Before I turned 30, I’d never taken a single trip alone. I always traveled in a pack or with a companion, and never truly considered an alternative option. The only issue with this was that any vacation planned needed to be agreed upon by someone else (or several individuals), which can get tricky as you get older and feel a bit more settled in your interests. It wasn’t until I hit my 30s that I finally made the decision to give traveling alone a whirl ... and I never looked back.
Yes, on my 30th birthday, I booked a solo trip through Scotland and Ireland with travel tour company Contiki. Despite the fact that the trip was technically with others, it felt like an experience that was only mine — and it made me want more. Since then, I've taken every opportunity for a solo getaway, from the brief to extensive.
Most recently, I visited England all by myself (sans tour group) and spent 10 days exploring the country on my terms. For a week and a half, I felt like I was dating myself — I wined and dined myself, took myself on day adventures, and had some much needed quality time with me. And I was smitten. To be honest, I thought I'd have moments in which I wished I had a companion with me to share meals and enjoy the sites with. I expected to have the occasional bout of loneliness, but the feeling never arose. In fact, all I felt the entire trip was gratitude. I was very aware of my singleness and, more importantly, I was grateful for it.
Now, to be clear, solo travel while you're in a relationship and vacations with a significant other are also incredibly important and rewarding in their own rites. However, for me, exploring new places on my own with my own agenda and interests in mind are crucial components to my single experience. Wondering what the fuss is all about? Ahead, a few of my musings on why solo travel is one of the best parts of being single in your 30s.
Now this may seem like a silly example, as many individuals are perfectly accustomed to eating a meal alone. Shamefully, I never was truly comfortable with the concept until recently. I always relied on companions or several to keep me company when dining out. My own insecurity kept me from being comfortable enough to sit down at a restaurant all by myself sans the security of a book or a phone.
Considering one of the best parts of travel is the exotic meals to be had, I realize I've missed out on one life's greatest joys in enjoying them alone. You don't need to fuss about sharing plates and ordering dishes that please everyone at the table. You can linger as long as you want as you savor dessert and that second glass of wine. Pure bliss.
I’m On My Own Agenda
I don't consider myself a type-A individual with a knack for planning and creating itineraries. To be honest, I don't enjoy either. And while I appreciate my friends and loved ones who are of the inclination to plan every second of a vacation, I actually prefer not being on a timeline of any sort and just "winging it" so to speak.
For me, vacations and trips allow me to escape the mundane aspects of life and to truly unwind. That means waking up when I feel like it, visiting the sites that strike my fancy, and planning my meals around my own hunger. To be clear, I'll typically do a little research prior to a vacation and prioritize a few things I definitely want to see or experience. For instance, on my visit to the UK, I wanted to be sure to indulge in my love for all things royal and see both Buckingham and Kensington Palace while I was in London. I booked tours of both (and high tea at the latter!) on separate days and left the rest of each day open so I could have some flexibility around both events.
I’m Completely Self-Reliant
Anyone who's visited a foreign country knows that there are a few necessary evils you may need to deal with including possibly getting lost, learning the region's public transportation system, and overcoming language barriers. Granted, said factors can be less intimidating when you're traveling in a pack or with a companion. This is probably why traveling solo can a bit of a daunting idea for some — including me.
I recall making a panicked phone call to my sister right before my first solo international flight to Scotland a few years ago. I was in tears at the thought of things going awry during the two-week trip and not having anyone familiar near me to help navigate any issues. She patiently talked me through my worries and lovingly kept close tabs on me throughout my vacation to make sure I was comfortable and at ease, even though I had about 30 travelers with me.
After getting through the hump of that first solo trip, I was all if not mostly cleared of the above anxieties and ready to book more adventures for my part of one. My recent trip to England (in which I was mostly alone for more than a week), would have been the ideal setting for an emotional flare-up, but I was pleasantly surprised at how calm I kept — and how self-sufficient I was. I quickly learned to navigate the tube and train systems, and maintained my logic and reserve on the occasion that I got lost (which definitely happened once or twice).
While this may seem like silly or trivial, I feel like this week and a half of total self-reliance did wonders for my self-esteem. It's an incredible thing to know and truly trust yourself and your own instincts, which was something I had struggled with in the past. And I didn't even need to call my sister.