It's been surprisingly fun to travel alone, in a way I didn't expect, but to a certain limit. (I bet really hooked you with that).
Anyone who knows me as more than an acquaintance, knows that I like my alone time. I love being with my friends and coworkers but I definitely recharge when I'm alone (classic introvert).
That being said, I haven't ever really considered traveling alone. I ended up in China on short notice for a work trip. So, while I physically traveled to my destination in Dongguan alone, there were people "waiting" for me. It was like "intro to solo international travel" because I didn't make the decision for myself, and I was being hosted by our supplier.
Once I arrived, however, I decided to take solo-weekend trips. It didn't even really occur to me to sit at my hotel all weekend, so as soon as I booked my ticket to China, I started scheming about where I could go. Traveling alone in a country where you can neither speak, understand, or read the language is pretty intimidating. For such a practical and calculated person, I tend to be a little laze faire about my travel. You definitely cannot do that in China.
I have enjoyed the things that I expected to enjoy (being on my own timeline, time for reading and writing). What I didn't expect was how much more social, interested in others, and open it's made me.
I made 6 new friends and acquaintances in the first 21 days that I was in China.
I'll admit something that's pretty embarrassing: I've made a total of 3 new friends outside of work since moving to California 380ish days ago. (Don't judge).
I'm not saying that these 6 people are my new best friends or that I will even keep in touch with every one of them, but I know I could call them next time I'm in their respective cities and they would do the same if visiting San Francisco.
I think the difference is as much with me, as with the environment. I showed up with an eagerness to connect. My discomfort with an unknown city outweighed my discomfort with meeting someone new.
It's SO easy at home to just work and go through the motions of everyday life without ever meeting someone new. I can spend an entire weekend hanging out with my existing friends, recovering from the week, running errands, and getting ready for the next week without ever "needing" to meet anyone new.
Traveling alone has taught me many things, but most significantly:
- As much I recharge alone, I'm much happier and less stressed when I'm connected with others.
- There are SO many cool people in this world that are worth meeting.
That being said, would I recommend traveling alone?
I think if I had published this post when I first wrote it after being in China for 3 weeks, I would have written: "Yes! Definitely go for it!". However, now going on week six of solo travel, I'm a bit more cautious with that recommendation. I definitely think there is tremendous benefit to shorter day trips or weekend solo getaways for the mental space and how it forces you to talk to new people. However, domestic travel is probably best, and be sure you are realistic about your tolerance for being alone.
I'm definitely a little worn down from the constant low level stress of being completely alone in a foreign country and the prospect of more solo travel is less exciting. Luckily, I'm very stubborn and refuse to let being alone be the reason I don't explore. I know I would really regret "wasting" weekends here. I'm extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to be so close to many amazing cities that would normally be a massive ordeal to visit.
TLDR: Does anyone want to meet me in southeast Asia in the next few weeks for a weekend trip? :)