The cool water rushed across my ankles as Arizona’s springtime sun blazed down on my shoulder tops and hairline. Towering red rock walls extended skyward in striking contrast to the dwarfed green foliage on the riverbanks a dozen feet from where I stood. I looked at a young family sitting in the shade, laughing and playing a card game while their sweat-drenched clothes dried on a log, and in that moment I recognized I was present with the elements all around me. The other people were only part of the scene.
I was traveling by myself, intentionally, and was on a mission to practice self-love.
Over my fourteen years of predominantly solo travel, including backpacking Europe, Central America, and India, taking on Italy as an au-pair, and trekking across glaciers and through jungles in Nepal, I’ve learned a few things about traveling alone. It’s an art, and one that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. It takes a strong will, vulnerability, and absolute trust to really get it right.
Here are my favorite six tips for making the most of traveling alone.
Set an intention. Before you travel, and maybe even before deciding where or when to go, still your mind and ask yourself what it is you’re longing for in this experience. Is it to adventure with adrenaline or to indulge in pleasing your senses? Maybe it’s to foster a loving relationship with yourself (as mine was in Sedona this year). Whatever you hope to accomplish on your journey, write it down, see it happening in your mind, and recognize what it would feel like within your body to be experiencing just that.
Let your heart guide you. Now that your intention is set and you’re starting to manifest the ideal trip, let your heart guide you as your imagination runs wild. What activities will fill your days and nights? You are free to fully acknowledge and allow what you want, so make the most of this opportunity and do just that. Don’t let any activity seem too bold or too plain — this is your time to do you, so listen and trust.
Create a plan. Chances are, your time on the road will be less than you wish it could be, so make the most of this time by creating a rough agenda to serve as a guideline for your journey. It’s possible you’ll be overwhelmed by the time you have to yourself, especially if you’re not used it. Making decisions in this state of mind may cause stress and anxiety, detracting from the intention originally set. So, plan at least one experience a day, even if it’s lounging by the pool with bottomless mimosas and that romance novel you’ve been dying to indulge in.
Stay flexible. Some of my greatest travel memories stemmed from an unexpected encounter with a fellow traveler, or taking a “wrong” turn and finding myself lost in a beautiful forest valley. Be open to something new that you’ve never tried or to a conversation with a stranger who wants to tell you about their city or trail or museum. Let yourself flow within these new ideas and possibilities instead of being attached to what you thought you had to do.
People watch, but don’t compare. It’s easy to envy the couples caressing or to miss your children terribly when the mother laughs with her son, but instead of allowing these emotions to take over your own experience, witness them, allow them to be present, feel them within your body, and then come back to your intention. If you were traveling with a partner or family, chanes are you couldn't commit wholly to your purpose so remember to do just that.
Savor the silence. Something truly magical happens when we let ourselves be silent, and be in silence. We can hear the voice within guiding us, consoling us, and informing us of the truths of this existence. When we let ourselves just be in a space of external quiet, a strong yet gentle stillness can become us. With repeated experiences, this stillness becomes more readily accessible, even as the external world gets loud.
In only six short days during my Arizona trip, I found myself in a loving relationship with Self, and with a re-ignited fire for life and adventure that had been dimmed from too many days in obligation to others.
When you get the chance to venture on your own, relish in the beauty of each moment by truly taking the time for you. And, should you want to, tell others or us what it feels like to be free.