Save some money, build your confidence, and enjoy all the onions and escargots you desire
You need a vacation. Of course you do. Problem is, everyone you know is either too married or too pregnant or too underemployed or too overemployed to come with you. And it’s just as well, because it’s time to go on your dream vacation—alone.
I know—it sounds scary. Will you get lonely? Will you get kidnapped? The risks are great, but so are the rewards. More than likely, you’ll come home with great stories for your next dinner party, and the phone numbers of so many new Colombian friends. Here are a few more reasons why your first solo trip will most certainly not be your last.
If you travel with other people, you have to eat with other people. Sometimes they will be only annoyingly finicky. Sometimes, they will be vegans. Which means walking miles past delicious local restaurants because there aren’t any food options for your buddy. Also eating hours after you started being hungry because you can’t find a place in Bolivia with decent tempeh. Or, maybe, eating food containing the bodily fluids of some angry Parisian waiter, even though your friend totally said “s’il vous plait” every time she sent back the fish. I once traveled to Byron Bay, Australia, with a vegetarian who was allergic to onions. That left us the Hare Krishna restaurant, since apparently Hare Krishnas don’t cook with onions since they “root the consciousness in the body” — i.e. taste good. I went to this restaurant twice a day for a week to get my friend food that was so bland it did not alert her body to the fact that it was being fed.
This does not happen when you travel alone.
2. THE WORD “NO”
People sometimes say “no.” Sometimes, people are funny, and say “no” to the darndest things that you will wish they had said “no” to before you chose to tether yourself to them for seven days and six nights. You will often only discover someone’s irrational yet paralyzing phobia of, say, rivers, once you’re already on your dream vacation together through the Amazon.
You will also hear “no” much less from the locals if you travel alone. “Yes,” they do have space for one… for dinner, for the boat ride, for the day tour. “Si,” you can squeeze into their car for a ride to their cousin’s beach bonfire. There’s just one of you, after all. You absolutely can fit on that cousin’s lap.
3. AWKWARD SILENCES
You will run out of things to talk about when you spend twenty-four hours a day with someone, and that can make for some loooooong meals. The secret of traveling alone is that you are not usually alone for long. Especially when you are a woman, your fellow travelers and the locals alike will take pity and invite you to join them, if only out of fear that you are about to get kidnapped if they don’t. Use that. If you fear dining alone — one of those annoying phobia people would say you suffer from “solomangarephobia” — book a day tour where you will be introduced to strangers who will definitely be up to share a drink or meal with a new buddy that evening. Because guess what? They have nothing left to say to each other.
If you are a single solo traveler and want to meet other single solo travelers, you can’t travel high-end. The fancy hotels and boats and tours will be filled with rich couples and families. So, you will rough it and save oodles on accommodations. Not to worry: most hostels have private rooms and bathrooms in addition to common (and even cheaper) bunk rooms. Because traveling solo doesn’t mean you’re still twenty-one, after all. (If you are twenty-one, have a great time. Being twenty-one is also great.)
You will come home filled with it. You will walk into a first Internet date at Starbucks differently. You will go to your eight hundredth friend’s baby shower differently. You will stroll into any job interview or meeting-of-your-new-love’s-parents and know you can handle it. Because you’re the kind of person who sometimes just jumps on a plane alone. That’s who you are now. You’ve come home from your vacation a little bit changed, which is the mark of a truly great trip. And you’ll probably do it again next year.