Solo Travel for Non-Solo Travelers
It seems like something everyone should do, something that ought to be a right of passage as we discover who we are and which path we will take for our lives.
For many, it seems impossible
From the beginning we’ve ordered our lives a little differently, eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner together, kept our kids close, treated the world as our living room, and wandered more than most.
I’m a believer in being fully invested with my kids while I have them, giving up lots of what *I* might want for the benefit of the family, and giving this motherhood thing my very best effort for a couple of decades. I could count on one hand the number of times my children have stayed with a hired babysitter, in 18 years. So when I tell you that I’m also a big believer in making time for solo travel, even when you live life anything but alone, perhaps you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
I get that there are seasons of life where getting away is impossible. I was pregnant or nursing for a decade. There are weeks, months, years even, when we’re in full time care for those we love – children, parents, partners. This is life. I traveled plenty, sometimes without my husband, but never without a baby tied to my back and a toddler hanging on to the hem of my skirt.
“Getting away,” meant a bubble bath most nights after dinner, when Tony would ride the bedtime rodeo and I could escape through a book. A couple of times a year I might get a weekend away with my girlfriends, which is not the same thing as alone, or my idea of real travel.
Why I Travel Solo
I have friends who feel guilty about any moment spent on themselves, away from their work, their responsibilities, their families. I do not. I have come to recognize that time away, solo travel, is one of the best gifts I can give to those I share life with.
Traveling alone allows me to reconnect with the world around me one-on-one. I cease to wear the thousand hats of wife, mother, writer, co-worker, friend, cook, lion tamer, goose juggler, teacher, counselor, creative director, board chairman, and whatever else I might be on every given day of the year. Instead, I am free to be none of those things and examine who it is that I might actually be underneath.
You’re laughing. I can hear you. The idea of being able to carve out an afternoon for yourself, never mind a week, is laughable. A month or more? Total pipe dream.
As they got older I took off for a couple of weeks at a time to help a friend at the opposite end of the continent welcome a baby, and I flew home from the other side of the planet to help a cousin tie the knot. I learned to tack on a week of extra down time for just me, snow-bound in a bed and breakfast, or in a little cottage by the sea, space to think, to walk, to read, to do nothing except take care of me.
Start small if you have to. Carve out moments and journeys on the margins where you can.
Why? Why does it matter?
I’m an advocate for solo travel, even when you’re not solo, because it nourishes you.
I’ve recently discovered something else: that it nourishes me is enough of a reason to go. I don’t need to wait for a conference I want to attend, or a class I’d like to take, or some monumental milestone to take a break from my “real life” and take a long walk.
I know what you’re thinking: “Well that’s easy for you to say, your life is already organized around travel.”
And of course you’re right. On that level, it probably is easier for me than for some people. But that’s a choice too, isn’t it?
I have a friend who spent two years planning her short term solo journey of five weeks. It wasn’t easy for her, but she made it her priority.
What you’re doing now isn’t easy either, is it?
Will it take planning? Yes.
Will there be logistical difficulties? Yes.
Will there be negotiations within your partnership and community about who holds the world together while you’re gone? Of course.
Solo journeying when you’re not truly solo is much more difficult than when you’re a party of one, but to me, that’s also part of what makes those alone-adventures so much more precious and worthwhile; they’re not a given, and you don’t take them for granted.
Read more about solo travel:
- 20 Indispensible Resources for Solo Travelers
- The Girl’s Guide to Traveling Solo in Muslim Countries
- Top Solo Travel Tips from Those Who Have Done It
- 7 Reasons Why Everyone Should Travel Solo At Least Once