Why I (still) prefer traveling alone

Whenever I say I’m traveling somewhere, people ask: “Who with?“ followed by: “Really? Alone?!“ (Either said in disbelief or pity, or both.)

I’ve heard it so many times now that honestly, I’m sick of it.

Initially I wasn’t going to talk about this, but a female colleague telling me just last week that she’d rather stay at home during a week off work than travel by herself was the final straw.

If you agree with her, let me ask you this. Why wouldn’t you travel alone?

Because it would be difficult?

Because it wouldn’t be enjoyable?

Because you wouldn’t have anyone to share your experiences with?

Ok. Deep breath. Here we go:

Of course it will be difficult. You have to plan, decide and book things, by yourself. Things might not work out the way you imagined they would (they usually don’t) and you might have to change your plans around. You might get lost (I always do). You might end up in a hostel that looks and smells like a prison (well…let’s not get into this right now). But you know what’s great about those difficulties? That you’re going to be the one who’ll overcome them. No one’s going to do it for you, so you can give yourself all the credit for sorting things out. And that feels pretty good.

Traveling alone has become the most enjoyable way to spend time for me, and I guess it has a lot to do with my job. As a teacher, I have little (and tall) people yammering my name in my ear constantly. It’s the kind of job where everyone thinks they deserve my undivided attention, all – the – time. On top of that, I’m constantly chased by a strict schedule of classes and deadlines for all kinds of paperwork. I don’t own my own time and sometimes it feels like I don’t own my own thoughts, either.

I painfully realize this when I get home after work and want to enjoy my evening but my head is spinning and I can’t make up my mind about what to do, because I have no idea what I actually want. Am I hungry? Do I want to go to the gym? Do I want to watch a movie? Do I want to go to sleep? Usually, I have no freaking clue. After a long day of functioning like a robot on other people’s terms, I’m completely ’out of order’. Consequently there is nothing I enjoy more now than spending some days off work doing whatever the hell I want, in my own time and on my own terms.

The last one is tricky, I admit. Not being able to immediately share the amazing things you see and experience with another person can feel strange and it sometimes does to me, too. When I travel alone, I have a least one ’off day’ where I suddenly feel sad, like all the traveling experiences don’t matter because there’s no one there to witness them. Then I get a grip and realize that I’M there and that that should be enough. Experiencing things alone shouldn’t make them any less amazing.

While traveling alone in Japan I’ve made so many treasured memories: I’ve seen the sun set behind Mount Fuji, hiked and biked around tropical islands, sat in silence by the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, discovered hidden temples and shrines in different forests, relaxed in beautiful natural hot spring baths, and spent one of the happiest days of my life on Bunny Island. Just to name a few.

And there are many more to come.

Because being alone, or as I prefer to call it – being by myself – will never be a reason for me to sit at home and miss out on everything beautiful, weird and interesting this world has to offer.

 

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