Coming back from Barcelona, after a weekend trip I made to the city on my own a few months ago, I realised something that surprised me: not only had I loved every second of being by myself in a new place, it’s something I want to make time for every year. There are a few reasons why:
Time and space to reflect
Travel always puts me in a reflective mood. I like to think about where I am and what I want to achieve, and really value having the time and space to get my thoughts in order. When I return home, I feel refreshed, positive and newly determined.
The challenge has changed me
Solo travel takes courage. It’s a challenge. And when you succeed at that challenge, on your own, it gives you huge confidence in other aspects of life. Naturally introverted, I’ve learned to make conversation with strangers, to be less affected by shyness and embarrassment, and that a big smile always goes a long, long way.
I can do what I want
I adore travelling with friends and have some of my favourite memories from those trips. But when you’re in a group, it’s not always possible to explore all the back streets, to see every sight, or to linger in a street cafe and just people watch. Everyone has different agendas and everyone must compromise. When travelling alone, your time is your own. If you want to explore all day, you can. If you want to laze on the beach, you can.
I’ve made new friends
It’s encouraged me to join organised groups. If you want to travel for more than a few days, or want to do something adventurous, but don’t have anyone to go with, group trips can be ideal. I’ve trekked in Patagonia (pictured below), and been on horse riding holidays in Botswana, Sardinia and Romania, all with people I’d never met before. And we’ve always got along brilliantly. Two years on I’m still in touch with my fellow Patagonia trekkers and last summer we met up for a weekend walking in the Lake District.
Of course, there are downsides to solo travel. As a female in a strange place, safety is constantly on my mind. In the evenings in Barcelona, I stayed in the touristy areas and didn’t explore too far from my hostel. I didn’t see much of the nightlife, because I didn’t want to go to bars on my own. I did, though, feel comfortable in restaurants – reading a book and scribbling in my notebook both kept me busy while I ate.
Sometimes it’s nice simply to be around others too, and when I’ve spent a day or two on my own, I crave company. My solution in Barcelona? I joined a bike tour and spent a very happy morning zooming around the city with other like-minded travellers.
Finally, what about the value in sharing all those moments and memories? Whether you’re on an adrenaline-fuelled adventure or staying at a cosy hotel, travel can be so much richer when experienced with someone else.
I guess, for me, it is, like many things in life, about balance. Group trips, friends trips and solo trips, I love them all, and all have a place in my travel plans.