“I decided I want to travel by myself and I want to go to Canada!” I told a friend of mine as we filled our drinks before a movie.
“Me too!” she exclaimed.
And that’s how one of my closest friends and I discovered we were both planning trips to Canada and traveling by ourselves.
Solo travel is something I’ve wanted to do for awhile. I often travel by myself to a destination, but I always meet someone there. I wanted to experience what it would be like to arrive and still be alone. It’s something I had been toying around with for awhile and one day last fall I decided that it was time. I don’t have a serious boyfriend, fiance or husband, so I don’t have a built in travel partner. Now’s the time to venture out and take this step to travel on my own.
After I started looking at destinations, I stumbled upon this post on the Pros and Cons of Solo Travel by Chelsea from Truelane and it felt like confirmation that I should go on this trip. I’ve always enjoyed following her adventures on Instagram and Snapchat and have always admired that she travels alone from time to time. After reading that post I read a few more that had popped up on social media.
I was so excited! But as the trip grew closer I became a little nervous. Just as I had suspected, even though I’m comfortable traveling from home to another destination by myself, having someone on the other side made me feel much more secure. I always had someone on the other end who would be able to pick me up from the airport. I always had someone who would be able to tell this directionally-challenged girl how to get where she needed to go each day while traveling. When I’ve traveled and wasn’t meeting someone on the other end, I’ve always traveled with someone, so I wasn’t doing all of this by myself. That, I learned, is also a safety net. Even when my travel buddy was just as directionally-challenged as me, there were two of us to figure out our way.
I discovered that’s what created the most stress for me: not safety or the thought of being in an unknown city by myself. It was the logistics. How was I going to get to my hostel from the airport? How was I going to get around the city?
That’s not to say that safety wasn’t a concern. It always is, but I followed the same rule that I talked about in my post on Tips for Traveling to Colombia: I was vigilant and cautious, just as I am anywhere, even in Minneapolis. Be aware if/when you do let your guard down. Walk with purpose.
Other safety tips:
>> Whenever I felt as though security could be an issue, I got myself out of the situation. That only happened once as I walked down a side street. I just didn’t feel safe there, so I avoided that street in the future.
>> At night if I was traveling a distance I chose to take an Uber over walking.
>> I kept in touch with a with people during my trip, so that if communication suddenly stopped it would catch their attention. Those people were my mom, a friend who I already talk to on Snapchat every day, and my sister.
>> I paid for phone service in Canada ($2/day with my provider to have access to my plan).
What I loved about solo travel:
>> I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. My itinerary was entirely up to me and I was able to switch it up on a whim if I wanted (which I did when I learned that a writer whose books I enjoy was speaking at a writing festival). Also, everything that I did was something I wanted to do and not something I was doing because the person I was with wanted to.
>> I was able to take breaks when I wanted or needed to, without feeling like I was inconveniencing someone else. This was nice, because I was born with clubfoot and even though it’s been corrected I still feel it when I walk excessively. There were a lot of beautiful benches that I could have taken quick breaks on as I walked around the city, but it rained the entire time I was there so the benches weren’t an option. I took frequent breaks to sit at coffee shops or head back to the hostel for a bit when I needed to get off my feet.
>> I was able to do one of my favorite things: walk around a city by myself to get a feel for it and learn my way around. I was able to live in my head a little bit and let the experience inspire me as a creative. Travel is always a source of inspiration for me, but I was able to live with the inspiration as it was coming.
If I were to sum up my experience with solo travel in one word, it would be free. I was free to do what I wanted, when I wanted. I was free to let my mind wander. I was free to explore. It was a trip I should have taken long ago, but it also came at just the right time.
I love traveling with others. I also love visiting people in other cities. But I’ve discovered I also love to travel by myself and I want to make plans to travel in all of these ways in the future.
Have you traveled on your own? What are some of your tips and tricks? If not, is it something you’d be interested in?