Over the years, I have travelled with my parents, with boyfriends, with my sister, with my friends, with coworkers, with follow students and with strangers. I have travelled on ferries, busses, planes, trains and cars. I have travelled to budget hostels, 5-star resorts, gites, pensiones, rental apartments, downtown hotels and I’ve even slept under the stars. My first international trip was to Spain when I was 18 months old and since then I’ve taken more flights than I can count. But at age 27 I had never travelled to a non-English speaking country alone.
And while I probably should have been worried about sleeping in a room full of strangers, or what I would do with my bags while I went pee, or how I would handle an emergency, the honest truth is, I was more concerned about whether or not I would be a “good” solo traveller. Would I make friends at the hostel? Would I be afraid to eat at a restaurant alone? Would I push myself outside of my own comfort zone?Would I be lonely?
I got my first taste of solo travel while spending a week on the Amalfi coast. And it tasted like freedom – the freedom to eat when I wanted, go where I wanted, do what I wanted. A week of lounging in the sun, reading on the beach, enjoying delicious food, and swimming in the Mediterranean was exactly what I needed to recover from the stress of the past six months. At the same time, the Amalfi coast is a romantic destination filled with honeymooners and I couldn’t help wishing I had someone with whom to share the special moments.
As I sat alone on at a restaurant listening to a newlywed couple argue over a boat cruise, I realized I would rather be alone than be in a bad relationship. I would rather be alone than be completely dependent on someone else. I would rather be alone than not be there at all. I realized that the best part of being alone is that there’s no one to fight with, no one to compromise for and no one to blame for your hunger, your sunburn or your sore feet. But most importantly, I realized that I was able to make every decision for myself, by myself. When something went wrong, I only had myself to blame but when something went right, I was able to take full credit. I realized I could take care of myself and that was the truly freeing realization.
Being alone isn’t always easy but am thankful for this opportunity to get to know myself without the constraints or the expectations that loved ones impose. I hope to use this time to calm my head, my heart and my emotions. I want to be someone who can travel alone. I want to be someone who can be alone and be happy.
Today I say yes to embracing solitude. Yes to learning to love myself, in my own skin. Yes to relying on my own instincts, to making my own decisions and to knowing that I like the person I am alone with.
Language … has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone. – Paul Tillich