of adventure within me. I got the sense I could keep on traveling, writing, reflecting and experiencing incredible edible beauty, to be both observer and participant is a heady mix, not diluted by another's opinion or sore feet.
I stayed in a a good hotel within walking distance of everything. And I walked for miles, in rain and sun. I snapped photos and enjoyed the indulgence of being in the moment, with no one to tell me to "hurry up!" or "say cheese!" I even contacted a friend I had met on Facebook who lived in the city, which would not have happened if I was traveling with family. We ate oysters wth dry white wine, talking nonstop. I do like to indulge my taste for luxury at least once on every trip, and Catharine still remembers our walk back to my hotel in the rain, me barefoot in the cold water. Being solo gave me permission to follow my own desires.
Since that first experience I have enjoyed many more solo adventures. It feels familiar and welcome to be my own companion as I push the limits about who I am and what I want. I relish my time in other ports, not only because I am enchanted by travel, but also because being alone adds a layer of flavor that traveling "together" can never allow.
Alone, you are free to experience what happens around you without distraction. When you travel with a crew, there is a sense of familiarity and connection that creates an "us and them" mentality. We are often on our best behavior with our companions, which means we fail to truly be ourselves. If your companion is judging the food, the art or even the manners of the space you are in, it is easy to get drawn in and become a downer yourself; it's much harder to allow the experience to unfold. We humans tend toward "easy", and women are notorious people pleasers. Having a grand adventure while on the verge of making sure everyone is having else is happy can wreak havoc on your holiday.
Here are 5 delicious ways to dive into your solo journey:
1. Stay in a place that suits your needs. Even on a budget, stay at the best hotel you can afford. A bar on site or closeby, and restaurants you are comfortable visiting will make it easier to enjoy some nightlife without feeling disconnected.
2. Ask for a room that suits your needs. For me that means a room that is away from the elevator, high up and with a view or natural light. If I can get a room with a bath, so much the better. Sometimes I pay extra to have breakfast included. Traveling alone does bring out your voice, so speak up if you're unhappy with your digs.
3. Plan to splurge on at least one adventure. A little luxury never hurt anyone. Sometimes I got to a fabulous restaurant and enjoy a luscious meal. A cream tea and a glass of bubbly. A live show that stirs my interest. I let the day and the city inspire me.
4. Be spontaneous. Allow for contrasts and contradictions! Sometimes when I am dining alone I see men looking at me, speculating, and women giving me that half-pitying, half-envious look, wistful to be free as me. But lots of people are helpful when you alone, so don't be afraid to reach out.
5. Plan and map out your days so you don't spend too much time wondering where you should go. However, do be open to "going with the flow". If you visit a museum and feel like sitting at a café all afternoon, indulge yourself. There is no hard and fast rule that demands you cover every inch of a city's tourist traps. Flexibility and a willingness to embrace who you are in a new space can do wonders for your confidence. Joy happens when you truly find your feet in going it alone.
If you want some guidance in finding your inner traveler head over to claim your free copy of How to Say No Without Being Pushy or a Pushover from my website JenDuchene.com. I counsel lost women to find their path to freedom with lots of hand holding and practical tips to break those bonds.
1. Choosing ourselves, even if it means upsetting others and not being popular anymore. Even if it means we leave a party before anyone else because we feel tired, overwhelmed, or just plain feel done with the crowd.
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