Travelling alone

White canyon near Sipapu Bridge. Natural Bridges National Monument, 05/1972.
Source: US National Archives, from Flickr Commons

I travelled on my own quite a lot in my 20s. I left home with a one way air ticket to the US and en route spent 3 months touring round Europe with a Eurail pass like every good student did then. I had a great time, staying in youth hostels and travelling for a day or a week at a time with someone I met in a hostel.

I loved the sense of independence it gave me, and the freedom to go where I wanted and see what I wanted. It wasn’t a lonely experience at all because wherever I went there were people to share the journey with.

When I was living in the US, I still travelled alone. I didn’t have much choice. If I wanted to go somewhere I went on my own. A lot of my travels were job related, attending conferences etc (it was Birmingham, Alabama where I first learned how to eat a meal in a restaurant on my own and feel fine about it).

I enjoyed skiing, and I booked myself week-long ski holidays at resorts in Colorado, most memorably in Durango. Skiing at Purgatory, with almost the entire mountain to myself and perfect sunny days with dry snow, was absolute joy – if that’s purgatory, sign me up.

More recently, I’ve been taking a few weekend road trips, just booking a hotel somewhere and driving there, seeing the sights, staying over, and coming home. I’m thinking about a late-winter break in the form of a week away in the islands or Australia’s Sunshine Coast.

This doesn’t require particular courage. I think the thought of travelling alone is daunting for a lot of people, but it needn’t be traumatic. (It is supposed to be fun, don’t forget). Sightseeing tours and the like are perfectly easy to participate in as a solo adventurer. Museums, sights, shopping etc are all easy solo activities. Perhaps the most challenging one is eating, but my solution to this has always been to make lunch the main meal, and buy something to eat in my room or poolside or wherever for dinner. Lunch is easier to eat on your own because cafes seem suited to solo eating; and lunch is much cheaper than dinner (even in a swanky restaurant — if you want to try out a prestige restaurant, lunch is a great option), so it’s a win on both counts. Eating a lighter snack for dinner is a nice change of pace. Stopping off in a pub or bar for a drink before dinner is perfectly acceptable too.

The one thing that stings as a solo traveller is the room surcharge. Most travel packages and room rates are quoted per person, and when you’re travelling alone the full room rate falls to you. There’s not much you can do about this other than budget for it and suck it up as the price you have to pay for some peace and quiet.