It was summer about five years ago and, typical for me, I had no plans for midsummer. First I tried to recall whether I had any friends who could join me, but at that time most of them had plans with their families. I never thought I would not be able to travel alone - it was the complete loneliness I was concerned about. Then I realised I spend most my weekends alone at home, so why not do that somewhere else?
I pondered different options and ended up with familiar one - London. A city which has so much to offer, so I thought I wouldn´t get bored that easily. The trip went well and all, but I still think it would have been more fun with company. And yet again, I did the same thing last summer so I guess it isn´t that bad after all. Business trips are a bit different because at destinations I have scheduled meetings and most likely local partners to have dinner with.
So what do I enjoy when travelling by myself?
Freedom. I can do whatever I want and whenever I want. I can decide whether to spend all day reading a book at the beach, rent a car or a bike, take a bus to another city, shop, go to the gym etc. I can choose what and where to eat and no one is criticizing my choices.
Time to think. Last time I travelled alone I was feeling quite low for some reasons. When you are far away from home, things can be seen in a different perspective. Nasty argument with someone close to you may start to feel pointless, you might realise you have set way too high expectations for yourself or you can realise that something is not good for you and you need to let it go. I had time to think about the things that bothered me without them ruining my holiday, because I really had plenty of time to do fun stuff as well.
New people. I have to say that I´m quite used to spending my time alone (not sure if I like that or not), and as an introvert I´m not the most eager to get to know new people. Luckily sometimes it just happens without big efforts. I decided to go for a horse riding trip once, and there I met a lovely lady who owned the ranch. We had interesting conversations about her horses and the stable´s history. You never know who will sit next to you on the next flight - for example, I´ ve experienced the most hilarious flight sitting next to a frisk Finnish businessman talking about his experiences of an exhibition we both were on our way to.
Unfortunately there are also some less enjoyable aspects while traveling alone.
New people. Yes, they can be both good and bad acquaintances. What I don´t particularly enjoy, as a woman, are over-enthusiastic men. Especially in tourist places a young(ish) woman eating alone in a restaurant truly attracts local gigolos. I would never ever say yes to any invitations for "I´ll show you the city with my Mercedes"- kind of occasions, no matter how cute the inviter is. On my previous "alone trip" I attended an interval training class accompanied by another Finnish lady. And boy was she chatty! She would probably have wanted me to move to their hotel room just to tell me all about her life in details. No wonder her husband was not as chatty as I met him in the end of our class...
Loneliness. This is definitely the biggest disadvantage on my list. Even though I spend lots of time on my own, it is only half the fun to explore and experience the world if you don´t have anyone to share it with. I don´t like to have dinner alone in a restaurant so I usually buy something from supermarket / fast food restaurant and eat in the hotel room. Sounds extremely dull, I know, but then again I do that all the time at home. It is not fun to sip a cocktail at a bar either, so what I usually do is focus on other activities such as sports, shopping and walking around the streets of whichever city I´m in. Maybe I would learn to fully enjoy a lonely weekend somewhere if I had a totally hyperactive family, but at my stage of being a heartless single I could use some company when traveling.
Constant "standby" mode. Well, this can be seen as instructive as well, but sometimes I find constant controlling of schedules, transportation arrangements and observing possible changes during journey quite tiring. Of course I am always observing the timetable and checking that I have everything with me (passport and money, for instance), but somehow I can be more laid-back in company which I know do the same as I. When you are alone, you need to take special care of yourself and your luggage, because no one will tell you not to forget your jacket when leaving the lounge or to note that the gate for your flight has changed for the third time. This may sound as if I was a little child who needs to be cared for, but I can tell you that you can behave quite exceptionally when you suddenly notice that you need to run to the other side of terminal in three minutes. I hope someone enjoys the book(s) I have abandoned in Frankfurt... and Dubai... and Bangkok...
All in all, my final opinion is that everyone should try traveling alone at least once. Even though I personally prefer traveling with company, there is some glory in taking time for yourself as well. The first trip alone was instructive, and afterwards I was happy to be able to implement it regardless minor anxieties. Now I know I can do it and enjoy it for sure.