The Joy of Solo Travel? Meeting Your Most Intimate Self!
Dear Savvy Traveller: I’m not in a relationship and my friends don’t want to travel as much as I do, but I’m afraid I’ll be bored if I go alone. Convince me. — Lillian Phillips
I’ll certainly try.
I’m impressed and grateful that you didn’t mention fear as a reason not to travel alone. I’m impressed because I believe fear is the primary obstacle for most who avoid solo travel (or travel in general), and grateful because it’s probably going to be easier for me to help you overcome boredom than something as big as fear.
Not that I haven’t tried in the past; in fact, I’ve written an 8-part series for Outpost called Lemonade, which addressed the hypothetical disasters we fear during travel and how I’ve not just encountered most of them, but now consider them some of my best experiences.
If fear does factor into your hesitance here, I encourage you to check out that series. For now, back to boredom.
Have you ever heard the expression, “only boring people get bored?” I don’t believe that’s fully true, but it’s not too far from the truth. In most environments and situations, you have the opportunity to find something enjoyable or valuable to you, especially when you’ve chosen to be where you are.
I can immediately imagine several scenarios where this logic does not hold up—boring class lectures, endless staff meetings, jail—but those are less voluntary situations than the ones I believe this expression addresses, and certainly less voluntary than travel. Because you are the one choosing to travel, and you are likely the person choosing the itinerary, I find it very difficult to believe you will find yourself bored.
And if you do, that is completely on you. But don’t get mad at me for saying so; it’s good news! Choosing to be bored means you also have the power to choose not to be bored. So change your venue, change what you’re wearing, start a conversation with someone new, eat something you haven’t had before, take pictures of the coolest doorknobs you can find, and take a minute to think about what you were hoping to gain by visiting this place.
Then do something to achieve that.
Did you notice I didn’t give you too many specific suggestions of how to alleviate boredom, Lillian? That’s because I don’t believe boredom is your true concern. I think what you’re interpreting as boredom is actually loneliness. You want someone to talk to while you stroll the museums, someone to sit next to on the park bench, someone to share a meal with, or someone to encourage you while you scale a cliff.
I won’t tell you not to seek this kind of companionship in your life—it’s one of the fundamental goals many of us have and search relentlessly for until we find it—but I will tell you that you don’t need it for travel.
It is awesome to share adventures with friends, old or new, and heartwarming to reminisce about them later in life with someone who was there, but having a someone with you is not a prerequisite for getting the most out of an experience, and I contend you’re likely to gain and appreciate more if you’re alone.
Every encounter we have is coloured by the influence of the opinions and actions of those around us, and that’s an exciting and often useful phenomenon.
But think about how meaningful it would be to fully absorb an experience yourself, developing and curating your impressions all on your own so that your takeaway is truly yours. In that moment you will begin to meet yourself more intimately and discover what your most honest hopes, dreams, opinions, fears, and interests are. This will not be boring, lonely, or frightening. This will be amazing.
I’m not sure how easily I can convince you to do something in one short letter, Lillian, but I hope you’re leaning closer toward going than you were before you read this. Because you asked to be convinced, I’m seeing a glimmer of hope here. In my opinion, solo travel is a must at least once in life. In fact, the more you believe you’d never want to travel alone, for whatever reason you throw out there, the more you honestly need it. Please go leave the world behind on an adventure and meet yourself along the way.