A couple of summers ago, amid a tour across Europe, I landed in Barcelona for a handful of sun-seared, wine-washed days.
The experience turned into one of those perfect storms of vacation lore: pristine weather, amazing food and great friends with lots of laughs. It was just how I would have planned it — except I didn’t. I was traveling solo and rolling with the tide.
This wasn’t a fluke. I love traveling alone.
Sure, doing so has its challenges. It can be more expensive, for example, because you’re not sharing the costs for transportation and board. At times it can also be scary: Once, while traveling solo in Rome, a creepy stranger followed me through a quiet neighborhood — and cornered me before I yelled so loudly he ran away. And not every location is ideal for solo travel. I went to Iceland alone this summer and I have to admit, with most tourists coupled or in small groups, it felt a little lonely.
But in my experiences, the good outweighs the bad. When I’m not constantly engulfed in conversation, I look around more. I listen more. I realize, in the moment, how unique the experience is — instead of looking back on a trip with those thoughts. Traveling alone allows you to be as regimented or as open-ended as you like. If you want to be lazy, you can be. If you want to power through an aggressive checklist, you do. If you want to crumple up your itinerary and make a spontaneous detour to Sicily, that works, too.
The best benefit might be opportunities to meet new friends and make unscripted memories. In that incredible spin through Barcelona, I met Mel, a fellow solo traveler from Belgium, with whom I still keep in touch. In fact, we’re currently planning our “reunion” — in Southeast Asia.
Traveling alone, you see, doesn’t always mean being alone. And sometimes it ends up better than you ever could have planned.
Amelia Rayno writes about food and travel for the Star Tribune. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter and Instagram: @AmeliaRayno