For many people, the first few weeks of college are a time of joy, newfound independence, and partying.
My first few weeks of college were a time of depression, sobbing, and misery.
Same with my first few weeks of studying abroad in France.
I would call my mom, crying so hard I couldn’t breathe because I didn’t like being away from home and I didn’t know how to live on my own, and she would tell me I could come home if I wanted to, that I didn’t have to stick it out if it was going to be too painful. She gave me a graceful way out and assured me I always had a place to go back to, but also let me know she and my dad would support me in whatever I decided to do.
Yeah, and thanks to them, I haven’t lived in my hometown for longer than a summer since I was 17. Nice work, Mom and Dad, you got the exact opposite of what you really wanted!
My mom now loves to say, “I wish that I hadn’t raised such independent daughters, so you would stick around and be near me all the time.” She also loves to say that I better start making some money so that when she gets really old I can support her in the style to which she hopes to become accustomed. Clearly she is barking up the wrong tree there, amiright?
That was only a little bit of a digression from my real point, which is about:
I used to love traveling by myself. It’s not hard, contrary to popular belief, to travel by yourself. It’s really very easy to eat by yourself, see movies by yourself, and all that jazz, by yourself. It’s not like giving birth or something. You just get on a plane, alone, and see some stuff without other people you know. Bring a book and your iPod. Maybe you’ll meet other people, maybe you won’t. Case closed. It’s not rocket science.
I used to actually prefer solo travel, as a matter of fact. I mean, what is not to love about it?
Solo travel allows you to:
- Choose what you want to eat without compromise. You want pizza for dinner? You got it! You want ice cream and Kit-Kats for breakfast? No judgments! (Well, maybe your own shame after, but whatever!)
- Stay wherever you want. If you want to blow your budget on a place that you can’t really afford, but really want to stay at anyway because you’ve spent the past week bathing out of a bucket and sleeping on a board, then you can blow your budget and only have yourself to answer to. And, yeah, you might regret the decision more than a little when you realize you can only afford to eat at 7-Eleven because all the food at the beach is really expensive, but that’s life. And you’re the one who made the decision.
- Stay as long as you want somewhere. Let’s say, for example, your poor timing and cheapskatedness gets you to a beach on, say, Koh Phangnan in the south of Thailand. And let’s say, for to continue the example, that beach is where the infamous Full Moon Party happens, which is where tripped-out backpackers put neon paint all over themselves and drink themselves silly (although luckily, the FMP is not going on when you find yourself there). And then, let’s say, that despite the fact that this beach town is really crap, expensive, and not at all Thai, and is the complete opposite of what you really want, you stay. Because you’re lazy, and the beach is actually really beautiful and nobody is out until about 3 p.m. because they’re all 20-year-old backpackers sleeping off their hangovers. So if that were all to happen, you could hypothetically end up in that terrible beach town for several days without anybody to make you feel bad about it or to urge you to stop being so lazy. Because who wants you to stop being lazy? Terrorists, that’s who. Terrorists and Communists. And Republicans.
- Do whatever you want, in general. Sleep until noon! Wake up at dawn! Sit your ass on the beach! Go shopping! Eat crackers in bed! Cats and dogs, living together! The world is your oyster! (Who came up with that expression, anyway? I love eating oysters, but why would I want the world to be one? Unclear. And kind of gross, to be honest.)
Yup, all pretty awesome things.
As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve started to enjoy traveling by myself less and less.
Solo travel sucks because:
- Being at the beach alone is annoying. I recently spent a week at the beach and every time I wanted to frolic (frolic!) in the water, I had to leave my bag that contained my Kindle, iPod, phone, and cash. I would walk into the water, often backwards, then stare intently at my bag and everybody on the sand, ready to run out and tackle whoever tried to take my stuff. It wasn’t that much fun. And, yeah, I could have not brought so much stuff, but I was by myself on the beach for hours at a time. You can only gawk at Brazilian women changing into bikinis right in front of everybody and stare at the waves for so long, you know? Maybe you don’t know, but it’s true.
- Going out in the evenings alone can be dangerous. Seriously. Most women know that they’re not supposed to leave drinks unattended in a bar because somebody can slip you a roofie and then you will wake up in a horror movie, raped and murdered, and that would really make your mom and dad and sister and friends mad at you. So. As a woman, you often have to be super paranoid about that kind of stuff. I never drink a lot when I’m traveling by myself, and I rarely stay out late. That’s something that’s changed as I’ve gotten older, though.
- Figuring out how to take pictures of yourself gets old. Scenario 1: Hold your arm out really far from your face and try to take a picture of yourself. Realize that you cut your head off. Try again. Be shocked at how awful you look when you get a camera that close to your face. Give up. Scenario 2: Spend 5 minutes figuring out where your camera won’t fall over if you set it up without a tripod. Figure out the timer. Take a picture of yourself with the timer. That picture is stupid. Adjust the camera so you’re actually in the picture. Set the timer. Take a picture. That picture is stupid. Give up on having a picture of yourself. Scenario 3: Ask somebody to take a picture of you. Do that once a day because who wants to ask strangers to take pictures of you all the time? (Terrorists!) Scenario 4: Give up on getting pictures of yourself and take only pictures of scenery.
- It gets lonely. I’m sorry, but it does, especially as I’ve gotten older. I don’t like to stay in hostels anymore because I now prefer not to share a bathroom or sleep in a dorm. When I was younger and staying in hostels, I could always find somebody to hang out with. It was fantastic! But now I like mid-range hotels, and mid-range hotels offer fewer opportunities to meet people, I’ve found. Luckily, I can keep myself occupied and I think I’m pretty good company, but I’m still by myself the whoooooole time. Anybody gets boring after a lot of time, ya’ know?
The truth is, I’ll probably always travel by myself sometimes. I learned a long time ago that there was no point in waiting around for somebody to have vacation at the same time as me, or for somebody to want to go to the same place as me. Am I going to skip ever seeing Guatemala because nobody else wants to go? That’s just crazy talk.
Solo Travel: 0 Megan: 1
I’ve been doing it for so long now it’s really not much of a challenge at all.