"There were totally moments during my travels that I wished I could have shared with someone, and times when having a second opinion could have saved me from myself (see below) … but, for the most part, I really, really enjoyed 'going it alone', and I would highly recommend it."
When I first arrived in the UK, I spent a month traveling around England on my own. I know that compared with other people, who have much more exciting tales to tell of jet setting through Europe, dedicating four whole weeks to exploring the length and breadth of a single country might seem … well, not particularly adventurous. But some of my favourite memories are from that unescorted escapade.
I just googled synonyms for “solo”, so as to come across as having a much larger vocabulary in this article than I do in my day-to-day life, and the first one that jumped out at me was “lonely”. I get that, in some contexts, being on your own can be and is lonely. There were totally moments during my travels that I wished I could have shared with someone, and times when having a second opinion could have saved me from myself (see below) … but, for the most part, I really, really enjoyed “going it alone”, and I would highly recommend it.
There are many benefits to solo travel. For me, top of this list has to be making and following your own schedule.
The only entries on my to-do list in every town I visited were activities that I wanted to do. We spend so much of our lives having to compromise that it’s truly liberating when you can simply do what you want to do, when you want to do it. If I chose to arrive at Jane Austen’s House Museum at 9.00 and stay there until closing, I could (and did). I didn’t have to worry about whether the people I was traveling with were bored (of looking at Austen’s writing desk? Absurd!), hungry (when we could look at Austen’s writing desk again? What’s wrong with you?) or tired (of hearing me talk about Austen’s writing desk? But there’s so much more to say!).
Another not-so-important benefit of independent voyaging is that no one (you know) is around to see you screw up. When you’re in uncharted territory, you’re bound to make a couple or a couple hundred mistakes, but so long as you return to your hostel in one piece at the end of the day, you’re in the black, my friend.
When I was in Haworth, which is where Charlotte Bronte and her sisters grew up, I got lost out on the moors. (Yes, I did call for Heathcliff, but to no avail. It also rained. A lot.)
I stupidly thought my smartphone would be clever enough to connect me to Google Maps out there. I was so, so wrong. I think I walked around for about six or seven hours until I finally found a road that led back to town. In that time, I was threatened by a sheep (I had it coming; if that sheep had wandered into my home and started swearing at its smartphone, I would have done the same thing) and fell into a mire. (I thought it was just a patch of long grass. It wasn’t. I threw away my shoes that very same night.)
The worst of it is, earlier that day, I had picked up a map of the moors when I was in a gift shop. In hindsight, yes, maybe having someone with me as a foil to my foibles (I am a miser) could have saved me a lifetime phobia of sheep and a pair of shoes. If I had been chaperoned, I feel my companion might have said: “No, Ellen, $4 is not too much for a map. Let’s just buy it so we don’t get lost.”
However, now that I’m no longer on those moors, I can safely say that I’m glad I had that experience. I got myself into a sticky situation, but I got myself out again. Lonely, ol’ me.
All in all, don’t be afraid to travel alone … whether it’s to the other side of the world, or the other side of the street. I am SO extremely late to meet a couple of friends for coffee, so that’s going to have to be my profound, concluding statement. Sorry, Tegan and Cilla. Your coffee’s on me.
Ellen White was born in the US, raised in NZ and now works as a copy editor and typesetter for a small publishing company in the UK.
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