“I get to Paris on Friday. See you then!”
I’ve done a lot of solo-travel the last few years. I road-tripped around the northeast US alone in my Jeep. I spent a month in Marseille and two months in Paris. I went to Berlin, Amsterdam, and Brussels. Traveling alone gave me so much freedom–I could sleep when I wanted to, write when I wanted to, while away as many hours at the museum as I wanted to. I never had to worry about what anyone else wanted to do on my trip; I could be selfish with my time.
In the future I’m going to write so much more about those three solo months in Europe in 2014, but let’s leave it at the fact that they were key for me. I needed to be selfish with my time, then.
Everyone–and I firmly believe that this applies to nearly everyone–should travel alone at least once in their lives.
There is something freeing about stepping off a plane or out of a train into an unfamiliar city and having to find your way around. In those first moments, the nerves blossom in your stomach like so many weeds, your thoughts race ahead to the worst possible conclusions, there is a moment when you consider turning around and getting right back home–but in the end, it’s fine. You find where you’re staying; You get food. Then, you get to discover a new city. You get to wander and stand and marvel at something. You feel humbled by the grandeur of a new site, and then you feel like anything is possible. You get lost and you find your way back and you learn to trust yourself, even in the moments when you feel the least secure. Especially in the moments when you feel the least secure.
Solo-travel is permission, with start and end dates.
But in those same years, there have been the weeks I’ve spent with my cousins in LA and San Diego; The wedding I went to with all my BiSC friends in Chicago; The weekends in Ohio to see my best friend; The countless trips driven down to Austin to see friends. Several of my friends have already found their way to Paris, and seeing sites with them was like seeing everything again for the first time. Travel with a friend, or any loved one, is special in it’s own right too.
It’s more than just logistics and safety–though those things are good too. (You need someone to take a photo of you on stage at the cabaret, c’mon!)
Feeling awed is something that can really only be shared when you’re standing next to someone. It’s hard to explain the depth of feeling that settles in when you first stand in front of Notre Dame and notice all the little artistic details in the façade that are too small to notice in photos. No photo can do the Winged Victory of Samothrace justice. Seeing a lion in the wild has to be shared, it can’t be replicated at the zoo. The bond that grows between people when they experience something new together–that bond holds strong.
The people you travel with are often your people for life.
Solo-travel is a fantastic adventure. But right now, I want to share more adventures with other people. I want to be able to turn to someone a year (or five years or twenty years) from now and say, “Remember when we did ____?” “Remember when we saw _____?”
(More benefits: Friends will be willing to take photos posing like statues with you, instead of trying to do it alone.)
Like this? Check out On My First Week Back in Paris after Two Years Away and None of Us Are Special Snowflakes (Thank God.)