Friends of ours are planning a visit in September. The original idea was to bookend their trip with time in Copenhagen and hit Oktoberfest for the weekend. A little into the planning process, we realized that an Oktoberfest trip takes considerable more preparation and we looked for other options. We settled on Stockholm out of interest and economy – $88 roundtrip tickets are pretty persuasive.
This is not my first time to Stockholm, I was there just a month ago, but this trip should be pretty different because I won’t be alone. Yes, I traveled alone for the first time when I went to Stockholm in July. Mike was away on business and I found a flight even cheaper than the previously mentioned one so I booked it.
Traveling solo for pleasure wasn’t scary to me, as I am more of an extravert. It also wasn’t the religious experience that some people make it out to be. I never saw Eat Pray Love, but I watched the trailer and it wasn’t like that either. It was more enjoyable than I anticipated and here’s why.
The Perks of Being a Party of 1
Traveling alone was different, but had a lot of advantages. Some of these perks were obvious prior to the experience and others I discovered along the way:
Charting Your Own Course
This one seems obvious, but when you travel alone you pick the day’s activities without having them screened by anyone. I had some sights and one museum that I wanted to get to, but that was it – the rest I figured out as I went. I signed up for a sunset cruise and almost went kayaking. I stopped for a glass of wine when I wanted and always had my pick of dinner cuisine. Even with friends or a significant other that won’t happen. You may have similar tastes but it’s impossible to be 100% in sync with anyone but yourself.
Living in the Moment
While traveling alone, your only option is to fully engage with your surroundings and the destination – it’s all you’ve got. Your attention is completely focused on what you are doing in that moment. Talking with friends who have traveled alone, they all say that their most influential trips were those where they were by themselves. Memories are more vivid and experiences are more authentic because there are no distractions. It’s like watching a movie alone or watching one with my mother. She has comments throughout and even yells at the screen – you’ll take it all in better alone.
Traveling alone opens you up to other experiences, like meeting more people who actually live in the destination. Whether it’s necessity or curiosity, traveling alone forced me to engage with more people than I would have otherwise. Travel partners are great, yet they can also be a social safety net. In Stockholm I chatted up almost every person who was speaking English whether I was at a museum or a coffee shop. It’s important to stretch your comfort zone and locals can give you great insight into your destination.
Controlling the Costs
Compared to traveling with a group or even as a couple, I enjoyed the ability to skimp on certain meals and attractions that I deemed unimportant. You don’t always get this luxury unless you’re alone. If I wanted to splurge on a nice meal I could have, but since I was alone, I found contention with quick meals and found more value in the things that I did because they were so intentional.
Navigating a new city, especially a foreign one, can be intimidating however it can also instill you with new confidence to keep exploring. I’ve heard people say that once they traveled alone, they had more travel options because they knew they could do it again. The travel swagger that I gained from orienting Stockholm alone is the best souvenir I picked up. Visiting a new city with friends can strengthen your relationship with them, but doing it alone can strengthen YOU.
Traveling alone was a wonderful experience and I recommend doing it yourself at least once. Most of all, having to travel alone should never be something that stops you from exploring. There was a long period of time where I didn’t travel at all because I thought I didn’t have anyone to travel with but apparently I had someone the whole time – ME.