Why It's Important to Travel Alone

I have been fortunate enough to see some breathtaking places and experience cultures that encompass a world of different customs and traditions.  Although, I feel I've hardly scratched the surface.  When I think of where I want to go, it overwhelms me... our globe feels infinite.  Taking the time to travel and immerse yourself into a new way of life is important, it goes far beyond that of a tourist.  Real traveling humbles you. It begs you to adapt, it asks you to be teachable, and it urges a new process of reason.  

I am a strong advocate for traveling alone.  I took my first solo trip to Vienna last February and it changed how I viewed globe-trotting forever.  Initially timid and petrified, I sat myself down in a 6 passenger car on an overnight train from Florence to Vienna.  Everyone was a stranger, I couldn't pick them out in a crowd if I wanted to.  In the wake of our 11 hour journey my fellow passengers and I seemed almost afraid to touch one another.  You have to imagine... it's an incredibly small car. It has barely enough room for four people, let alone six.  The smallest brush of a foot, or a nudge in the arm was worthy of an apology to your neighbor.  The journey felt grueling and long, and I was certain we would never reach Vienna.  By the end of our ride we were entirely on top of one another, sprawled out in each others spaces, invading each-others personal bubbles far more than we would have liked to admit.  It's amazing what a tired mind can merit as socially acceptable.  Here we were... 6 complete strangers cuddled together like children in the backseat of a mini van.  We became friends that night, I suppose our circumstances left us no choice.  Our train did come to a halt in Vienna and I stepped off into the cold, dreary morning with a sense of prideful solidarity.  I had done it, I had stepped onto foreign territory where not a single soul knew my name.  I was alone, and happy for it.

Traveling by oneself requires thinking for oneself.  It extends the opportunity to trust your instincts instead of the familiar voices of friends, which I think often times can influence us more than we like to admit.  Suddenly - you realize you're alone and lost, standing in front of a map at the metro station and the only voice you can rely on is your own.  Which way is the right way?  Which stop is mine?  How can I be sure?  The only voice you can totally trust in a situation like this becomes the one inside of you.  How many times in our lives can we recall moments like these?  I can count very few where I had no one to counsel me in times of confusion.  Yet these are some of the most defining instances in a person's life - having the realization that you are strong, you are capable, you are even prepared.   

On a weekend in Nice, France I spent the end of my trip walking on cobblestone streets, killing time before my train departed back to Italy.  It was incredibly hot, and the outside heat felt almost unbearable to plunge into. My bags were strung across my shoulder, weighing me down and slowing my pace.  At this point of the day I was ready to go home, it all just felt so grueling.  I ultimately found solace in the corner of the train station.  My eyes became glued to my book, my back nestled up against the wall, and my feet found comfort resting on my bags.  Just a few more hours, I told myself.  I looked over to see a girl my age sitting nearby, and I had a sudden urge to speak with her.  It happened that only a couple minutes into our conversation we found we were both AuPairs. living just 30 minutes from each other in Italy.  We were set to board the same train we soon found out was delayed.  Of course, I think to myself.  Naturally we ditch the station for a drink and end up missing our train all-together.  I gained an extra night in Nice, a new friend, and an important realization. Had I not been alone, I probably wouldn't have struck up a conversation with a perfect stranger, I probably wouldn't have stayed an extra night, and I definitely wouldn't have the same memories of Nice.  Our meeting changed my entire trip. 

We'vebeen told a story that says aloneness levels with unhappiness, that to be alone means you have failed in the social spectrum of our modern culture.  Yet, the more I have tested this theory - the more I find it incredibly misinterpreted.  Some of the most liberating and gratifying moments have come in the hours of solitude, where my natural disposition is unaltered and irrevocable by the voices of my peers.  As a society, it's important that we start treating ourselves as capable, intelligent, human beings who are able to think, travel, and live independently.  Company is important and should surely be treasured.  Although how will we know who we are and what we are capable of if our abilities are never truly tested?  How will we understand the inner depths of our individuality without urging ourselves into a world of self-awareness?  I am overflowing with happiness on the days I spend adventuring with my best friends.  Though, in the moments I am alone with the the company of a new place - I am truly myself: whole and unabridged, a woman who is free from constraint.

TravelAnna VatuoneComment