The Art of Traveling [Alone]
For years I’ve been someone who gets an idea in my head and does it. So several years ago, when I realized as much talk as there was of people who wanted to take a trip, the only way I was actually going to be able to go was if I went on my own. So I did. I found a great deal, and did what I knew best – I went to Paris. It became less daunting to visit a city alone when it was a city I already knew, and the fact that I knew people there I could visit. Then I realized the freedom I had and I could do anything I wanted. The next year, I did the same thing when I found a cheap ticket to Amsterdam. That time I didn’t know anyone, but thanks to the wonders of the blog world, I not only had great recommendations (and very design-savy ones I must add), but I even got to meet up with one of my favorite bloggers for coffee in the park.
I’ve also had the continued policy of “I’m going _____. You’re invited, just come!” Luckily, I’ve had some awesome friends take me up on that offer as well, which also makes for a great way to travel and have your own adventures. Due to the way that flights get booked, we usually still had a little time traveling on our own in the place, but that also made for great stories when we finally connected up.
I will admit though, that my trip – alone – to Morocco, was the trip that took me out of my comfort zone the most. From the maze of the medina, to the comments of shop keepers trying to get my attention, to the fact that everyone wanted to earn a quick buck (if you ask for help, people in the medina came to expect a reward) was a lot to take in. But the beauty of that was that at the same time it was incredibly empowering. Furthermore, it never ceases to amaze me how much I still learn about travel and myself to this day. Anyway, here are a few lessons I picked up this trip.
- Hostels are a great way to meet people. You not only meet people, but they are often are people like you and have their own interesting stories to tell.
- Unlike at hotels, at hostels you tend to interact with people more, and they serve as the best “guides” and can provide really great tips and tricks to visiting the place.
- When you’re not on a set timeline/schedule you can take it all in as it comes, and learn from others and go try new things you may not have considered yourself.
- The wonders of the internet make it possible to connect with people you have never met before. In Marrakesh I had two meetings for a project I’m working on. While it was for “research,” these two encounters were some of the biggest highlights of my trip. It’s always worthwhile to try to connect with a local, however works for you.
- Poker face. It’s a lesson I learned in Paris (my official terminology is my “Paris bitch face”), but it goes with me around the world to escape unwanted attention. If someone talks to you, or makes a comment, it’s best to ignore it, don’t make eye contact, definitely don’t respond and just keep on your way. It may seem cold at times, but it’s also for your safety (and sanity). And trust me, as a single woman walking around the souks, there will be comments. (My favorites ranged from Hey, Lady! to Hey, Spicy Lady!, Hey, Homie, and Hey, Chicken!).
- Have a sense of humor and roll with the punches. Traveling alone also you to go at your own pace and take in all the details. What did you notice that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
- You may be traveling alone, but bring your friends to you. My favorite past-time (even when I’m traveling with people) is to sit in cafes and write postcards.
- Break the stigma of traveling alone. I had a couple interactions in a cafe or in a cab where I was asked, “you’re alone!?!” While it may not be the most common occurence, they were also impressed by the end of our encounters.
March 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm //
Ah – this is all too true! I have had similar experiences. Travelling alone has worked out well for me and I’ve learned so much about myself (and the cities) I’ve visited through my years of travel. I love the idea of “Paris Bitch Face”…I totally turn that on!
I’ve enjoyed reading about your travels and viewing your beautiful photos.
March 19, 2010 at 12:11 pm //
Great post Ditty… reminds me how much I actually enjoy travelling alone (though I love travelling with friends too) as I find it cuts away the layers of exterior Mags that appear working in the hospitality industry…
sometimes when I’m really frustrated I try and do things on my own again, mini solo trip to the movies or a cafe… helps regain my balance!
I also love that you posted the picture of your own hand… you should start a self portrait project ;)
March 19, 2010 at 1:28 pm //
Thank you for this — I couldn’t agree more, and your blog was one of my top reads for my first solo trip to Paris last month. Now I’m hooked!
And thanks for mentioning the “Paris Bitch Face” — an absolute necessity. Women have to get over this fear of not being liked by everybody, and especially absolute (and frankly aggressive) strangers.
March 19, 2010 at 2:59 pm //
I’ve been contemplating taking a trip by my lonesome this summer to Italy and Paris… This post was very inspiring and just what I needed to hear! I can totally do it alone; I’m excited!
March 19, 2010 at 3:43 pm //
i love traveling alone, sometimes it can be so nice to do what you want, when you want without having to plan it with someone else. it’s those times that i end up ordering room service and eating in bed. i love it.
March 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm //
Great post. I so admire the traveler who can go it alone! I’ve done it a few times, for a few days, but I inevitably get a little lonely. Next time I’ll try “taking my friends with me” and write more postcards in cafes. Hopefully that will do the trick!
D R E W
March 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm //
the summer after i graduated from university i did the obligatory three months backpacking through europe… alone. it was challenging and lonely at times, but it did give me the freedom to do what i wanted when i wanted. i wouldn’t do it again, but i am glad i had the experience.
March 19, 2010 at 6:30 pm //
I do most of my travel alone. I started because I couldn’t coordinate days off with friends, and continued because after traveling solo its hard to go back to vacation by committee. The “poker face” is an absolute neccesity. I’m a born&bred NYer so it comes naturally for me. Solo travel makes it very easy to meet people and just as easy to walk away if you get a bad vibe. I’m gald you had a good experience in Morocco. I certainly did. Great post!
March 19, 2010 at 8:01 pm //
love this post! the majority of my travels i’ve done alone, and i’ve always had a great time, so i highly encourage it. you’re right about the stigma. people are always surprised when i say i’m alone, but if i waited for my friends, i’d never have racked up so many incredible travel experiences.
March 20, 2010 at 3:31 am //
Anne, this is such a sweet post. I am visiting your blog for the first time and I must say, I can relate. My first trip solo was to Paris (because no one wanted to go with me). Shortly after that I travelled to Morocco, solo. For three weeks! Like you, Maroc took me out of my comfort zone. It was the adventure of a lifetime. Thank you for writing this post today. x
L E A H
March 20, 2010 at 7:30 pm //
Have you heard of Kira Salak? She’s a writer that travels solo all around the globe.. I blogged about her here:
Also, I added you to my links page. You have a fantastic travel blog!
March 20, 2010 at 8:24 pm //
You write the best blog, Anne. Your thoughts and advice are all fascinating to read – and top-notch pictures. Keep it up.
FROM THE RIGHT BANK
March 20, 2010 at 8:24 pm //
I am exactly the same way and I’ve had some of the best travel experiences when traveling alone. All of your advice is really great.
March 21, 2010 at 1:46 am //
It must be in the genes, I traveled around the world solo — I tried to find a traveling companion, but it never quite worked out. On my own was conservative in my travel choices–probably stayed more on the “beaten track” but I always found I met people and could strike up a conversation and do some travel with them. Certainly interesting experiences. I like a mix of travel experiences, some with family/friends, but always enjoy a day on my own! Fun post.
March 21, 2010 at 8:41 pm //
Just think of what you would have done instead of traveling alone – NOTHING! As hard as it is to find the courage to strike out alone, the alternative is probably doing something much less exciting.
I love the boarding pass posts on your site, I wish I had responded earlier.
March 24, 2010 at 8:46 pm //
Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve been practising (if that’s the right word) travelling alone this year – like you, I realised that there were some places I was only going to see if I went on my own. The rewards have been great, though there have been times when I’ve felt very lonely. It’s always comforting to hear other people’s experiences and ideas for making the most of travelling solo.
Oh – the comment about the Paris bitch face made me laugh! When I was exploring Cape Town, I was told to adopt a Mean Face – same principle!
March 26, 2010 at 4:17 am //
I landed on your blog via Design*Sponge, and I’m so glad I did. This is a fantastic article, with loads of great tips. You’re inspiring me to take a long awaited vacation! I really love your writing style.
May 5, 2011 at 11:59 am //
You may be sure that not only the stay in hotel but also all meals are included in the deal or package.
April 2, 2012 at 2:46 pm //
The ability to travel alone does require courage and gumption.