Whenever I tell someone my travel plans, the next question out of their mouth is almost always some variation of “Who are you going with?” And more than once, my response–“I’m going alone”–has been met with “Wow, that’s brave.” As if the idea of travelling a foreign country on my own for a week is so drastically removed from the idea of living in one for a year. I don’t mind the question, really; it’s the reaction that has always seemed odd to me.
The truth is, I like travelling alone. My travel style tends to involve a lot of aimless wandering and taking photos, and often without regard to the weather. I don’t have to worry that my companion is getting bored or tired or hungry. I can spend my time as I please: if I want to go out, I can go out, and if I want to go to bed early, I can do that too; I don’t have to worry that something I want to do is too expensive for the other person or that I can’t afford something they want to do. And really, one of the best things about travelling is having time to myself to breathe and think. (Plus, quite honestly, there are fairly few people with whom I want to spend ten straight days.)
That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be nice, sometimes, to have someone else to hold bags while I change a camera lens, to sit across from at a restaurant or split paella with; someone to whom I can say, “I’m tired of making decisions. What do you want to do?”
Of course, I’m rarely totally alone. The nice thing about hostels is that I can usually find people if I want them. Hostel common areas lend themselves well to conversations over breakfast, group excursions to find dinner, impromptu poker games, late nights spent laughing over drinks and cigarettes. For every group of six friends spending a weekend partying in Barcelona, there’s a friendly German couple spending a week in Turkey or another American student visiting from their own temporary home abroad.
So yes, I travel alone. With the exception of two weeks spent with my sister, all of my overnight trips have been toute seule. But it doesn’t mean I’m lonely, not by a long shot.
This piece is cross-posted on the Georgetown Study Abroad Blog, where you can read about the experiences of Georgetown students studying across the globe.