I’ve said it many times on this blog, but solo travel isn’t just amazing; it’s necessary. Everyone should do it at least once in their lives, whether they’re single for now or forever. But it can be scary to some. What will everybody think? Will people look at me? What if I get lost? Those are common, understandable thoughts. Fear is a natural, fight-or-flight response to an unknown situation. But, as many therapists will tell you, the best way to get over a fear is to confront it head-on.
Two of my close friends are relative newbies to solo travel (one did this before getting married; the other before having her son). And I’ll boost my own ego for a second, but they told me all my solo adventures inspired them to try it out for themselves. They may not have had explicit fear, but they were venutring into the unknown, and there were concerns.
Sandy is somebody I know from the jamband scene: Phish, Grateful Dead offshoots, that sort of thing. I don’t usually write about it here because of the stereotypes, but I don’t fit any of the common ones, so I’m safe in doing so.
Sandy traveled solo a lot before she was married, but she never did the solo concertgoing experience (something I’ve done many times; through that, I’ve met cool folks like Pete and John, who I consider “ride or dies” with shows).
And that’s as an introvert. Sandy, who describes herself as “outgoing,” talked to a lot of people on the train ride from southern New Jersey to New York City for one of Phish’s shows at the 7-night run this summer. And she had a blast. She sat by herself on the train, but once a few other “phans” (one of the discursive features of the Phish community is to replace the letter “f” with “ph” when it starts a word) hopped on the train, she chatted with them. I do this all the time; it’s a good way to build community before we go our separate ways inside the venue. She did meet up with a friend once inside, so she claimed to not really be “solo,” but she went up solo, so I think that counts. On the train ride back, she talked with some other folks.
Even though I identify as childfree by choice, I believe single parenting is the most badass thing a person can do. Being responsible for another human being without the assistance of other adult? It’s hardcore. And Cathy did it for many years. A benefit was that she had her son coming with him to events. But, as he is now grown and in college, and my Facebook pictures seemed to inspire her, she was ready to try some solo travel. She had a place to stay with me in her Washington, DC segment, and we’d split an Airbnb in Astoria, Queens for the New York portion. I’d go to three nights of Phish at Madison Square Garden (different shows from the ones Sandy went to), meet up with Laura and her friend Lisa in Brooklyn for some swimming, and generally flaneur around Chinatown and Little Italy, while Chris would visit Ellis Island and the Museum of Modern Art. Our common link would be Katz’s Deli, though (I didn’t have what she was having).
She indicated feeling apprehensive before the trip; she was afraid she might be lonely without someone to share her trip with. Again, a natural fear, one that even crosses my mind as a solo traveler, but she remained open.
Her experience as a child of the military appeared to play into this openness. Before settling into El Paso, she had moved from country to country every few months, and traveling solo was a place to reclaim this version of her badassery.
She hustled through the streets and subways of DC and New York solo, and did the tours on her own. She found herself being able to enjoy the different languages being spoken in ways she might not have absorbed if she was with another person. But her highlight was meeting up with an old high school friend who, despite being engaged, told her that she admired her adult life: her courage, sense of style and personality, and a job doing what she’s passionate about: teaching art to children.
There were a couple of bumps. She took the wrong street to our Airbnb and had nobody but herself to rely on (who among us has never done that, really?), she made it home. And she got some bad blisters from all the walking she did (sturdy shoes are crucial). And when asked how she felt after the trip, she gave the following words: Liberating, Exciting, Freeing, Self-Loving, Lesson Learned in the Shoe Department.
The last one is a rite of passage for many solo travelers. The previous four words are how it should be.
LIBERATING, EXCITING, FREEING, SELF-LOVING, LESSON LEARNED IN THE SHOE DEPT
And to quote Phish, when you travel, whatever you do, take care of your shoes!
My name is Craig. I'm an educator, writer, and unapologetic singleton. When not reading, writing, or teaching, I enjoy hiking, running, watching movies, going to concerts, spending time with friends, and playing with my cat/son, Chester.