6 Things I Learned While Traveling Alone
I never traveled much growing up, but I’ve recently needed a change in my life, so I decided to extend a last-minute work trip to Boston and go on a solo adventure. We live in a world where we’re always doing things for others and not focusing enough on ourselves, our mental health, and self-care. So I booked my first Airbnb, bought tickets for tours all over the city, and prepared myself for a weekend of fun. Here’s what I learned on my first adventure alone.
It’s easy to go unnoticed. In group settings, you are virtually invisible to everyone when you’re by yourself. I was bumped into on the street, at museums, and even in tour groups more than one could imagine. Little kids ran circles around me and their parents ran over my toes with their strollers. But I didn’t mind; those families were having fun and making memories. When you travel alone, you become grateful for your friends and family, and I began to miss mine.
But, alone time is truly good for the soul.
For once, I was focused completely on myself. I didn’t have to worry about what the rest of the group was doing or worry about pleasing them. I didn’t face the needs and expectations of anyone else and it was a beautiful feeling. This trip was about me: what I wanted to experience and how I wanted to feel. And sometimes, we don’t get enough of that.
Sights, sounds, and smells are more distinct and you appreciate them. The smell of the sea water by the harbor. The trees bustling in the wind. The birds chirping in the early morning hours. The sunset creeping over the park. The shouts at Fenway Park. For once, I wasn’t rushing around or too busy to notice these great things in life. Being alone allowed me to take a step back and see the bigger picture. I took in every detail and realized how truly great my surroundings were.
Experiences are far better than material things. Don’t get me wrong, I still make sure to collect postcards and pressed pennies from all places I visit, but there is nothing better than experiencing new cities and landmarks. The souvenirs I collect along the way are near and dear to my heart because they remind me of everything I’ve learned and the memories I made on each trip. In the first day alone, I completed the Samuel Adams brewery tour (with 3 tastings included) and traveled to Salem to explore the town, visit museums, and go on haunted tours. The second day was filled with a visit to the New England Aquarium, a harbor cruise, a stroll through the Quincy Market, and a game at Fenway Park. My final day there consisted of traveling the Freedom Trail with no maps in hand, from the Paul Revere House to Boston Commons. It was exhausting, sure, but the adventures were well worth it.
Learning history, lifestyles, and culture is exciting. I will never be ashamed to do those “touristy” events and trips because that’s where I learn the most. What would I learn sitting in a hotel room, walking around a mall, or seeing a movie? Sure, relaxing vacations are also great, but I crave adventure and it’s only taken me 25 years to catch the travel bug. When you aren’t with friends or family, you pay more attention to your surroundings, the tour guides, and the locals around you. You make small talk and learn about where they’re from, why they’re traveling, what they experienced. You actually digest the information the tour guides present and you learn interesting details. Like, Boston is a man-made town that was filled in from the surrounding mountains. Salem was once the capital of Massachusetts. The tunnels that are still below both cities were used for pirates to smuggle goods. Spectacle island was once used for a landfill, was eventually set on fire, and the entire island burned for 10 years. You wouldn’t believe the fun facts I managed to absorb.
Fears can be conquered. I’m more comfortable navigating and traveling alone than I ever thought. I’m perfectly fine eating at a bar by myself and walking through a city without knowing a single person. Public transportation is actually simple if you know which direction you’re headed. I wasn’t afraid to start a conversation with another local or traveler. It surprisingly came naturally. At one point, I don’t know if I could have done these things myself without my anxiety going through the roof. I wouldn’t have ever thought about taking a solo adventure. But you probably wouldn’t guess that about me today. We change as our lives do and as we gain more experience and wisdom with time.
So, here’s to my first solo adventure. And to all the others I’ll take in the future.