Like many things, the idea of solo traveling can prove more poetic and romantic in thought. While sitting at a 9 to 5 job and imagining yourself in Morocco solo is inspiring; often the reality is more testing. Looking back at my first solo adventure to Argentina, I never anticipated how life altering, empowering and challenging solo travel is.
I couldn’t have known then how I would face all facets of my personality, how I would swing through the spectrum of my emotions and learn to be my own best friend. As I hiked through Iguazu National Park considering my future, I couldn’t have known I would call off my wedding, quit my job and flip my life upside down in pursuit of travel writing. That first solo travel journey left me with such strength and self-awareness that upon my return to New York City, many things changed dramatically in my personal life.
I’d like to think solo traveling helped me find the courage to usher in a new chapter of my life.
Before I even set foot on Argentine soil, before I had my passport stamped, before I even boarded the plane, I found myself in New York seriously questioning my sanity as I prepared to board my flight. I didn’t know anyone in Buenos Aires, had no real plan but a writing assignment and a loose set of cafes to visit while exploring the city. Questions flooded my mind: Would I get lonely? Would I meet friends? Who would I reach out to if in trouble? What if I’m robbed? Would I be safe? It was an avalanche of practical inquiries mixed with insecurities that showered me in the days leading up to my flight. Aside from obvious trip preparations, many of my questions were left up to fate.
Like love, when it comes to travel sometimes all you can do is put your best foot forward, take a leap of faith and see what happens.
As I strolled through Manhattan’s East Village late one August evening before my trip, I decided to have an impromptu dinner sans friends. I had sat at restaurants solo but it was always with a form of distraction–a phone, laptop, book–to keep myself preoccupied. I hadn’t dined alone without some sort of technology crutch preventing me from really embracing the company of myself.
Knowing I would soon be on a different continent where every meal would be enjoyed solo, I went to a nearby restaurant to embrace being alone. It was refreshing and proved an excellent way to mentally prepare myself for solo traveling. It was not sad, embarrassing or odd to be eating alone on a busy night in downtown New York City; rather it was empowering and exciting. The best way to prepare for solo travel was simply to start by taking myself out to dinner.
When I arrived in Buenos Aires, I remembered that feeling of slurping ramen in the East Village while watching the city swirl around me. My solo adventure unfolded in ways I could never have anticipated–from meeting people that inspired me, to falling in love with a new culture, to finding the strength to change my life, to learning to love myself–flaws and all. While I remember each detail of that trip vividly–every chance meeting, the meals, cafes and sights– I will always recall that first dinner in New York City before my trip when I finally allowed myself to get to know myself.
It’s your turn! How do you prepare for solo travel? For more tips on solo traveling, check out the SOLO TRAVEL section.