On solo travel & being alone

Not everyone understands traveling alone. When I announced I was going to Barcelona by myself, I ended up on the receiving end of some raised eyebrows and confused looks.

“So you’re just going… by yourself?”

Um… yeah! I am. I like being alone. Not in a recluse-I-hate-the-world I-hate-other-people kind of way. I like people! But there’s a certain calm about being alone. Not only does it not bother me to be alone, I need to be alone sometimes. I get cranky without my alone time.

Can you tell I’m an introvert?

Introversion aside, I love the freedom of traveling alone. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. Isn’t that nice sometimes? It’s so indulgent to do exactly what you want for an entire day (or week) and not have to worry about anyone else. (No, I don’t have kids.)

And in fact, if you aren’t able to go places by yourself, whether it’s taking a trip or just trying out a new restaurant or seeing a movie, that means you depend on others to do what you want to do. If you don’t go see a movie just because no one wants to see it with you? If you don’t eat at the restaurant you’re craving just because your friends already have plans? What do you do? Just stay home because you can’t go out by yourself?

When I was twenty, I moved to Chicago to finish music school. At the beginning of the school year, I wanted to go to the opera (the Chicago Lyric Opera is amazing) but I didn’t have anyone to go with. I thought about just staying home. But finally, I put on my favorite dress and went alone, and it was one of my all-time favorite nights at the opera. Through the Lyric’s student tickets program, I got a great seat in the dress circle (maybe because I was only buying one ticket?) and saw Deborah Voigt and Christine Brewer sing in a spectacular production of Die Frau Ohne Schatten. If you’re not an opera fan, that probably sounds like gibberish, but trust me, it was magical. And if I hadn’t had the guts to go by myself, I would have missed one of the best opera productions I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, from that time on, I’ve always done the things I really wanted to do, whether or not I had company. On my first trip to France, I rolled through the Côte d’Azur on my own and fell in love with Nice.

Nice woman with umbrella.jpg
I love Nice, even in the rain.

A few years later I moved to Paris, where I didn’t know anybody. I made friends quickly, but solo strolls in Paris are still one of my favorite things.

Paris Jardin de Luxembourg.jpg
Good luck finding two free chairs in Jardin du Luxembourg anyway. (Or rather, four, because you each need one to put your feet up!)

This summer, I spent a week solo in Barcelona. As I explained to skeptics, it seemed silly to not go just because there was no one to go with me. And as it turns out, I had an amazing time. All. By. My. Self.

Barcelona Chok.jpg
Also, you can eat whatever you want for breakfast and no one will judge you. (Pictured: Chök in Barcelona)

All that being said, there are some things that are just more fun in good company. Picnics in the park? Hitting the town for an evening out? Not so awesome when you’re alone, in my opinion. I don’t want to go to the Seine at sunset and open up a bottle of wine by myself. I go with my dog, of course. (Kidding, kidding.)

Do you like to do things alone, or do you find it boring? Would you judge me for eating cream-filled chocolate-covered doughnuts for breakfast?  

19 thoughts on “On solo travel & being alone

  1. Barcelona is the most magical, beautiful place in the world. It is by far my favorite city that I’ve ever been to. I would love to live there. I hope you had as amazing a time as I did!

  2. The greatest trips I have ever taken, I embarked on alone. I never ended up that way though. Did you find the same? Also no one judges you for eating cream-filled chocolate covered donuts for breakfast, and if they do it is probably just because they are jealous.

    1. Haha thank you. I would be jealous if I saw someone eating a chök doughnut too. It is fun to meet people along the way when you travel alone, for sure!

  3. It’s so true! One thing I have learned about travelling is that if you want to go somewhere you can only depend on yourself to make it happen! I moved to both NY and Brazil by myself this past year and if I’d have waiting for a friend to come with, I’d still be in England now! I love being put out of my comfort zone and being forced to adapt to a new lifestyle! I’ve done it twice in the past year and Paris is my next solo adventure! :)!

  4. OMG! I also went to Barcelona alone because I didn’t have a companion and I had An amazing time! Wish I could’ve stayed a few more days!

  5. Great post -More Power to You!! My niece travelled to ALL the continents BY HERSELF and my other niece has traveled multiple times to South America by herself. They would echo all your sentiments ( as do I for experiences closer to home now that I’m older).

  6. Thanks so much for this article. I, too, have encountered the “you’re just going…by yourself?” response so many times. I went to Poland in April alone for 5 days and it was amazing. If you think you might get lonely, stay in a “party hostel” and you’ll be sure to meet people. Or, go on a tour (bonus points if it’s free). I met great people both ways, but still had enough alone time.

  7. I love how you can pinpoint the first time you were aware of enjoying being alone. A few evenings ago I was sitting in a park waiting for a friend to join me, and I really enjoyed having that moment to watch people and be conscious of everything around me.

    I don’t mind watching the sunset on the Seine by myself, though I haven’t yet brought a bottle of anything on my own. In the first place, it would be way too much for me…

    I have had an éclair and other desserts pre-dinner, so only positive judgement here.

    Is that an Oreo doughnut in your picture?? I want one.

    1. People watching on a park bench is so nice, isn’t it? Desserts by the Seine sound heavenly! That place in Barcelona had doughnuts in every flavor imaginable, it took me awhile to choose one! Yum…

  8. Profite ! si tu as un enfant plus tard, la liberte totale sera entre parenthese un petit moment. Mon sac a dos me demange…mais je sais qu’un jour je repartirai flaner sur les routes …chaque chose en son temps…

    1. Tu as raison ! J’aime les enfants et j’adore “emprunter” mes neveux et mes nièces, mais je ne me vois pas du tout comme maman pour le moment. J’ai énormément de respect pour vous qui êtes parents !

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