Years ago, a friend of mine told me at some point in my life, I should travel alone. At the time I thought what most people do, “Wouldn’t that be lonely?” “How could it be fun to travel alone?”
In the past few years, both through work and for personal trips, I started doing what I thought would never be possible for me…. I have been traveling alone.
I didn’t start with traveling alone. I started by going out to eat alone, checking out new places in my local area alone and going to new bars or stores alone. At first, it was awkward. It was like being on a bad first date with myself. I would sit and look around nervously. I’d feel weird when telling a hostess “just one” for dinner. But after a while, this amazing thing started to happen. I fell in love with my independence. I fell in love with my community and the people around me. I started to talk to strangers. I found out that people are truly amazing. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about a city, about the world and about yourself as a human being just by talking to a stranger. I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and I grew as a person.
Traveling alone multiplied that experience ten fold. It can be overwhelming, exhilarating and absolutely mind opening. I routinely talk to whoever will listen on trips. Homeless people (trust me, they know a city better than anyone else and have the most rich, life altering stories you’ve ever heard), bartenders, people sitting next to me at the airport or the Uber driver that picks me up for adventures. On my most recent trip to Nashville, I talked to a homeless man for about half an hour about the treasures within the city, about his life and experiences. He still loved the city despite his hardships. His sense of humor showed with his sign which read, "I'm homeless. At least buy me a beer." (And I did!) He talked about how it wasn’t so bad being on the street in Nashville because he could sit and listen to all of the music. I wanted to listen to the music too, on every street I could walk down in my life. He was a wonderful man with sparkling eyes and a silver beard. I talked to an Uber driver that moved to Nashville from Louisiana when he mother got sick. His mother passed away but he stayed in the city where he met his wife and later had hist first child. He told me how he believed that was his fate. It made me think about my own fate and place in life. Yes, that’s right. A homeless man and an Uber driver had me thinking about my own life and path. Crazy right? Getting to be an outsider in a new place allows you to look deeply into the soul of a destination. Sitting back quietly and using all your senses to take a place in is completely different than exploring with a friend or group of people.
You get to go wherever you want to visit. You get to eat at whatever restaurant you want to eat at. Take as much time as you want. You get to learn about who you are when it’s just you and who you are away from the safety of your own home and comfort. At 30 years old, I’m still surprising myself all the time and I hope that never stops.
I hope you all get the chance to travel alone some day. I hope you do it more than once. I hope you start to see that traveling alone is never really being by yourself. It’s about being with the world. It's about meeting the people we share this world with. It's about finding out where your piece fits in this huge puzzle.
It’s only a lonely world if you make yourself all alone. Get out there and connect!
Here are some photos I took on my cellphone of some of the delicious food I ate and the lights of Broadway in Nashville.