Experience Traveling Alone

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Why I travel?

To experience things I can not experience at home and see new places. They are everyone’s main reasons, right? While being the most obvious reasons, they do not always make the most special memories. Making the most of memories just might be by traveling solo.

Traveling usually is a wonderful experience, yet it can be exhausting, consuming, expensive and sometimes a complete nightmare, so why would anyone choose to take the solo plunge?  Sometimes you need to embrace challenges to make the best of them even if plans do get changed. Change makes for memories, especially if you face those challenges only by yourself. It is exhilarating to conquer the fear of being in a foreign place, depending on local people for directions and ultimately finding your way around.

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There were a few travelers traveling alone on our recent trip and the curious person I am, I asked what is the allure to solo travel? One lady told me, “It is only my needs that matter, where I can plan something to maximize my desires. I can get lost and enjoy it.” She explained how she was a bit apprehensive to take the plunge and travel solo, but found taking a cruise meant all she had to do was show up at the airport with her suitcase. It was that simple. The rest was arranged by the cruise company.

Traveling alone gave her the chance to indulge the place fully, enjoy the cities at her leisure, explore the arts, museums, music, architecture, parks, and even the gardens – on her own schedule. And all with the knowledge that the cruise company was there for her safety and comfort.

Don’t you like the flowers above in mid-November? Pretty impressive, huh?

Solo travelers are usually faced with the single supplement, a “little” fee cruise lines and hotels tack onto the bill to compensate them for not making money off the second traveler. The supplement means that you could end up paying twice as much as someone traveling with a partner. Not all supplements are twice the price, our trip singles did pay less, but some paid nothing more. How?

To avoid the single supplement, some elected for roommate matching. We had a few taking this option where being bunked with someone you don’t know worked out great – or did not work out at all. One lady threatened to sleep in the hotel’s lobby to avoid her annoying roommate.

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One thing about solo travel

While I was not traveling alone, I found myself often exploring the cities without my friend. We did not always choose to see the same things, or even the same cities. Being on my own…in Wertheim which is on the Main and Tauber Rivers,  Barbara went onto Rothenburg, Germany. Wertheim was a lovely town with a very large accessible castle.

Another woman from our trip accompanied me up the tall, imposing tower. It was quite a hike as you can see from my images overlooking the town. How many miles out do you think you can see in my photos? Click to make them bigger. It is like looking into another country and it just may be France or Belgium we are seeing in the distance. No doubt why castles were placed so high on a hill. Castles could view each other too. In the first image, a white castle can be seen off in the distance.

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I found my mind wandering with heavy thoughts while on this trip. Issues affecting me became clearer, more meaningful. I became a better observer of the places and the people around me, which in turn changed the way to interact with people, often becoming more interested in, if not kinder to those I met. Travel increases curiosity about the new surroundings, you find yourself more willing to explore, more willing to engage the locals. I learned a lot about others simply by paying more attention than if deep in conversation with a travel companion. Being alone (if only alone some days), gave me a chance to get to know more people and see the sights of my choosing. Would you travel alone?

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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43 Responses to Experience Traveling Alone

  1. lulu says:

    One of my most memorable trips is one I did entirely on my own. Maybe it was the freedom of doing what I wanted that made it special.

    • Hi Lulu. I never did travel by myself, always with a friend, spouse or boyfriend. I found on this trip I was alone more than I ever was since our trip got changed from cruise to bus rides. I could have followed my friend and been very happy seeing the same sights as her, but the bus rides were getting tedious. I chose places having a shorter ride in order to maximize sights I could experience. I also enjoyed the freedom of doing just what I wanted, even seeing some museums that may not have interested her. After talking to the single travelers, I think I could do that myself too.

  2. mbkircus says:

    I gave up my home to live a traveling life. I volunteer at National Wildlife Refuges and live at them. I travel several thousand miles a year. My must adventuresome travel was spending 8 days traveling through the Boundary Waters Wilderness with just my solo canoe, a backpack, and a little daypack with my food. I have often hiked, canoed, and camped out alone and find it allows me to see thing much more deeply and to want to write about my experiences. When I’m with friends, I usually expend all my energy talking with them.

    And I started dreaming about this life when I took a 7 week, 11,000 mile car trip, stopping to visit friends along the way, but spending most weeknights camping alone.

    • Wow, I admire you. I would love to have a job at the National Wildlife Refuge and even live among the animals and to care for the environment. As a wildlife photographer, it would be wonderful. When younger, I had a horse that I rode long distances and did camping, but never alone. I just wished I documented that time in my life. I am sure I would have had an interesting journal. I also did a cross country drive with a friend when younger too. That was an exciting time. It took all summer as we visited almost every state.

      • mbkircus says:

        This is a great retirement job. I have a single friend that drives a big motor home between her volunteer gigs at refuges, and has been doing that for years. We get to meet new friends along the way and our old friends come visit us and we stop by and visit them. It’s a great life, and sometimes I get to garden for the refuges.

  3. Kalamain says:

    I have to say that while I am a loner at heart I couldn’t do the solo travel thing, at least not to anywhere outside of the UK.
    Language would be my biggest problem, then there would be confidence. Something else which I have a real lack of.

    All in all, those that do the solo thing are a shed load braver than me and I have to applaud them for it.

    • I found in my travels last year and this year visiting both Europe and Eastern Europe, I never really had a difficult time with language. Most spoke English and those that didn’t, apps helped bridge the language barrier. There were places in Austria and Germany this year where I found few English speaking folks, but I knew enough German to muddle through. In Europe, the subways were great and easy to learn. I would have like visiting the countries via the high-speed train, but we did not have that much time in any one place to take that option. I think I could travel alone, but I still would need some kind of support – like having an itinerary planned always knowing where I would stay and how I was getting from place to place. I still like traveling with my friend better though. I have a husband who does not travel, so having friends that do is wonderful.

  4. David says:

    Very nice photos and article. I like solitude but I know I couldn’t travel alone. I lived for about a year in San Francisco and another in the Monterey Bay area. Between my little Yamaha motorcycle and the Greyhound Bus system I traveled all around the area by myself. I would see so many things that I wished my girlfriend (back in Missouri and now my wife) could see too. Being by myself I really didn’t enjoy some of the things as much as I would have if someone was there to share them with me.

    • I think you are probably like most, sharing travels with a spouse or even the children. I am resigned to my husband not wanting to travel, yet travel is something I want to do every chance I can. I finally decided I would travel and have been lucky to have great friends that enjoy it too.

  5. Søren says:

    I’ve travelled alone quite often and don’t really think of it as something special. It can just be a nice way to get away when you happen to have the time, do what you want to do and not have to take on responsibility for other people. When travelling with others I always end up guiding people around, simply because I have a good sense of direction, can read a map and generally know a fair bit about the places I travel to.

    And while that can be fun, some times I just don’t want to be a tour guide and have people expecting me to find a good restaurant in a place I’ve never been to before. Also, I rather enjoy walking, so when I travelled with my ex-husband it was a bit frustrating that we always had to sit down and take a break every hour or so, just as I was hitting my stride. I easily walk 25+ miles in a day when I’m in Rome alone, for instance.

    • I found my time alone on this trip to be quite fun and also a time to reflect. I was rather sick and hurting my first week, and I did not want to be a killjoy to my friend, so I started wandering around a lot on my own. Once I got over the fear of getting lost and seeing how easy I was finding my way around, it actually became fun seeing what was new around every corner. I too enjoy walking, often walk 12-15 miles a day at home. I have no idea what I did in Europe since I did not have my phone, but I suppose I maybe hit 8 miles or so a day. There was too many museums to see, so that cut into “travel time”. Sorry about you breaking up with your husband. You two had an interesting life. I need a link for your blog Søren. I tried Googling it but it did not come up.

      • Søren says:

        www.http://flaneurgardening.com/ is still where I’m at – only now I’m no longer blogging about the old Flâneur Garden, but the dreams of a new one… (I get my new garden on Tuesday… Oh, and there’s a house in the garden as well.)

        The only day I tracked my mileage while I was in Rome this past summer I did 22 miles plus a museum, 4 baroque churches, one city of ruins (Ostia) and still managed to cram in 3 hours on the beach in the afternoon/evening… (Yes, there’s a beach just half an hour from Rome. How did I not know that until this year?)

        As for the divorce, well… He’s a great guy, just not for me.

  6. I haven’t travelled alone for such a long time. You made me want to do it again… and soon! I wonder if I can take at least a week end off my family

  7. Lisa - Ontario says:

    I was planning a trip to England to see the gardens next April/May. I knew my boyfriend had no interest in going so I was planning to go on my own. When I told my mother (who is 76) she said “maybe I’ll just go with you”. So now she is. She understands that we will be looking at gardens everyday. But it does put a little more stress on me to make sure she enjoys herself, which I know she will, but still I feel responsible now. It will perhaps be good to have someone in the passenger’s seat reading a map, or not, I don’t think her nav skills are very good. I will definitely appreciate her at dinners out, I’m not a fan of eating by myself in restaurants.

    • It is nice your mother will be accompanying you, but I understand your trepidation too. You will likely running the show for both of you. I agree about eating alone. I have done it before in restaurants, but it is always better with friends or family. England is somewhere I have wanted to go for a long time to see gardens. My friend and I have talked about it, but never made any plans as of yet. Someday…

  8. mmwm says:

    I’m 53 and I prefer to travel alone, though I do also travel with my spouse and sometimes with a friend. I have taken several 2- or 3-week cross-U.S. train trips alone (since age 30), and I love the experience of being alone, sleeping alone, choosing what I want to do each day, doing things at my own pace, changing my mind at the last minute without disappointing or upsetting anyone, etc. I like the time on the train and in the hotel room to think my own thoughts.

    • I admire your travel alone. I could go for riding the train, especially those with sleeping cars. I was looking into a trip across all of Canada to the state parks that was partly by train. I too enjoy time alone in hotel rooms, then I can sleep when I want, read when I want, or even turn on a TV show if I want. The only problem, that would be costlier.

  9. i prefer to travel alone (though i also enjoy time with my friends/loved ones).. i agree; traveling alone gives you plenty of ‘selfish’ time, which is very important to me when i visit museums and spend hours or entire days just studying artifacts. most of my friends would be restless or bored, though many would not venture to other sites/meet up later. i also find it’s easy to strike up conversations with locals, and they often invite me into their day.. they don’t want to interrupt others traveling together, but the show compassion to the single traveler.

    it has its negative points.. like if you have several bags, how does one take a rest-room break without a person to watch over the bags/luggage?

    • I can see how traveling alone would be conducive to the locals, “inviting you into their day.” I found being alone and asking directions was rather easy to get a helpful person. I too get not having the same interests as your friends. I find I have different friends for my own different interests. Those that enjoy photography are not necessarily those that like gardening. Those that enjoy art do not necessarily like birding. I am not sure if I would prefer traveling alone, but I don’t think I would be as apprehensive about it anymore either.

  10. londarmonica says:

    Oh well, I actually travel alone, but I love travel with friend to. Two different ways of travelling with different risults.

  11. I haven’t traveled alone like that since I was college-age. Enjoyed it then, not sure I would now.

  12. Diane says:

    Great post Donna. Although I have never travelled alone, I can appreciate your insight and experience on being solo. When I have traveled, I have always felt “responsible” for the rest of the my group/family in making sure I had an itinerary planned that would please everyone and I found that to be exhausting at times. I think it would be nice to experience a trip (albeit it short) on my own. Wonderful pictures, as always.

    • Thank you, Diane. Not having children, I never had the experience of feeling responsible for anyone like that. I suppose that would be exhausting making sure everyone is on the same page and in the same place. Short trips make the jump to longer ones all that much easier.

  13. Indie says:

    After experiencing some of the things I have while traveling even in a group, there is no way I would travel alone outside of the US and maybe England. I enjoy traveling, but if I had not been traveling with someone who spoke the local language and could smooze with the local officials, I’d have probably never gotten out of India. (And I would have payed more than 10 times as much for everything.) I also get lost extremely easily. I can see where the security of traveling with a cruise company would help, though.

    • I don’t think India would be a place I would travel alone ever. It is funny you mentioned the local officials. We were told a story about a cruise traveler that did not return to the ship. The company looked all over for her, finally calling hospitals and the police. The woman was arrested for shoplifting in a town and the cruise company had to bail her out of jail. That is what I meant about the cruise company and safety. They do look out for the travelers.

  14. lucindalines says:

    Just stopped to tell you that your pictures are insanely beautiful. Postcards are not that well taken.

  15. I have never traveled alone, but I have been in other situations in which experiencing something alone is indeed empowering. Great post!

  16. I couldn’t find a place to comment at the end of your framing post. I most definitely agree with your statement that everything is not art although I think that gardeners are free to design their gardens the way they want. If, that’s an important word, they are happy then that’s fine. I loved seeing the photos of framed views—-I think I was with you for a lot of them!

    • Comments were turned off on that post. I wrote it before I was in the hospital and knew answering comments after would be a challenge. I turned off comments for all the posts that were scheduled. That one, I prevented from going live and when I set it to publish, forgot to change it back. Of course gardeners are free to design their gardens, most do. I was speaking more to the fact that professionals take much more into consideration than would a home gardener. By talking about how designers do their work, a home gardener can maybe think beyond just adding plants and ornament. It is a more holistic approach, and by the selected examples, would not be anything like a home gardener would create, I am sure you would agree. I took the images of the PA public gardens this past August.

  17. A.M.B. says:

    Gorgeous photographs! Would I travel alone? Hmmmm. I don’t like to be alone for too long, though I do enjoy short solo adventures.

  18. I am glad that I traveled solo much of the time when I was young. Traveling takes so much planning/energy, I no longer have the energy to travel alone. Since I live alone, why travel alone? The world has changed dramatically in the last few decades, I am glad I can live vicariously through blogs like this one, and on PBS channels. Still have a few places on my bucket list, yet they might just go by the wayside…

    • You are right on travel taking time and energy. What is nice though, travel can be relaxing too. The world is changing unfortunately. Many places are no longer safe for travelers. It is sad too, because they are often places that would benefit from the income travel brings. My bucket list is long and I will never get most places I wanted to go. Egypt was one place I should have visited years ago, now Istanbul looks like it may be sketchy with the incident happening today.

  19. debsgarden says:

    I definitely would travel alone, though I prefer to share the joys of my travels with another person. I would even risk the unknown roommate. I love adventures, and they don’t always need to be perfect. The unexpected is part of the experience. Thanks for sharing your photos! As always, they are exceptional.

    • Thanks Deb. I am surprised you would take the roommate. I would not after seeing a few issues last year and this year. What I think happens is a couple of these travelers do this each time. They travel very frequently and know if they make a fuss, they might end up alone anyway without having to pay the extra $799. Pretty smart on their part, except they get a reputation.

  20. I used to travel by plane alone but ended up at the end of the plane ride with family so not completely alone…I did enjoy the alone time to myself and time to talk with others. And I like going off on my own even when I am not traveling alone, but to travel completely alone….no not at this time.

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