Since I’ve been over in Europe, I have taken the idea of independent travel (or, more literally, traveling independently) and have embraced it a little more than when I think about it before August. Solo traveling is a concept that either some have shuddered at (like me) or that some have immediately dismissed (like me) or that some have thought about doing, but then made up excuses as to not doing it (again…like me).
It’s understandable, really. As the social creatures that I and seemingly the rest of the human species tend to be, the idea of going off into the unknown without the company of anyone familiar is a mixture of both daunting, intimidating, and kinda odd. I’ve traveled ‘independently’ (I put quotes here since I’m not sure whether someone like Rick Steves would label it as independent travel, since I’ve known people in the cities, yet haven’t traveled them) a few times now this semester and, while it might not always be my preferred method of hopping around the world, I have now developed a kind of soft spot….here are some reasons why:
1. I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT!!!!!!!
Minus the over-dramatic use of exclamation points, one perk of traveling by oneself is simply that one can do whatever one wants to do in city or country. There is obviously no one there telling them what to do or not do. No parents, no friends, no holding anyone back, no waiting for people, no sitting idly while someone has to use the bathroom….you get the idea. (NOTE: I do like having travel companions when I travel…please don’t take this the wrong way. I can only travel solo for so long).
…so it’s that much better for you as a traveler if you actually are able to know your limits, your boundaries, you desires, just simply you when you are alone with you. As the Greek Philosopher Thales put it so simply, it is much easier planning for yourself alone than it is for a whole group of however many people. Logistically, it’s a lot easier getting around a city like Barcelona, Spain, for instance, when it’s just you and your transit ticket. In other cases, when it’s just you at the controls, you can go whichever direction you want to go, not just the most efficient route. If I’ve learned anything from travel, it is that the most exciting parts are the places off the beaten path, the places that might require a detour, a meandering shortcut, an intentional path to get lost on. Going the route that everyone else goes on isn’t always the most fulfilling or engaging route. In some places, like the Sagrada Familia, there are places that are so tight on room, that they don’t allow groups to go into at all. Sometimes it’s great having someone else plan out your trip…other times, it’s nice wandering off and seeing the little nooks and crannies of a place.
I can’t think of a witty title for this one, but basically, when traveling alone, the only person you have to discuss a potential schedule change with is yourself. No need for an on-the-spot decision because you have a number of people counting on your decision or navigational know-how. Throughout today, I can’t count how many times I went through what I wanted to do next, where I wanted to go, or how I was going to get there. I might be thinking too much about it or letting me get inside my own head a bit, but it helps keep me on my toes in case something comes in and disturbs how I want it to go. There’s always a plan B, C, or D…especially in a city as big as Barcelona.
Of course, there are always some potential negatives to this, as there is with anything else. It’s not always fun sitting by yourself at a dinner table. Sitting on a train with no one to talk to can be annoying sometimes. The moments when you want someone to take a picture in front of a view or a building and have to resort to taking an awkward selfie because you don’t feel like asking a stranger to take your camera in fear of them running away with said valuable. Or just the simple times when you’d really love to have someone or someones there to share in all the enjoyable and exciting times. In a perfect world, all of these would be a reality, but alas…that’s not how it was intended. I would be thrilled if there were people that wanted to go to places like Papua New Guinea or Belarus or Uruguay or the Maldives or Burkina Faso as much as I want to (as well as every other country), but I am aware that this is not the case with everybody. Until then, if it means that sometimes I will be traveling independently, I can now say at least that I am okay with it. Adjusting comes, but after this semester in Europe, I have definitely become more acquainted with the idea. It’s not all bad in the end. Barcelona is awesome by the way!!! More to come later on….