I like to travel by myself, and this does not mean I’m sad or reckless or trying to be Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love. (I am sad and reckless but for reasons unrelated to travel.)
Since I was 17, I’ve saved money and schemed up grand travel adventures for myself. I’ve worked my way across Italy, teaching English to small children and eating pizza three times a day. I’ve fed baguettes to goats and planted potatoes on a farm in Southern France. I’ve lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the Adriatic Sea in a a Croatian town that smelled predominantly of sauerkraut.
Here’s the thing: I enjoy my own company, even more so abroad; I’m perpetually in pursuit of the feeling of wonder that strikes you when you’re walking alone down a foreign street, following an intoxicating smell of something roasting, memorizing the architecture so you can return to it when you’re back home, sitting at work or lying in bed.
While I enjoy traveling with friends and family, I much prefer planning adventures alone, as it leaves me fully open to absorb the local scenery, practice my language and meet people I would have never have met if I were clinging to a friend I’d brought along with me.
In short: Here are a few things I’m sick of hearing when I tell people I travel alone.
1. Wait … so you’re going there, like, alone alone?
Why is this so scandalous? I am an adult woman. I speak three languages. I’m a fast runner and an even faster kicker. I may have cereal in my bra as I type this, but I can take care of myself.
2. But you know people there, right?
Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to meet up with friends in foreign countries, as I often do in Italy, where I used to live. But that’s just a fun bonus – it is not the reason why I feel safe or comfortable traveling to a certain place.
3. Do you speak the language?
People travel to places where they don’t speak the language all the time. I happen to speak French and Italian, but more significantly, I am a crafty woman who can get around just fine with a guide book, an iPhone and some Diet Coke.
4. Wait, just to clarify – you’re not even going with a friend or boyfriend?
I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it.
5. You’re so brave!
I am a lot of things – resourceful, hungry, slow-at-walking, friendly, perceptive, hard-to-sunburn. But “brave” is beside the point here, and certainly not a pre-req to have the confidence to travel alone.
6. You’re totally Eat, Pray, Loving!
Of course I’m always open to the possibility of hooking up with James Franco. But I am not a divorcé, nor am I traveling in response to a trying life event. I’m traveling alone because I love to.
7. Be safe. It’s dangerous out there.
Thanks for the advice! I’ll make sure to put my wallet in my purse now, as opposed to having it dangle off of my rhinestone belt chain. That advice also empowers me to avoid getting into strange cars with strange men, as is my impulse!
8. Who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love!
THAT. IS. NOT. WHAT. THIS. IS. ABOUT. THIS. IS. NOT. WHY. I. TRAVEL.