Tag Archives: Solo Travel

Going It Alone

denmarknorway-1107
Bergen, Norway

As independent as I tend to fancy myself and despite my lack of a built in travel companion since my son reached a place in his life where his schedule rarely affords him opportunity for extended time away, I had never previously seriously considered planning a vacation 100% solo. Looking back, I can’t really understand why this idea hadn’t occurred to me. I’ve traveled for work on my own quite a bit over the last several years, even extending the work trips at times to allow some recreational time tacked on to the work portion of the trip, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Strædet, Copenhagen, Denmark
Solo dining on Strædet wasn’t so bad at all.

 

While many people propound to be interested in traveling, I’ve learned that it is not always the easiest thing to find a travel companion. Some don’t have the time. Some don’t have the financial means. Some have scheduling conflicts. Some have their own built in travel companion. Some just like to say they like to travel (or want to travel), but are unwilling or unable for some reason to pull the proverbial trigger and commit to a plan. After myriad failed attempts to plan a trip with a variety of friends, I started to feel the onset of the lack-of-travel-plan-depression that plagues me when I don’t have the light at the end of the tunnel of a vacation on the horizon.

Flåm, Norway
A resting point during my bike ride. Flåm, Norway

So, I did as described in What Did I Just Do, I rather impulsively booked a trip to Denmark and Norway with a departure merely 13 days out from my booking date when I found an incredibly reasonably priced cruise to the Norwegian Fjords. I originally questioned my decision to not only book the trip on the fly, since I am typically such a travel planning nerd, but also my decision to take an 11 day vacation alone.

Geiranger, Norway
Maybe a troll lives in here. Geiranger, Norway

 

However, once I arrived in Copenhagen, I never again had a second thought, other than wondering why it took me so long to figure out that solo travel should not be a last resort. I’ve met many people who have extolled the virtues of traveling solo and have read a variety of works describing the benefits. But, until I had actually experienced a solitary vacation, I truly didn’t appreciate the many positives involved in traveling solo.

  • First and foremost, it no longer remained requisite to rely on anyone but myself to solidify a plan. I was free to pick the date and destination without the need to consult and coordinate with anyone else.
  • I was able to move at as slow or quick a pace as I was inclined at any given moment. I actually purchased the Copenhagen card as an experiment in testing the value of buying a city card. Because I was able to blaze through attractions if I so desired, I was able to visit a good many sights and utilize the inclusive public transport for the duration of the 72-hour card I purchased without having to be concerned with my pace affecting anyone else’s idea of a good time.
  • While I never have trouble whipping up a conversation with strangers (I’m a sales puke, so it’s in my DNA), I discovered that people are much more inclined to start a conversation with you when you are alone – from the kid manning the crepe station, to attraction staff, to the crew and fellow cruisers who were on my sailing, to other travelers trying to navigate Copenhagen’s public transportation system. I had opportunity to visit with a variety of fellow cruisers on the Norwegian Star, and during a variety of happenstance meetings in port stops, even managed to make a friend out of another solo, intrepid traveler.
  • I was able to finish three novels by my favorite author during the cruise portion of my trip, which would have been difficult had I been traveling with a companion.
  • If I “messed up” any of the logistics of my day…making a “wrong” turn in my attempt to find an attraction, if an activity took longer than expected, etc., I was the only one affected by the miscalculation. And, I have learned that some “mishaps” can lead you to an unexpected positive, such as stumbling across beautiful architecture that I might not have found had I made a beeline directly to my intended destination.
  • Traveling solo allowed me to really “enjoy the silence” both while I was wandering around Copenhagen and the Norwegian port stops a well as on the ship. Sitting outside on the ship deck, listening to the sounds of the sea passing by. With all of the noise that comes along with everyday life, having quiet time was an incredibly welcome respite from the bombardment of constant audio clutter.
Mount Aksla, Ålesund, Norway
Climbed all 418 steps at my own pace. Mount Aksla, Ålesund, Norway
Church of Our Saviour (Vor Frelser Kirke), Christianshavn, Copenhagen, Denmark
Church of Our Saviour (Vor Frelser Kirke), Christianshavn, Copenhagen, Denmark

I have always been pretty comfortable in my own skin, with a fairly high level of independence, but my solo time demonstrated to me that being alone whilst traveling can be extremely liberating and fulfilling. Certainly, traveling unaccompanied may not be everyone’s cup of proverbial tea, but I would recommend giving it a go to those who have an adventurous spirit and wanderlust in their heart. Being unencumbered allows for a completely different experience than traveling with the buddy system or in a group, and while traveling solo may not be preferential to traveling with others, it is certainly something I would endeavor upon again.

Advertisements

What Did I Just Do?

That was a question I recently asked myself upon completion of an impulsive booking of a trip to Europe. My typical modus operandi is to research, research and do more research to select a vacation destination. And, usually, once I decide where I’m going and subsequently purchase the main ingredients of the trip (e.g. plane tickets, cruise booking, hotel arrangements, etc.), I tend to spend months upon months doing more investigation as to the destination and what to do upon arrival. The planning and anticipation phase of the vacation are a large part of what I love about traveling. So, it was quite unlike me to sit down on a Saturday morning, browse vacation ideas and promptly hit the “purchase” button, without much forward thinking consideration, on a cruise that departs in less than two weeks’ time. 

The backstory of this atypical rash decision is simple. For quite some time, I’d been trying to figure out where to go and with whom for my next vacation, since the black cloud of depression (not clinical, but rather no-travel-plans-induced-depression) was descending upon me. However, schedules and the stars did not align for me to make plans with any of my friends. So, that fateful Saturday morning, I longingly began browsing a variety of travel sites and stumbled upon a Norwegian fjord cruise from Copenhagen that was so inexpensive, I apparently couldn’t pass it up. The next thing I knew, I was giving my credit card number to NCL once again for a vacation this time planned as a solo traveler. 

Thus commenced a series of quick decisions on flights to Denmark, pre-cruise lodging arrangements in Copenhagen, and activities for each city on the new travel itinerary. I have to admit that I second guessed myself for a minute or two as to the wisdom of planning a trip like this on the fly. But as the short window leading up to my departure started to close, my excitement at the opportunity to experience Copenhagen and the cruise independently grew exponentially.  So, here I sit in Zurich awaiting my connection to Copenhagen after an extremely pleasant flight from Miami on Swiss Air, wherein I was afforded an entire three seat row to cross the Atlantic in relative comfort. 

I’ve traveled independently for pleasure when I’ve extended work trips to a variety of locations including New York City and Dubai, and I’ve also had some solo excursions for short periods of time when traveling with friends; but this is a first for me to plan a purely vacation trip as a solo traveler. While I miss the days of having my son as my built-in travel buddy, I anxiously anticipate this opportunity to experience a trip intentionally planned solo. Time will tell if this is an endeavor I’ll choose to repeat.