Have you ever been to a favorite restaurant and as you went through the menu, you suddenly thought, Hmm, should I order what I always get or should I try something new? Depending on other restaurant experiences and your own comfort with risk-taking, you may have tried something new and discovered that you really enjoyed it. Well, travel is a lot like ordering from a menu. We know what we like.
Those of us here on Thelma and Louise love buddy travel. We love being with our travel buddy and not having to wait in a long line with 38 other people for everything from dinner to getting into a museum. Travel buddies are great for sharing the occasional struggles or laughing at the unbelievable surprise moments. Last, but not least, a good travel buddy makes planning a whole lot easier than if you are planning for a larger group. Once in a while though, I believe it’s fun to try something different: something new from the menu for those times when we feel like spreading our wings or a having a new adventure.
“I had one buddy for lazy beach trips, one for adventurous international discoveries, and one for long road trips.”
For me, that new adventure was solo travel. I had travel buddies that I loved having with me on vacations. I had one buddy for lazy beach trips, one for adventurous international discoveries, and one for long road trips. I got along well with all of them. But I felt like I needed to take my game to the next level. I needed to grow and stretch myself a bit. That’s when I discovered a new “dish on the menu”. I decided to make my next trip a solo journey. Yep, that all by myself kind of solo. I had no idea the amazing fun and rich discoveries that awaited me.
As a single woman, I had traveled all over the world and loved every moment. I loved spending time with my family members or friends, having the kind of fun that only happens when you are traveling. I was very comfortable and content on my journeys with my buddies. The only challenge was, that all too often the people I asked to travel with me would say that they just couldn’t go. They didn’t have the money, or their significant other wouldn’t approve, or the kids had a baseball tournament that weekend. Frankly, I got frustrated with having to plan my vacations around the limitations of others. So, one day, out of desperation, I decided it was time. I was going to go by myself. I had traveled for business but somehow this seemed different.
“So, one day, out of desperation, I decided it was time. I was going to go by myself.”
I figured out that I wanted to go to Croatia. So, with unbridled determination I made my plans. I wanted to proclaim my strength like Helen Reddy singing I am Woman, Hear me Roar! I felt so liberated and determined that it fueled my courage and I couldn’t wait to take off. I was living in Vienna, Austria at the time and had many colleagues who had taken short trips to the beaches of Croatia and loved it. I had four days off at the end of a long, dark, and dreary winter and desperately needed some sunshine. My daydreams were filled with beaches, seafood, waves, sunbathing, and evening music sipping cocktails with paper umbrellas in them. Croatia sounded like my idea of heaven.
The night before my first solo journey came and I suddenly asked myself a very important question. What in the *$A# was I doing? Talk about cold feet, I suddenly did not feel at all confident or liberated. I felt unsure and overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure I could go through with it. By morning I had calmed myself down and realized that a million other women had traveled alone and lived to tell the story and that certainly I could as well. The other factor was that my pride was bigger than my fear. I had bragged about this trip to everyone I knew for weeks. If I backed out now I’d look like a fool. So, with a passport in my pocket, cash and cards in my money belt, and the biggest fake smile on my face I boarded the plane and set off for my vacation.
“There is something about being somewhere new all by yourself that changes you.”
There is something about being somewhere new all by yourself that changes you. It gives you the time to think and do the things that you don’t often voice when you’re with others. It lets you go to bed at 7:30 in the evening or stay up until 3:00 and sleep till noon. You can eat popcorn for breakfast and a gas station hot dog for dinner. If you want to go to the strange little museum down the street or sit for 2 hours and listen to the street musician in the park, no one is going to judge you or argue with you. There is this amazing sense of freedom that comes with making choices that are just for you. No longer are you responsible for everyone else’s happiness or schedule.
While I was on that trip I found that I was doing more of the things that I loved and I was happy being on my own. It was like winning the lottery. I finally had the freedom to do all that I wanted without restriction. I also found that by getting to be on my own and exploring my own preferences now and then, it made me a much better travel buddy for others.
My days in Croatia also made me realize that by traveling alone, I became a better travel buddy for others. I was able to plan trips with others and not worry about getting to do everything. If I ever needed to, I knew I could go back another time and do it on my own. I learned a lot of skills on my own that would help my travel buddy when we took off on our trips together. Most importantly, to me, I realized the tremendous importance of a good buddy to share each day of insights, fears, laughs, and decisions. Thank goodness for options.
Going solo on a vacation for me, has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever given myself. It’s a gift I treasure and one I love to re-gift to others. So here is my gift to you. Go ahead, untie the bow, tear off the wrapping paper and take it out of the box. Give solo travel a try, at least once. I promise that you will see yourself and the world in a whole new, wonderful way.
Jodie Hopkins is the author of Journey for One: A Guide to Gaining the Courage and Skills to Travel Solo. Jodie is also a solo travel consultant, speaker, and trainer. For more information about Jodie, solo travel, or her book go to journeyforonego.org
The book Journey for One is also available on amazon.com worldwide.