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On Traveling Solo

Why you should travel solo (even if you're in a relationship)

Let me preface this by saying, I realize I may be the last person you’d expect to talk about traveling solo. I have been in a serious relationship since I was 19. Most of my adult life and definitely the last three years of marriage, I’ve been lucky enough to have a travel buddy. Whether it’s a long distance road trip, a weekend jaunt to Bermuda or a European adventure, both T-man and I love to travel. And so, whether by choice, by design or simply by circumstance, I hardly ever travel solo.

But every once in a while, I get an opportunity to do so. It usually comes in the form of a work trip where I have to travel to a new place on my own. Most recently, you guys probably saw that I was in Switzerland, just outside Geneva for a week. Although I’m often with colleagues, the process of traveling internationally and at least a little exploring I typically do on my own. Last year, I tacked an extra day onto an international trip for work. I flew into Munich and explored for a day by myself ahead of some meetings in Austria. I’ve also been to Toronto and Austin in the past year for events that require me to be on my own for at least a portion of the trip.

While I can’t say I’ve ever planned a full trip just for me, which many “Things to do Before X Age” lists say you should, I still think I benefit and learn a ton anytime I experience a portion of my trip alone. So I thought I’d share a few thoughts on these types of trips in case you’re considering it — and maybe to help inspire me to keep it up!

Why you should travel solo (even if you're in a relationship)

 

Be Brave.

I tend to think of myself as pretty confident and strong. But what I’ve realized is that it’s easy for me to feel that way within the comfort of my normal routine. Without fail, I turn into a ball of stress and anxiety before any trip where I’ll be doing some portion of it alone.

It’s not exactly that I doubt myself or my ability to navigate potentially tricky situations like foreign languages, different cultures and meeting new people. It’s really just the feeling of the unknown. When you have a travel buddy to rely on, you at least know you’ll have that support system and won’t make every decision on your own. But being alone challenges me enough that I always come away feeling proud and happy that I did it. Somehow it feels like a great achievement.

So be brave. It may be uncomfortable, awkward or nerve-wracking. It may not actually get easier {although I’m guessing it will}. Travel alone will help remind you that you CAN do it. Not in the Nike sense of the word but in a deeply meaningful way that boosts confidence and gives you strength.

Avoid Complacency.

It’s easy to fall into specific roles within a relationship. This is probably true whether you’re traveling with friends, family or a significant other. Our brains are hardwired to simplify decision making. Assigning–and then defaulting–to handling specific tasks during a trip make things easier and reduces stress. For example, I always make the packing list and pick our travel activities. T-man books hotels and maps out travel times & logistics. I’m also never in charge of checking us into our flight.

Even though this is great when we’re together, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and never take on a new challenge. This is especially true in a long-term relationship. I’m not saying you can’t benefit and even enjoy this role assignment for most trips. But a solo trip where you handle it all shakes things up. It forces you out of routine. And it may even show you a new way to do things that’ll make future trips even better.

We all need to occasionally try something new, am I right?

Explore. Explore. Explore. 

When given the chance to travel for work, I’m not always thrilled about the idea of extending my time away from home. I love being home and I love routine. Early in my career, though, a mentor told me to always make the most of work trips. To tack on even a brief adventure whenever possible. Hey, if your company is footing the biggest expense, the flights {and it’s allowed}, why not make the most of being wherever you are, even if it wouldn’t be your first choice for a trip or vacation?

It’s always easier to order room service at your hotel instead of going out to eat alone. Or to just head home immediately after your work meetings are done instead of staying one extra night. And sometimes you’ll have to. But being open to exploration has consistently benefitted me in the end. I’ve made connections. Learned something new. Been curious. And at the very least, gained a new life story to share with the world.

So that’s it. It was cathartic in a way to remind myself why I try to travel solo even just occasionally. I hope it’s a reminder that it’s worth it, even if daunting, stressful and okay… just a little bit scary. It’s also incredibly rewarding. I’ll leave you with this quote that maybe sums up in 20 words what I’ve been trying to say all along:

“As you travel solo, being totally responsible for yourself, it’s inevitable that you will discover just how capable you are.”

Why you should travel solo (even if you're in a relationship)

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