I love to travel solo, and I’m done apologizing for it. I started traveling solo about four years ago, and I don’t intend to stop anytime soon in my time as a singleton. As a matter of fact, I think everyone should take a solo vacation at least once in their lifetime.
I moved to Nashville in 2008, knowing no one but my fiance’ at the time. When we broke our engagement two years later, I found myself alone in a new city, with no family or friends near by. I had a decision to make: wait on my life to change or change my life. I could no longer sit around and let me life pass me by because I was going it alone. Once I got past the initial frustration of trying to rebuild my life, the world just seemed to open up for me. I took to the adventure like a fish in water. I began to discover my city, as if I was an explorer on an expedition, and it suited my style and personality so perfectly. After I had seen most of what Nashville had to offer, it was time for the next frontier: the solo vacation.
I have so many memories of vacations and school trips that are tainted by one common element: other people! LOL! I know that sounds terrible, but hear me out. Don’t get me wrong; I love my friends. However, as a person that charges their batteries best during their alone time, when I travel with others, I often find I return not feeling very rested at all. I go on vacation to indulge on all the things that time and budget constraints deprive me of at home. Between coordinating the travel plans, sharing spaces, and taking fifty-leven years to decide where to eat, ain’t nobody got time for that! Besides, why would I spend what little leisure time I have stressed out and unfulfilled?
So, I decided to take the bull by the horns and travel on my own terms. That first trip made me feel so much stronger and liberated.
Pros and Cons of Solo Travel
Let’s be real, traveling solo does have a few cons:
- You don’t get the benefit of group purchasing power. There’s no one to split the bill with, leverage a group discount, or shield you from the single surcharge.
- Company. There may be moments you wish you could have shared with someone else. You might get lonely. Or bored. If you can’t enjoy your own company for extended periods of time, solo travel isn’t for you.
- Safety in numbers. It is nice to have someone watching your back in a strange place.
But the pros are pretty stinkin’ awesome:
- It’s all on you!! You can do what ever you want, when you want, where you want. You can have whateeever you like.
- Easier planning. An African proverb says “If you want to go fast, go by yourself. If you want to go far go together.” Be that as it may, sometimes you just want to go fast. LOL. When planning for a group, you have to make reasonable consideration for other people’s schedules and budget constraints. I’ve seen whole trips fall through because of one person. It would totally give me the sads to cancel a trip that took umpteen billion months to plan.
- More elbow room. No sharing a bed with anyone. No jockeying for the radio. Forget waiting for a table for a party of 10 at that restaurant you’ve been itching to try. It’s your world. ALL OF IT.
- More freedom to be spontaneous. Change your plans if you want to. Decide on a whim to stop by that neat little shop you passed by. Have a long conversation with the lady at the front desk. You really get to stop and smell the roses when you don’t have anyone tugging at your coattails.
- Peace and quiet – Solo vacations are fabulous for clearing thoughts.
For me, the pros far outweigh the cons.
So far, I’ve taken four solo vacays, and I plan to take two or three this year. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- Be true to yourself. This vacation is about YOU!! The beauty of a solo getaway is that you have the freedom to do just about anything you like, anywhere you like, even if it means doing nothing. Let your own personal taste drive your plans. Also, if you know you aren’t ready to embark on a 3,000-mile excursion, start somewhere closer or with a shorter vacation, and work your way up.
- Plan the important stuff like there’s no tomorrow. Planning the major elements like hotel and transportation and featured activities ahead will decrease your stress level, is friendlier to your wallet, and helps with safety.
- Safety first. The same common sense safety principles you would use at home apply on the road. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Try not to let on to others that you are traveling alone. If you plan to venture outside the vicinity of the hotel, try to do so during the day. Or, in keeping with #2, you can try to stay closer to your nighttime activities. Sketch-level is relative, but if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, trust your gut.
I also apply these when I help plan family trips and holidays.
Let’s see what this looks like in practice!
I visited Louisville, KY for the first time last January. My favorite vacation activities involve museums, music, food, and shopping, so I arranged my vacation around those things.*
Music/Live Entertainment: I happened to choose a weekend where Madonna and the Harlem Globetrotters were playing.
Food: I couldn’t leave without having an authentic legendary Kentucky Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel.
Shopping: Can’t go wrong with the Amazon/Zappos Outlet.
*Hint: I like to buy Groupons, Living Social vouchers, etc. for food and attractions. You can also go to the convention and visitors bureau websites for discounts. Cities with lots of museum or attractions may offer package deals.
Once I decided what I wanted to do, I booked a hotel. I was able to land a great deal at the Gault House downtown. This hotel is smack in the middle of the museum district, and it has several restaurants on the inside, including a revolving restaurant (which I added to the list of must-do’s). It also happens to be connected via pedestrian walkway to the KFC Yum Center, where my shows were happening, and a block or two from the 4th Street Live! entertainment district. This allowed me to access two of the three museums and most of my dining without moving my car (or leaving the building in some cases. If you’re not driving or renting a car, this can greatly reduce the need and cost for ride-sharing services, public transit, etc.
The next step was plotting my schedule. I’m trying to get better about not scheduling my life down to the hour, but even having a rough plan helps. I looked ahead at the hours of operation for the places I wanted to go, and the location in proximity to the hotel. I planned to visit the farthest points of interest on the way into Louisville or out for convenience.
For the sake of safety, I gave my parents general travel details, such as my approximate arrival and departure times, and I did check in with them about once a day.
It turned out to be one of the top ten best vacations I’ve ever been on.
So, what are you waiting for?!!
I’ve had many people try to scare me out traveling alone, or convince me to change my mind about the concept, but I know who I am and what I like. I’ll be doggoned if I let fear dictate my decisions in life, or limit my world, and you shouldn’t either. And that doesn’t just go for traveling ;-).
Do you solo travel? Share your tips in the commnents. If not, what’s stopping you? Let me know below.