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Traveling Solo...the Good, the Bad and the Ugly


Getting divorced after 25 years of marriage definitely brings about a lot of changes. One of the most personally challenging to me is the loss of my built-in travel partner. For the past quarter century, I always had someone with me when I traveled (when the kids were younger there were multiple "someones"). My ex-husband and I both liked to travel and explore new areas so we constantly planned trips and getaways. Over the years we drifted and were no longer marriage compatible, but we never lost the travel compatibility and always had fun traveling together.


After we separated, I still wanted to travel but found myself feeling scared to venture forth by myself. I solved this problem initially by planning my epic California road trip with my friend Ann and taking several long weekend getaways with my oldest daughter, Madison. Madison and I also went to Jamaica, somewhere I had always wanted to go. But I quickly realized that Madison probably doesn't always want to go on vacation with her mother (although I don't know why...I am a lot of fun!) and friends aren't always available to travel. I needed to be brave and begin venturing out by myself.


So I planned my first solo trip to Seattle, Washington, a place I have wanted to explore for a long time. I was pleasantly surprised at how empowering traveling solo turned out to be. Don't get me wrong, it had its challenges. But now that I have figured out that I actually enjoy the benefits solo travel provides, I look forward to planning many more solo adventures! I still plan to travel and explore with my daughters and my friends, but I will definitely mix in solo trips because it is such a different experience! This blog sets out the Good, the Bad and the Ugly a solo traveler (especially a female solo traveler) must deal with when venturing out on her own.


The Good



  • I can do what I want on my own schedule. No other conflicting preferences to consider! No waiting for someone to wake up or finish their morning routine before heading out. In Seattle, I explored things and joined excursions that I might have missed if I had to compromise with travel companions who were interested in different things. I could spend as long as I wanted to at some sights (like the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum which was amazing) while I breezed through others that weren't as interesting to me.

  • I can set my own budget. I can stay in a fancy hotel or book a cheaper alternative depending on how I feel. I can choose to eat at less expensive diners or fast food places or sit down at a fancy restaurant. I can sign up for whatever excursions I want without worrying if someone else wants to spend their money on that activity.

  • I found myself much more outwardly focused. I paid attention to my surroundings taking in sights as I walked around instead of being focused on conversations or distracted by interactions with my family or friends. I also met many more locals as I would sit at the bar for meals and always ended up chatting with the bartenders or fellow customers. I also spent more time talking to people I interacted with in stores or on tours. I learned so much more about the area from these conversations and got a better sense of what it is like to live there as opposed to just being a tourist. I also learned insider tips for visiting the area from these locals that I wouldn't have learned if I wasn't dining by myself!

  • My confidence in myself grew throughout the trip as I navigated logistics and disruptions all on my own, walked into restaurants and ate meals by myself, made friends with strangers and explored a whole new city.

  • I learned about myself. How I like to travel, what I really prefer to do, what interests me, what the edge of my comfort zone is, how bold I can be. When forced to face your fears and insecurities, you find out what you are really capable of and what your strengths are.

The Bad

  • Despite the benefits I listed above about eating alone, it can feel really awkward and lonely sometimes. If I don't happen to sit next to a chatty customer or the bartender is busy, it can be uncomfortable just sitting by myself while everyone else is laughing and talking with their dining companions. Looking at my phone is always a good distraction, but I feel like it is a waste of opportunity when I am sitting in an exciting new environment that is waiting to be discovered. Same thing can be said for a book, but that is always an option to reduce solo anxiety.

  • Along the same lines, it can be awkward when you show up to excursions or tourist attractions by yourself. When I went to ride the Great Wheel in Seattle, it felt a little embarrassing to say I was a party of one and be placed in my own ferris wheel compartment alone. One the other hand, it was also a very zen moment to travel around the Great Wheel in silence looking at the Seattle skyline. Silver linings...

  • Pictures. After my Seattle trip I had tons of scenery pictures (which are lovely but get boring) and several selfies from that awkward angle (you know the one). Let's just say I need to improve my selfie game as I continue to travel alone. People are always willing to take your picture, but again I need to work on my solo photo posturing so I am not just awkwardly standing there. Once my daughter Taylor was on a solo excursion to Liverpool and took the Beatles tour. When she asked the tour guide to take her picture at Strawberry Fields he asked the obvious "Just you?" and Taylor awkwardly said "yes". As if that wasn't uncomfortable enough, at the next stop when she asked him to take a picture of her at the next iconic spot he said "Just you?" again! She wanted to say "Yes...I didn't pick up a traveling companion between Strawberry Fields and here!" Anyway, this isn't the worst problem in the world and there are solutions, but it is definitely something that is a struggle when traveling alone.

  • During the day when I had down time, I really noticed my aloneness. If I were traveling with someone, that would be a time that we would normally stop and grab a drink at some cute pub or cafe that strikes our fancy or just chill somewhere relaxing and chat. When you are alone and in between activities it can feel really lonely. Not that I couldn't drop in and have a drink by myself somewhere, but it does get tiring constantly showing up for meals and tours alone so sometimes I just don't feel like being an extroverted solo traveler. Usually during these transition times I try to find cute local stores to browse or I go back to the hotel room to freshen up or chill out before my next activity.


The Ugly

  • Safety. There is no getting around it, a female solo traveler must take extra.precaution to be safe. Sometimes it is just not smart to walk around by yourself or go to places alone. My inaugural solo trip was to Seattle and the location were I was staying had a lot of homeless in the area who appeared to be struggling with addiction or mental health disorders. While I certainly feel badly about their situation, it didn't feel particularly safe for me to be out and about by myself at night. I would try to return to my hotel room every night by 7 before dark. This limited my experience of Seattle nightlife. One of the locals I met bartended at a unique bar with specialty cocktails and he suggested I check it out. As I felt uncomfortable being out late by myself I was unable to see if this bar was a "hidden gem" I could recommend on my blog. Even during the day there can be risks. In Seattle, I was in close proximity to a violent interaction between an Uber driver and a pedestrian that involved pepper spray, a chokehold and a throwdown! Being in that situation by myself was very scary and unsettling.

Solo Travel...Still an Amazing Experience!

All in all, my experience of traveling alone was amazing and something I look forward to doing again. The freedom, the personal growth benefits and the self confidence boost you get from venturing out on your own outweighs any uncertainties and anxieties about traveling by yourself. You don't need to jump into the deep end like I did with a whole week in a new large city! If you are more of a "dip your toe in the water" kind of person, just start with a solo weekend getaway closer to home and reap the benefits of a little alone time. You will come back a changed person!

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bowlweeble
bowlweeble
16 ago 2022

Love the Seattle info have been there once would like to go again to stay longer


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