All by myself: One traveler’s take on the beauty and challenges of solo travel

Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee

planning maps copyWEB

Mid-trip planning essentials: coffee, maps, AAA guides, and a hearty breakfast

I’ll readily admit that solo travel is not for everyone. It works for me because I love planning, researching, driving, and getting lost in my head for hours at a time. I don’t mind spending time alone with only my ideas and observations as entertainment. I find it freeing to not have to worry about balancing my wants and needs with someone else’s, and to give myself permission to change my mind without feeling guilty about how it might affect my travel partner’s overall experience.

The potential solo traveler should take all of this into consideration. Also important to remember: It’s okay if solo travel isn’t for you. If the idea of embarking on a trip without a travel buddy makes you feel anxious and nauseated instead of excited and eager, maybe it’s not for you. If you can’t sit alone for 10 minutes at your neighborhood coffee shop without updating social media to see if anyone can join you, maybe it’s not for you. If you consider an experience to be most impactful when shared with someone else, maybe it’s not for you.

But if you’re on the fence—if you’re not sure you’d love it, but you’re also not convinced you’d hate it—why not try? Why not plan a weekend getaway and see what happens when you’re on your own for a couple days?

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Some of my favorite travel moments have come when I’m on a trip alone. Standing in awe of a double rainbow in Arches National Park without feeling the need to find the words to describe my wonderment. Walking for miles around New York City discovering neighborhoods I didn’t know existed while losing myself in the surrounding sights, smells, sounds, and emotions. Practicing my Spanish with a bartender who in turn practices making a new cocktail for me, both of us sharing and learning a little bit about ourselves in the process. Waking up before dawn to drive through Yellowstone without the usual backdrop of thousands of tourists. Taking an impromptu hike in the Berkshires that results in a breathtaking panorama of green trees, blue skies, and perfect clouds, all observed while standing on a giant boulder that puts me above it all, on the top of my own little world.

Every trip has the potential to be weird or wonderful, life changing or ordinary. All the planning in the world can’t guarantee which way an experience will go, but having an open mind and the willingness to fail in addition to succeed helps guarantee a trip will leave you changed for the better.

That’s what I’ve learned through traveling in general, and traveling alone in particular. That and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches go great with everything from coffee and water to wine and whiskey. Because let’s be honest: there’s a time and place for each of those when on a trip.

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About Ellen Burkhardt

Ellen Burkhardt is a freelance writer. When she's not writing, editing, or interviewing, chances are she's on the road seeking out good food, drink, and fodder for her next story.

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