Why I Love Solo Travel
I recognize that I’m in a very unique position. I’m single, no children, living quite on my own in a foreign country. I do things alone every single day and don’t rely on very many people for my day to day needs. But for some reason, I had never traveled by myself in my life. There was always a group, family, or friends readily available to accompany me wherever I’ve traveled. And thankfully I’ve met some amazing travel buddies that have made my trips memorable. But there’s something to be said for traveling alone, and now that I’ve done it, I would encourage anyone to give it a try.
First of all, the fact that we auxiliares in the Basque Country have two weeks off for spring break is amazing. I feel very fortunate to have so much vacation time built in to my year! My first week was all booked in advance, a trip to Fuerteventura, Canary Islands with a fellow auxiliar friend. As the break grew closer, I realized I had made NO plans for the entire second week! In fact, I had a week and a half with nothing to do. I checked my Excel spreadsheet where I meticulously (read: nerdily) keep track of all things to do with this year, including my list of places I want to travel. England/Scotland/Wales was listed. I’d been to London over a weekend to visit a friend, but what about Scotland? A few minutes of research led me to discover it was just too expensive. Wales? It seemed more feasible. After just an hour of frenzied flight searches, train websites, and Airbnb browsing, I had a ticket from Madrid to London booked and a few Airbnb inquiries made. First I’d fly to London, then take a train 2.5 hours west to Cardiff, stay for a few days there, then make my way slowly back to London by way of the English countryside, and then fly back to Bilbao. And the bonus: a quick search detour led me to find out that the Downton Abbey castle is directly between Cardiff and London! I had the perfect plan!
My decision to travel alone wasn’t necessarily premeditated, but the more I planned, the more I realized that I didn’t need to have someone along and I didn’t want to throw out arbitrary invitations to random people I barely know. As the plans became more solid, I became more excited about taking a “big girl” trip all by myself. In many areas of my life, I can easily be a follower and go with the flow. If someone else has a plan, great! I enjoy planning trips with others, but usually the agendas of the others in the group tend to take over and I’m not particularly keen on conflict. How refreshing to be able to make plans that I’m in complete control of!
Fortunately, my trip was planned so last-minute that I barely had any time to freak out about traveling by myself. My greatest worry was how I would possibly fit two weeks’ worth of clothes for VERY different climates into one budget airline friendly carry-on bag. (It is possible, by the way. Even including a beach hat.) My second biggest worry was letting my parents know that I would be traveling alone. I’m an only child halfway around the world, and I can only imagine the worry I put my poor parents through on a regular basis, so I was nervous to tell them. I like to wait until I have everything settled before telling my mom, as she always has a million questions and concerns. That way she understands that I’ve thought it out and know what I’m doing. So when I finally had that conversation, she did make several mom-like exclamations, but in the end, she expressed that I’m an experienced traveler so she knew I’d be fine. (Her one stipulation was to stay in regular contact. Alright, alright.)
In short: the experience. Was. Fantastic.
I spent a few days wandering around Cardiff, delighted by the old village of St Fagan, the ancient castles, a boys choir singing at a local church, the gardens and parks around the city, and the warmth of my Airbnb host and her daughter. I even went on to write about Welsh castles for a travel website.
After my time in Wales, I spent a couple of nights in a cozy house in rural southern England, so out of the way that my Airbnb host had to pick me up at the train station. I spent a lot of time walking many miles along quiet roads in the English countryside to reach Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed, with ZERO cell phone service and a few hastily written directions from when I’d had WiFi in the Airbnb. I made it! It was such a lovely experience to be on the set of a TV show I’ve enjoyed so much.
I’d encourage anyone who’s considering taking a solo trip to try it – you’ve got nothing to lose! Use your head, be safe, and enjoy the time for contemplation and getting to know yourself on a deeper level.