I posted about my trip to the Amalfi Coast recently and one aspect of the trip that I didn’t go into much detail about was the fact that I was completely alone there and it was my first time traveling alone! Scary. I wanted to save this topic for an entire post to give some feedback for those of you that might be considering traveling alone, but aren’t sure exactly how it’ll pan out.
You will be SO nervous.
Yes, traveling alone changes you; It helps you find yourself, and all the other cliche things you hear, but the truth is, the night before I was supposed to leave, I was laying in bed talking to Austin and I was almost in tears saying “I don’t want to go. This is a mistake. I just want to stay home.” To be honest, I knew this would happen. My gut reaction every time I do something big like this is to just not – to cancel everything and forget I even had the idea in the first place. Don’t do this. Push through this mental barrier.
Things WILL go wrong.
I know this. I know you know this. Things always go wrong. Something always happens to throw a wrench in the plans you thought were perfect. Something, something…Murphy’s Law..something. However, I still tried to plan my trip as perfectly as possible – starting with my travel to Italy. I planned everything so precisely so that nothing would go wrong on the way there, and I wouldn’t get even more discouraged than I already was. Specifically, I took a cab to the airport (instead of the blue line subway) in Chicago, I flew to London and booked a lounge for my 6 hour layover (instead of dealing with noisy, rude airport people), and then, after flying to Naples, booked a private driver for my transfer from Naples to Positano (instead of a train + bus combo). Luckily, everything went smoothly on my way to Positano, BUT I never accounted for the fact that my iPhone would completely shut down and stop working. That’s right – on my second full day in Italy, I was left with no phone and no reachable Apple store. Now, I could have brought an extra phone with me (my dad does this, I probably never will), but the point I’m trying to make here is that no matter how much you prepare, you will never think of everything, and the thing you don’t think of will be the thing that goes wrong.
When things like this happen, all you can do is figure out what you have control over. You should try with everything you have not to stress about “why did this happen to me?” or “now all my beautiful pictures are gone!” By the way, I’m not perfect in any sense – I stressed a LOT. I called (Skyped) Austin crying about 18 times. But after I had my pity party, I started to think what can I control? How can I help the situation? In this stage is when I asked the hotel (in Italian, I might add) to use their printer to print my train ticket to Rome as well as a map to the nearest Apple store so I could just hand that to a taxi driver when I got there. At this point I was feeling a little better because I was spending my energy on fixing the problem instead of dwelling on my bad luck.
To make matters even worse (now I’m dwelling again), when i did try to hand the map to the Apple store to the cab driver, he had no idea what I was talking about and since I don’t speak Italian, I just had him drive me to my hotel which is where the “group” part of “group travel” comes in (more to come on that later). Anyway, I tried to check into the hotel and my name wasn’t in their system. I guess the hotel was changed last minute, but no one could get a hold of me for obvious reasons. When the hotel desk associate asked me if there was any information on my phone I could show him to try and fix the matter, I broke into hysterical tears and I feel so bad for that man. I tried to explain why I was being a crazy person, but he was so nice and understanding and just tried to get me to drink some tea and calm down. Long story short, I found my group at our actual hotel, and one of the trip managers that spoke Italian came with me to get my phone fixed. After this situation, I will never a) take my phone for granted or b) get stressed out about something minor, again.
OTHER people are weird about YOUR choices.
As a relatively independent person, I don’t get awkward or uncomfortable when going to dinner alone, or sight seeing alone, or striking up conversations along the way, but other people did. I remember there was a restaurant on the beach in Positano that a lot of travel bloggers recommended and they also said it would be wise to make a reservation because it fills up quickly. So, one night I called them and asked to make a reservation for the following night and they said “okay for two people?” and I said, “well, no. It’s actually just one,” and the woman laughed at me and said “just you?” and I hung up. As simple as her statement was, it really stung. It’s already such a romantic town that I wished Austin was with me, or even a few friends, that I didn’t exactly want to be reminded that I was alone when I was already feeling somewhat lonely.
Similarly, every time I mentioned my trip to Italy before I went, the first question was “are you going with your boyfriend?” “No..” I’d say, “by myself.” Their eyes almost automatically went wide and they’d ask why he wasn’t going, if things were okay between us. “Of course! He just couldn’t fit this trip into his schedule.” “So you’re going ALONE?” As if that would be the worst possible situation. They almost felt bad for me. Now, of course this wasn’t everyone. I also got a lot of very supportive “good for you!” responses, but the look of pity that some people gave me almost made ME feel sorry for THEM because their insecurities of traveling alone were very clear. This is how you should approach negative responses – by being so confident in your decision that it causes other people to think “hmm, maybe I could do this.”
You will only have to think about YOURSELF
I am very much a people-pleaser. My therapist and I came to this conclusion many moons ago, so it was so WEIRD to only think about myself. What did I want to eat? What did I want to see/do? How was I feeling at any particular moment? Tired? Take a nap. Hungry? Eat. I think most people are so conditioned to take others’ thoughts and feelings into consideration (which is a good thing), that we sometimes put aside our own basic needs.
I actually recall one specific day – the day I went to Capri. In my Amalfi Coast travel diary, I mentioned that after coming back from Capri, I was soaking wet and extremely tired, so I went to take a nap, but there was so much more that went into that. To give some back story, I tend have a (seemingly) common mindset when I travel – I will never be back here and I need to see and do everything there is to see and do, or I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. So, I didn’t ever want to nap or sleep a full night, or do anything that wasn’t incredibly exciting. But getting of that boat, I was drained and I was actually feeling very lonely – like overwhelmingly lonely. I ended up Googling “what to do when you feel lonely traveling alone” and got some of the best advice I could have read. Indiana Jo, I can’t thank you enough for your advice: TEND TO YOUR BASIC NEEDS FIRST. If you’re feeling especially lonely, you’re probably also tired or hungry or thirsty and those feelings are snowballing to bigger ones causing you to second guess your solo travel in the first place. I took a step back and realized, I’m literally sopping wet, I’m exhausted from lack of sleep and walking so much, and I could definitely eat. So, that’s when I decided to take a nap, and BOY did it help. I woke up refreshed and ready to head to dinner. After dinner is when my phone broke which brought on a whole new set of problems, but one step at a time, people!
You’ll be THANKFUL you did it, but you may or may NOT want to do it again.
I don’t regret starting my trip early by myself one bit. Through all the events I described above, I proved to myself that I can adapt, I can think for myself, and I can live and act with myself in mind. Like I mentioned, I’m a huge people pleaser, so living solely for myself for even three days was way outside of my nature, but it was so freeing! I know a lot of people who absolutely love traveling alone. They love meeting new people, they love the serenity, and for that reason – once they travel alone, they want to do it again and again.
While I am thankful I did it, I’m not sure I’ll do it again. A lot of things I LOVE doing on vacation – eating local food, doing things local to the region (e.g., wine tasting, horseback riding, etc.) are made so much better (in my opinion) by having someone there with you. I know a common response to this “excuse” is go meet new people, but I’m just not good at that! I did meet a few women when I went to Capri, but it wasn’t either group going up to the other. We were thrown on a boat together and got to talking. So, moral of the story, at the moment, I don’t see myself traveling alone again any time soon, but of course that could easily change. I never claim to tell the future, and you never know what it might bring!
Have any of you ever traveled alone? Tell me how it went!