I have never traveled alone. Sure I’ve studied abroad and gone to a work conference but I always knew people who were going and they weren’t for fun. There were planned classes/workshops that took the thought out of what to do and going to class or training alone isn’t so hard.
But taking the time to actually travel for pleasure on your own can be a bit daunting. I have two images in my mind, one of a woman getting kidnapped like in Taken. The other is of Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie in Sex and the City during the series finale (An American Girl in Paris Part Deux). She roams around Paris alone (her boyfriend busy with work), eats alone (eats a lot), sits alone, looks longingly at groups of gal pals together, steps in some crap. It’s a pretty sad scene coupled with some sad french music. Needless to say, I did not want to travel alone.
But something compelled me to try it out. Would it be liberating. Would it get me out of my comfort zone and force me to be more in tune with the world and others?
So I got in my car and did a two hour plus drive to Philadelphia from the D.C. area. Okay not a big trip, but girl needs baby steps. So here are some things I learned:
- You take a lot of selfies or pictures of landmarks/scenery. I wanted to take some pictures with the scenes behind me but I don’t trust strangers to not take off with my camera phone to snap a photo of me so well…
- Eating alone makes you very conscious of what you eat. I grabbed a bite to eat and sat at the bar, alone, my phone had died and I forgot to bring a book. So I ate with just me and my thoughts. It made me pay attention to the food and I ate slower and ate less. Which is good. I think I will try to do that more often. Eat at a table instead of in front of a TV or while working which distracts me from the act of eating.One thing to note, i also ate out a lot. I wanted more down time and eating out was it so although I ate less at each outing, I did go on more outings.
- You can do what you want. You don’t have to discuss it. Just do it. Want to get up and go workout, just go? Want to veer off the plans? Why not?
- Nighttime can be lonely. I wouldn’t want to go out at night alone. For safety reasons mainly. I have a history of attracting wierdos in the daytime, no need to go off alone in a place I am not familiar with at night. So you can end up in your hotel on a Saturday listening to others go out and have a good time. (Lucky for me I had a friend there and I met up with her so I did go out).
- Try not to look like a traveler which draws undesired attention to you. I pride myself on blending in and feel a sense of accomplishment when I get approached by tourist asking me for directions (which I cannot help them with). My secret? Use your phone’s map instead of a big paper map and if you can’t use the wifi/data, snap a photo of the map and look at the picture of the map on your phone.
- You notice your surroundings a lot more. I am aware of what’s behind me and I talk to strangers more because, well, who else I’m going to talk to?
- Get lost. Seriously. Getting lost helps you learn a city. I mean don’t walk down a scary alley way but turning a wrong way and getting back to the right way can really help you learn your way around a place.
- You read more. If you have down time, you get more time to read. If I was with someone, we’d probably just chat and being alone forces you to pick up a book.
Well those are the thing I learned on my own. I had a good time and I lucked out with no traffic. I’d do it again. Not ready for international travel alone but this was pretty enlightening.