I traveled solo for the first time this year. It was to Washington D.C. for a professional training provided by my firm.
Leading up to the trip, I was a nervous wreck. If that makes me sounds lame, it’s because I am.
I love traveling (wow an obvious statement) and I consider myself an independent person. So it was unusual that I had spent 23 years of my life, never going anywhere alone.
Honestly, I was so intimidated by the 4 day trek. Will I get robbed? Will I be able to navigate the city? Will I see president Trump (hopefully not) and lastly, will it even be fun? I kept reminding myself, no matter what, it was for work and I was going to learn a lot and because of that it would be a positive experience.
But internally I was definitely just screaming.
See, before this trip, I associated traveling (for work or pleasure or visiting family or anything) with stories shared with other people. Experiences that are bounced off of the other person and live forever in memories and inside jokes and photographs taken with someone else.
Aka what’s the point of making a memory if there isn’t anyone to share it with (gag).
My panic about flying 500 miles from home and staying in a relatively safe city by myself, also made me feel like a fraud. What kind of *~traveler~* am I?! I mean women are out here solo traveling in Turkey and Morocco for months at a time and I can’t even go to the most frequent destination for 8th grade field trips?! Once again, I know this makes me sound lame but it’s called honesty... google it.
Once I landed I was frantically texting one of my friends, who was mutual friend’s with a girl (who I had never met) who happen to live in DC.. just to see if her mutual friend (aka A STRANGER) would want to hangout with me.
Yes, basically, I wanted to hangout with a virtual stranger more than I wanted to hangout with myself.
Being who I am as a person, I shared my anxiety with my Uber driver as we made our 40 minutes trip from Baltimore to DC. She assured me that it would be a great time. Obviously I thought she was wrong and it was already a disaster because that’s also who I am as a person.
Once we got closer to the city, I did begin to feel less worry and more excitement. As we were driving through the historic streets and I saw the first site of the monuments, she pointed out fun things to do and see that were walking distance from my hotel. I mean I didn’t even plan on walking before but... it did seem awfully close.
Once I got up to the hotel, I took a good hard look in the mirror and thought: I’m gonna get mugged. Then I took another look and thought I’m just gonna find something to do and walk around.
I put my headphones in, and sure enough, I felt all of that fear kind of roll away and this weird confidence came over me that I had yet to experience before. I’m even pretty sure I made really weird happy facial expressions walking around because at one point I felt a little like I was in a movie (lol classic Sam).
Even in my cross country road trips and other long solo drives, I never felt this sense of freedom and self assurance while walking down the city streets by myself.
On top of my confidence boost, I found so many amazing things to do. And best of all, I didn’t have to ask someone else if they wanted to do it too.
There was no debate about what was going to be for lunch, or which museum to hit up first or if it was too hot to walk through the sculpture gardens or if I should wait until later. There was no debate on whether to stop for a snack and rest near a beautiful fountain.
It was all me.
I can honestly say, having that realization and condo was one of my all time best travel moments to date.
While I went to my training for several hours every day, and I did meet with some family that live in Bethesda for dinner one night, all of my other time was spent on exactly what I wanted to spend it on.
See, solo travel is about you. It’s about what YOU want and making yourself happy without any other expectations interfering. And that’s is pretty sweet.
I made so many incredible memories just spending time alone and it made me realize that there are plenty of fond memories worth making that required zero sharing to be worth something.
I used to associate going somewhere alone with “finding yourself” and in someways I can see why that was the case. Even though I did not travel to somewhere exotic, or go for very long, traveling solo made me feel like I was capable of things I wanted to be capable of and gave me a lot of time to reflect on things I like to do and see, and things I don’t care too much about. However, more than anything, it was just fun
So if you are on the fence as to whether you want to go on that business trip alone, or visit that place that no one seems to want to go to but you, I say go for it.
I can’t guarantee it won’t be nerve wrecking or awkward or a little bit weird when you have to ask strangers to take your picture but I think everyone should try it once.
And besides, if Kevin from Home Alone can travel in NYC solo, then so can you.