I first began traveling solo before I retired. Because of the kind of work I did, I was required to travel to distant cities and some very remote places for training, meetings and special assignments. Usually this meant I was traveling alone. It presented some challenges at first, but in the process I learned a lot of new skills, gained a lot of confidence, realized how resourceful I can be when needed and in the end, actually became quite competent at “going solo.”
The first time I tried “going solo” on an actual vacation (not required for work) it wasn’t planned to be a solo trip at all. I had been saving up money and vacation days in order that my daughter and I could go to Hawaii for 10 days – my treat. However, as the day approached when we were scheduled to depart, my daughter was unable to go with me as planned. My first reaction naturally was to cancel entirely and re-schedule for another time. Much to my surprise, my daughter told me I should go anyway; she knew how much I was looking forward to it and besides she couldn’t imagine when she would be able to join me in the near future.
“But what would I do by myself?” I resisted.
“Whatever we would have done together, that’s what,” she replied, “since when do you NOT know what to do? You travel by yourself all the time for work and have a great time doing it, imagine what a super time you could have doing what you want instead of doing what was required of you?“
Armed with her encouragement to do so and the desire to “stretch” myself out the “box” I had confined myself in, I began playing a game with myself that I often played with my children – the “What If” game.
I didn’t have the answers readily available so I asked myself, “If you DID know what the answer was, what would it be?” It was just the question I needed to ask myself. Like usual, when asked, I came up with the answers that could free up my imagination to discover the answers I already possessed but was resistant to, and then was able to explore the possibilities I hadn’t allowed myself to consider.
When all was said and done I did go to Hawaii by myself and it turned out to be the ultimate travel experience of a lifetime. Because I saved up enough money for two, I had plenty to last me for not just 10 days but twice as long! I went to Maui for 10 days and then hopped on over to the big island – Hawaii – for another 10 days! I loved the time I had alone doing exactly what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it and the ability to change my mind in a moments’ notice without affecting anyone else in the process. During that vacation I also realized that I am not so much a “tourist” per se, but rather a “traveler” and that there is a big difference between the two.
I discovered for instance that “travelers” take more risks, gain pleasure in overcoming difficulties and discomforts and also, are open to and seek out other people along the path of exploration. I thought that I was in the minority, traveling alone, but soon learned that almost half of adult Americans are single, divorced or widowed and that solo travelers represent about 21% of all travelers. There are over 15.9 million in the US alone! Wow! I really am not alone in this adventure!
Since that first trip of “going solo,” I have travelled many other times and visited many other places. Sometimes alone; sometimes with others. Both are good and have their merits, but I find I actually prefer the solo adventures.
The solo adventures are indeed very special trips and stand out as my favorites. They offer unique opportunities to better understand who I am, appreciate my own impressions and opinions and build my self-esteem tremendously. I love the freedom they offer and the independent spirit I get to enjoy. I get to explore my own fantasies and pleasures of discoveries, both of self and new found, serendipitous locations around each corner. I get to go at my own pace, stopping when I want, forging ahead when I have a driving desire, and that I do not have to cater to others needs and desires all the while which can be in conflict with my own.
Going solo doesn’t necessarily mean going alone however. If you are new to solo traveling, and would like to try it for yourself but you lack the necessary confidence, you might consider other options available to you. For instance, as a solo traveler one can also go on group tours as a solo person traveling without a partner. My biggest obstacle is finding a friend or relative that has both the time and the money to travel with me when I want and am able to. Usually those two criteria don’t coincide very often. Rather than not traveling at all because I don’t have anyone that can join me, I do have the option to join a specialized tour group. I prefer small and intimate tours, and have found many wonderful resources online for just that purpose.
For instance, there is one particular site I have discovered, “Women Traveling Together” (www.women-traveling.com) that offers some very unique and interesting travel opportunities specifically for small groups of women of all ages. They apparently do more than just travel; they are spontaneous, embrace the unexpected and make new friends in the process. Just my kind of travelers!
Another example which has piqued my interest is a “Bike and Barge” trip. The following websites are wonderful opportunities to see the beautiful Dutch blossoms in bloom in a unique and very enjoyable way on a bicycle during the day and sleeping on a boat on one of the many canals in the Netherlands. They also offer bike and barge tours in other locations as well!
There are so many possibilities out there just waiting for you to consider. Use your instinct and follow your dreams. Maybe you are like me; someone who enjoys their own company, and often relishes solitude, lingering where you desire and moving on when you’re ready.
Maybe you are ready for a change or are willing to try something new. Maybe you aren’t sure you would want to try “going solo” but are tired of not having anyone to travel with, or, the people who you can travel with don’t want to see and experience the same things you want to. Consider a specialized group tour that caters to your dreams and goes places and experiences the things you want to visit and experience.
The point is, if you want to travel, then start dreaming. In today’s’ world there is no reason you can’t. There are so many opportunities and ways of accomplishing it. You just have to be willing to dream and play the “What IF” game.
“What if I did travel, where would I like to go?”
“What if I did travel alone, what would I do and what do I want to visit and experience?”
Stretch your imagination, believe in yourself and go after your dreams! If you do, you will be rewarded in so many unpredictable ways!