I have a large National Geographic map on my wall. Red pins indicate places I have been, and green pins stand for places I want to go. I have plenty of red pins that I have happily placed, but there are many more green pins in countries I have yet to visit.
I look forward to replacing those red pins with green ones. Unfortunately, I suspect that not all of my usual travel companions are interested in visiting some of the same exotic locales that I am. But I won’t let the lack of a pal keep me from my adventures. I will happily go it alone.
Traveling alone is a terrific idea for those who love to travel but who may not always have a spouse or companion with whom to share the adventures. I encourage you to give it a try — it is fun, thrilling and satisfying to be your own tour guide.
Here are three reasons why you should consider traveling on your own:
GO WHERE AND WHEN YOU WANT TO GO
It is exhilarating to make all the decisions. You pick the dates and set your budget, destination and itinerary. The trip is all about you.
I have traveled solo several times to the United Kingdom, Germany and to many cities in the United States. Perhaps my most memorable trip on my own was to Ireland. In this case, it wasn’t that I couldn’t find a travel companion. It was a spur-of-the-moment trip. I had just finished a semester teaching and wanted to get away. My friends were still teaching or didn’t have vacation time.
I found a very good airfare deal, used some frequent flier miles to upgrade to business class and give myself an early birthday gift of a trip to the Emerald Isle. It was spontaneous and exciting to just take off on my own.
SATISFY YOUR SENSE OF ADVENTURE
In Dublin, I loved just wandering the streets. I relished exploring neighborhoods, popping into whatever shop or pub struck my fancy. On the Ireland trip, I made my headquarters in Dublin at the Clarence Hotel in Temple Bar and enjoyed day trips west to the Cliffs of Moher and to Belfast in Northern Ireland. I immersed myself in the history and culture, including visits to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin and the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods of Belfast, site of “The Troubles.”
MAKE NEW FRIENDS
The beauty of traveling alone is that when you want solitude you can have it, but when you want company it is easy to strike up conversations with strangers. I feel more extroverted when I travel. In Europe, I will begin conversations with folks I meet in pubs and hotel lobbies, at galleries and museums. I would never be so bold at home. I would fear I was intruding. But such inhibitions disappear when I am a tourist. I have become email and Facebook friends with some of the people I have chatted with on my escorted day trips in Ireland,.
It may take a leap of faith for you to travel alone. But it can also be liberating.
It has been said traveling is good for the soul. Traveling solo is just plain fun.
Dennis Stouse, chair of the Department of Communication at Jacksonville University and a writer and photographer, writes an occasional travel column for The Florida Times-Union’s Prime Time section. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.