Is traveling solo the best way to travel? Or even the only true way to travel? Think about it for a
minute second. Certainly I can’t be the only one to see the ridiculousness of such a statement – to think that somehow solo travelers are superior to everyone else? That is, that those who travel with a significant other, friend(s), children, or group, are inferior to solo travelers. Yet that was the stance of a recent CNNGo article, in which the writer states in the title, and throughout the article, that “traveling alone is the only way to travel,” advocating for the “serendipitous and non-judgmental moments of solo travel.” Non-judgmental being an interesting term to use considering the blanket statement that he uses in the title. The article raised a lot of questions and considerations, as I, a predominantly solo traveler, ponder my past travels and my current big trip this summer to Europe.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have travel as a significant part of my life since I was a child. I flew on an airplane for the first time when I was five and for the first time by myself when I was seven. My life is a string of different travel experiences, from road trips across America with my mom and dad to a romantic escape to the Caribbean to traveling abroad with a group of college students to traveling by myself around North America for 9 months. I can unequivocally say that amidst all of the different travel experiences I’ve had, traveling solo for nine months last year was the best decision of my life. It formed and changed me like no other experience in my life. Yet it’s because of the loneliness and disconnect from a sense of community that I stopped traveling when I did.
I’m an introvert; not anti-social, but an introvert. So when my travel blogging friend Annie proposed taking a road trip down the California coast last summer with her and her boyfriend, I had my initial doubts. Yet it was just months since I had returned from my solo trip and had begun to think about breaking away from my solo traveler M.O. Armed with a couple pounds of jelly beans, an extra large pack of red vines, and some California-ish tunes, we enthusiastically hit the road for a one-week trip from San Francisco to San Diego. Thousands of pieces of candy, hundred of songs, 8 days, 3 people, and one car. Oh, and did I mention that I had never met Annie and her boyfriend, but only knew them online?
If I could’ve closed my eyes, I certainly would’ve, as this was just one of those tranquil travel moments, driving through the rolling hills and backcountry of Santa Barbara County. It was so serene; the peaks looking out toward the Pacific Ocean, the calm ponds situated in the meadows, and the vineyards dotting the hills. What’s ironic is that this tranquil moment, which may have seemed to be reserved for a solo traveler experience, wasn’t solo at all. Annie and Lorenzo were there with me, windows rolled down and taking the moment in as well. I realized in that moment that while each style of travel has its benefits, those benefits aren’t exclusive to that style of travel. Those serene moments of travel I love so much about solo travel, I was experiencing while traveling with others.
I now avoid companions and fellow tourists the way Belgians avoid closed-toed shoes and adequately sized shorts.
Those were the words penned by the CNNGo writer about how he travels. This type of traveling he continues to reference is that of traveling with groups, such as a group tour. The fact is that there are many different ways to travel and even more different types of personalities. Who am I to say that one type of travel is better than the other? However, if this is how you approach traveling with others, then maybe you should just stick to that M.O., because if you’re not getting anything from traveling with others, then they aren’t likely getting anything from traveling with you.
I’m on month one of a four-month trip this summer. This first month is the only “slow travel” part of the trip, which involves house-sitting in Northern California wine country for a month. From here, it’s on to Vegas, an Alaskan cruise, and then Europe for two months. While it has been all solo travel so far, I’m opening myself up more than ever to traveling with others if the right situation presents itself. I haven’t asked anyone, but between my use of Twitter and the people I’ll meet along the way, it wouldn’t surprise me if I find myself traveling with others this summer. There’s nothing like those tranquil moments of travel where it’s just me and my thoughts amidst the experiences of a new place; yet there’s something satisfying about having a like-minded person there with me to enjoy the thrills, laughs, and stories of a trip that can’t quite measure up if by myself. But what I do know is that if this trip is half as good as my big trip in 2010/2011, I’ll come back a much better person than when I left. And for that reason, solo or not, I continue to wander.
What have been your experiences with traveling solo compared to traveling with others?