There are two distinctions to be made here:
- Travelling alone to meet someone else at a set destination, or
- Travelling by yourself to spend time in your own company.
Since I started studying in Denmark back in 2004, I have frequently been doing the first one. I would travel by myself home for the holidays, and by myself back to Copenhagen.
After I was finished with my studies, I also often traveled back there to meet with people. Again, the purpose of the trip – the solo travel by plane – was to meet them.
But there is also the travelling by myself to spend time in my own company. It is something that I find that I rather enjoy.
Of course, it is much nicer when you have someone to enjoy the trip with, and share the memories afterwards (lest you think I’m advocating total solitude all the time) but that is not always possible. Lack of vacation days, lack of funds, lack of free time can prohibit travel partners when it is convenient.
There have also been plenty of trips for work, where I’m traveling by myself. Either for a conference or to meet colleagues. In those cases I am traveling to meet someone, but my leisure time is, mostly, on my own.
Traveling solo can be scary at first. But in time, it is rather nice. It gives a certain peace, so to speak, to be on my own schedule and discover things at my own pace.
A couple of years back I traveled to Paris for two weeks. The trip was originally planned to spend time alone and discover the city. In the end, I had two different friends plus a sister come and share their time with me. I loved spending time with them, but I also found that the time between their stays was something to be treasured.
I could explore the city at my own pace, explore the museums at my own pace… and stop in various parks and sit down with a book and simply enjoy myself!
Some less pleasant things when traveling alone, as opposed to with someone else:
- Safety. It’s no joke that they say safety in numbers. Especially for women late at night in dodger districts. Be mindful of where you book your hotel, so that it is easy and safe to get to at all time of the day. (And mind valuables, and so on and so forth.)
- Eating in fancier places. I do tend to eat in fancier places when I’m traveling with someone else. If it is just me, I’ll often buy a pre-packed salad and have that in a park, or take some things from the grocery store with me home to the hotel room for dinner. Or, I’ll eat at coffee shops or fast food – places where they don’t set the table for you. In theory, I don’t think there is any problem with eating in fancier places, but I like to share those experiences.
- Flying. I really hate flying. A delay in an airport, turbulence on the plane – all those minor things are so much better when I have company.
- Conversation. It may sound obvious, but someone to talk to about what you see is also a nice thing. Either by striking up (careful) conversations with the other tourists, chatting with the shop keepers, or talking to yourself. Or simply phoning home.
The perfect option is really go on your own, but to set up a meeting or two with someone you know in the area, or a friend of a friend. Gives you time to gush about what you’ve seen, ensure that you get the local know-how and stops you from getting too introverted.