Sure, you see a lot of stuff these days all about men and women who quit their day jobs to become travel bloggers, writers, influencers, what have you. Their lives look so incredibly glamorous, filled with infinity pools and jungle safaris, room service laden with exotic fruits and croissants, Instagram stories all about their fun-filled itinerary. And while a lot of their lives are as glamorous as they appear, I feel like, for an average person like myself… traveling by yourself isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Here are a few things I realized shortly after I started my journey as a “solo traveler.”
Last night marked one week since I came to NYC for my month-long visit, and it’s been an eye-opening experience to say the least. One of the most insane things to me is just how alone you can feel in a city filled with 8.5 million people. Endless possibilities for conversation, for connection with another human. Yet everyone chooses to plug their ears and listen to anything other than the people surrounding them. So far, the only place where I’ve held a conversation with a stranger has been at church. The problem is that most of the members are families, which means exploring the city on a whim with a girl they just met doesn’t exactly fit into their lifestyle.
I’m a very extroverted person. It’s not that I don’t have the confidence to say, see a show by myself or eat lunch alone. It’s that one of the best parts of any activity is sharing it with someone else. I want to be able to turn to the person next to me and start a conversation about what we just saw or ate or heard. What we experienced together. I’m not saying you can’t make memories by yourself. But memories, to me, are so much sweeter when shared with another soul.
Pictures are hard.
Is it just me, or does it seem like every single travel blogger has a personal photographer that just follows them from continent to continent?? I have had luck ONE time so far asking a stranger to take my picture. Yesterday’s experience was so terrible that I got up this morning and went straight to B&H to purchase a tripod (I settled on this one, by the way – and I love it!). I just want perfect pictures of me doing fun things, is that too much to ask??
Sometimes the most popular way of doing things isn’t the smartest.
Yes, hotels are a lot of fun. Especially when they’re fancy and have rooftop pools and endless amenities and king sized beds and amazing room service! BUT unless you have a lot more funds than me (and I mean a lot), staying in a nice hotel all of the time is going to significantly decrease the amount of money you get to spend on other things! For example, I’m subletting my friend’s NYC apartment for the month. Yes, it’s a small apartment and yes, it takes me about a half hour to get to Times Square, but WOW is it so worth it! I’m paying for an entire month what I’d pay for four nights at a halfway decent hotel in the city. AND I have a kitchen with a full-size fridge! Helloooooo to saving money on food! While you may not have a friend who happens to be subletting their home everywhere you visit, my point is that the lodging is way less important than the place you’re visiting as a whole. It’s about the experience, not the bed you sleep in at night.
Confidence is key.
Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. Especially for women traveling alone. There are people in this world who are seeking out those who are unsure of themselves or their surroundings. They are willing and ready to take advantage of you, should you give them the opportunity. If you at least appear to know what you’re doing, they’re more likely to think you’re a local, which makes you a less easy target. That’s why it’s so important to plan in advance, knowing exactly where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Which leads me to my next point…
Planning is absolutely necessary.
When I first got here, my mom asked me what I was going to do the next day. And I realized I hadn’t even thought about it! Sure, I had some things that I wanted to do or see during my month here, but they were all very broad ideas. I’m learning that vague plans lead to vague days, where nothing really gets accomplished! And that’s not cool, especially when you don’t have an unlimited amount of time. Now, every night before bed I plan out what I’m doing the next day. Where I’m going, what I want to see, restaurant options, which train I need to take, etc. Since I can’t rely on anyone else for spur-of-the-moment suggestions or ideas, I find it’s much easier to come up with my own ideas the night before. This doesn’t mean I don’t ever do anything spontaneous or alter my day a little to experience something I hadn’t planned on, though! After all, isn’t that what traveling is all about?
The freedom is exhilarating.
Have you ever traveled with someone who guilted or talked you into doing something you didn’t want to do? It’s not a pleasant feeling. But that’s what is so wonderful about traveling by yourself – you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do! Literally every decision is made and signed off on by YOU. No one else’s opinions or feelings matter! Who cares if none of your friends like Greek food? Or if you’re the only musical theatre lover in your whole family? When you only have yourself to worry about, you can make any choice your heart desires, with zero complaining from anyone else. And it. is. awesome.
I’m not entirely sure that the life of a solo traveler is what I want. I truly do enjoy sharing my experiences with others, which is one reason why I love blogging so much! It’s like telling a story to a friend that couldn’t make it this time. But sharing my adventures with a friend as they happen… that’s what I crave the most. But who knows? I may grow to love solo travel more as time goes on! For now, I only hope I could provide a little bit of insight to those who are as curious as I once was. Happy travels!