Monday, April 15, 2013

Thoughts on Solo Travel

My recent trip to Budapest and Vienna was the longest trip I've taken on my own. I was just gone for a week, but I really learned a lot about solo travel.

It's amazing to think how nervous I was before leaving! I traveled on my own in Brazil before, so this trip wasn't an entirely new experience. I can't really explain my anxiety. It disappeared as soon as I got going though. Starting is always the hardest part.

I wanted to make a list of pros and cons about traveling alone, and then you can tell me if you agree!

Things I like about solo travel:

1. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want. Want to sleep past noon? Done. Want to get up at 5am to stand in line for some palace? Great! Want to stop for a coffee every other hour? Perfect. It's your decision, as you are your only company.

I had lots of coffee and pastries...

2. You're forced to think more. When traveling with others, sometimes people just go along with what others want to do. No planning required. You just join another group and follow their lead. When alone, however, you have to do all the leg work involved in planning a trip (ie tons): accomodation, transportation, budgeting, things to do/see... you name it. And, since you're the one doing all this work, you learn a lot more about where you're going!

3. You make friends. When most people picture a person traveling alone, they really focus on that second word: ALONE. Honestly, you're alone as much as you want to be. On my trip, I was pretty much on my own during the day as I had a lot of specific museums and things I wanted to check out. At night though, I met a ton of people thanks to a couple of great hostels (check out The Loft and Bubble in Budapest and my MOJOvie in Vienna), so I always had something to do if I felt like being social. When people travel together, normally they're content with the company they already have. There's no real "need" to reach out to others. But, when alone, I found myself talking to anyone who would halfway look at me.

Things I don't like about solo travel:

1. There's no one there to tell you when to stop. So, sure, you can do whatever you want. It's your time and your vacation. No need to compromise with a second party. Because of this, strangely enough, I found myself pushing myself to the limits of what I could do each day. Walking for miles upon miles, seeing tons of museums, just really trying to do as much as possible. And while I did see a ton of things, towards the end of my trip I got really exhausted. I think if I travel longer term in the future I'm going to have to settle into a calmer pace so I don't burn out.

2. Going out can be awkward. So what happens when the sun goes down and you haven't met anybody? I have no idea! One night after going to the opera in Vienna, I really felt like going out to get a drink. Except I had no one to go with. I went up to several neat looking bars, peered in the window, and ended up walking away sheepishly. At least I got a lot of sleep that night.

One of the nights I did go out I was the first to arrive home, quite early, at 4:30am...

3. The transience of it all.  As amazing as it is meeting new people everyday, it's pretty tiring. There are always people coming and going. While the constant flow of people provides great insight into the larger world around you (always good), it's still easy to think, "if I died over here in this dark alleyway, no one within 200 miles would give a damn." Some nights I met 10 new people. I stopped trying to remember names after a point unless I made some personal connection. It's just too hard! So, by the end, I really started to miss genuine friendships and my family. While being a stranger can be liberating, in the end, I'd prefer the company of those who really love me.

4. Having to ask to have your picture taken. It gets old. And I suck at those handheld self-portraits (see below). Believe me I tried.


1 comment:

  1. That was the most insightful post you have ever written, Bravo! I love reading your posts! Ok, so I'm alittle biased, I admit it.