The Decision and Unexpected Joys of Traveling Alone
I tend to build things up in my head. A lot. The idea of traveling alone was no different. My initial trigger was a not-so-nice breakup that left me a quaint mess with a fervent desire to prove my independence. I don’t need anyone to take care of me… I can make my own way… I decide my destiny. Of course, all of this and none of it were true at the same time. The resulting gut reaction was essentially Run. Run. Run. Really healthy stuff.
Luckily I had a lot of wonderful people in my life who both supported this conviction and gave me the necessary comfort to figure out where it was really coming from and how it could be used for the better. With change tearing through my life map, being in my new apartment in Chicago alone with my thoughts was more than I could bear. I was traveling domestically every other weekend almost as a survival tactic. Run. Run. Run.
Though the love and distraction Of my friends and family helped, I wanted to escape and prove I could be alone somewhere far away and wild. I had visions of sitting On a mountainside or eating exotic food at a table for one. Julia Roberts really got me with that Eat, Pray, Love tomfoolery. While building up this idea thrilled me, it also terrified me. Needless to say, it probably wasn’t the right time to go.
I took 9 months or so to get out the recklessness, to get my head straight. I learned to live alone before I decided to go to a foreign country alone. Finally, I felt ready to nail down an international adventure for what felt like the right reasons for me. A nice new guy snuck his way into that time as well and encouraged, if not prodded my need for passport stamping. Now, I was running toward an experience that would jolt me in a good way. The super cheap flight deal didn’t hurt either. I booked a 10 day trip to Reykjavik, Iceland and Copenhagen, Denmark.
As my departure date neared and I shared what I was doing with family and friends, I got a mix of reactions. Why aren’t you going with anyone else? Aren’t you nervous? Is it safe? All the way to Hell yea, you’ll have a blast! Good for you! You grow, girl! I read a number of blog posts on women traveling alone, and though I share some of the frustration with societies worries, I also kind of get the knee-jerk part of that reaction based on what we’re shown in the media (outside of Eat, Pray, Love, of course). Safety is important. But, I would be actively safe in ways I could control just like I am at home in Chicago. My fear was more the being alone and watching gushy couples and groups part. I wanted and needed to look solitude in the eye and dance in its face. Dancing felt like a step in the right direction from running. So, there’s that.
Fast forward and I’m alive, back in Chicago, and had the cliche trip I had hoped for and more. It’s different for everyone, but here are a few of my unexpected joys of traveling alone.
You’re not worried about doing things that annoy other people, or being annoyed. Traveling with other people, especially significant others is a telling experience. It is certainly wonderful. But, I’ve always been innately aware of what I might do that gets on their nerves and vice versa. Am I chewing too loud? Do I need to shower or I can I get by with another swipe of deodorant? When you’re alone, you don’t care. And, you get to walk away if things/people annoy you. It’s also not as rude to put your headphones in at any point or turn away and read if you don’t want to interact with humans.
Music becomes your companion. I met a lot of really rad people. My Airbnb hosts and people I hit it off with along the way were great. But, if I didn’t want to talk, my music and podcasts were my boo. Creating a soundtrack to your experience is the best. Some of my favorites: So Far it’s Alright- The 1975, Wake Up- Arcade Fire, Tokyo Sunrise- LP, One Day- Matisyahu, R U Mine- SteLouse Remix. Some of these songs make sense for my soundtrack, others just have killer beats. The great news is- who cares? You get to choose. I did some of that dancing to these (in public) and could not care less about who saw.
You give significantly fewer fucks about taking a ton of pictures. I took some, don’t get me wrong. But, I also observed people living through their lens and found it much more fulfilling personally to hike away to my own little spot. To sit. And breathe. And soak in. This experience was mine alone and taking in the air and location were way more important to me than 19 angles of a gorgeous waterfall or getting my crazy hair to lay just right for my individual photo-op. That said, I also came to this conclusion by realizing how poor my selfie skills are.
Your looks are less important, but somehow you feel like a queen. I was backpacking, on a budget, and doing little primping all trip (again, awesome). But, I feel like I had a solo lady traveler glow that was undeniable. Even if this was in my head and the glow was the result of forgetting my face wash at home… I’m a pretty firm believer in fake it til’ ya make it. So, I’ll take it.
I have aspirations to do a big outdoor excursion alone, but this trip was a start for me. I hope all you Whoa women give the gift of solo travel to yourself at some point. It can be a weekend away to the lake, an hour from home, or a big international backpacking excursion. Taking time to let your thoughts stew, to breathe, to take care of your wanderlust however that exists for you is the point. Besides, if you could choose a travel partner, putting yourself at the top of the list is probably a good sign.
Kayla Drozd is a Pacific Northwest native living in Chicago. She works in marketing & research and has a passion for empowering teen girls. When she isn’t planning her next nature getaway, she’s finding new spots to explore in the city.
You can follow Kayla’s future solo travels at:
Twitter – @kaydrozd
Instagram – @kaydrozd