The Thrill of Solo Travel

People tell me that I’m brave to be traveling to foreign countries alone, but I disagree. Traveling with someone else–that’s what can strain the best of relationships.

Admit it-you’ve always looked longingly at those who travel alone. Self-confident and self-contained, they’re the ones hanging out in the plazas, peacefully reading and nursing an espresso or a glass of the local wine and watching the world go by.

You, on the other hand, are miserable–part of a horde of sweaty tourists climbing on and off a bus, shepherded around by an obnoxious tour guide in a goofy hat. I’ve never been able to figure out why people pay someone to tell them what they should see.

Traveling alone is not about being lonely or antisocial. Rather, you will find that traveling alone is empowering and opens you up to meeting new people. Those who travel alone tend to gravitate toward each other; it’s a proud, unspoken fraternity. Don’t worry about language, customs, currency, passports and visas–they’re not a challenge anymore. The euro has significantly streamlined travel in Western Europe. Even in developing countries, you will find that everyone speaks English, because it’s the language of commerce. Increased globalization has decreased social barriers.

Like many, I first traveled to Europe when I was young and we just kind of let it happen. We slept on trains and busses, unconcerned about the art and history of ancient cultures. It seems like we wandered from country to country focused primarily on finding cheap beer, wine and food; fortunately, it was plentiful. The dollar was strong in those days and you really could almost live on $5/day.

Fortunately, my tastes and interests have evolved significantly since those early years, and my wanderlust has never diminished. I can’t wait for my next adventure and I can spend many happy hours poring over guidebooks to decide what my next trip will be.

Where to go?
If you’ve never been to France or Italy, these locales should shoot to the top of your list. No one should die without seeing Paris, Florence and Rome. Or, for that matter, Athens or the gleaming, magnificent walled city of Dubrovnik.

Spain’s flamenco and Portugal’s moody fado music are so much a part of the culture that they must be experienced. You may not be a fan of bull fights, but you need to understand the culture that loves this sport. The post-communist countries of Eastern Europe are fascinating–Warsaw’s ancient ghetto and the stark reality of Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Turkey, the country with one foot in Asia, the other in Europe. The call to worship that wakes you from your sleep at 5:00 in the morning. The exotic countries of the Middle East and their amazingly gracious, generous people. The teeming markets of Morocco, the sweet smell of mint tea and the stench of hides being processes for leather goods.

Too many sites, too many experiences and way, way too little time. Be thinking about places that have always held a special allure for you. Look for my articles, Travels with Janet

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