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The Joy of Traveling Solo

Spend some quality time with yourself and you may be surprised by what you find on your journey

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Want to banish the blahs in your life? Take a solo trip somewhere. It’s the ultimate self-indulgence. For a whole week (or more) it gets to be all about you, 24/7. No waiting around for someone to finish their morning ablutions (gross!), no arguing over whether it will be Greek or gluten-free for dinner. But a solo trip goes way beyond having total control of the remote: It’s a journey that can lead to a better you and a fuller life. Since the opportunity to be this-kind-of-selfish comes around as often as Haley’s comet, it makes sense to think about – and plan for – that ultimate escape.

Fulfill a dream When Vicky saw Elvis Presley for the first time she knew her life’s mission: to become one of his back-up singers. His death in 1977 put a minor crimp in her plans so she became a library technician instead. “But I could never get over this vision I had of standing on the stage with Elvis, singing my heart out,” she told me. Years later, in her mid-forties, she decided to fulfill her dream. “I went to Las Vegas for a week and sang back-up with an Elvis tribute band,” she said, “and I’ve gone back every year since.” Vicky always makes the trek solo because she travels under an alias. “As soon as I get through security, my name changes. So does everything else. For one week, I get to be whoever and whatever I want to be.” I secretly wondered how her husband felt about that. When pressed for details, she smiles and says, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

See also: Why I Travel Alone

Count baby steps I don’t know who said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it,”but it’s good advice. Taking a left turn when you usually take a right is good for your soul and for your brain. When we’re in learning mode, our gray matter is more receptive to everything. We feel more alive. But what constitutes a departure from the norm? I asked a colleague, Mary, to blurt out what would be an “outside the box” experience for her. She answered – a little sheepishly – that she’s always wanted to paint her fingernails blue. “No, seriously,” I said. “Seriously,” she answered. OK, switching nail polish color might not qualify as ‘life-changing,” but believe it or not it’s a start. Mary’s working on the next step in her personal transformation – travelling to Darlington to learn how to drive a Formula One racecar. She’s pretty sure she’ll have blue nails by the time that event rolls around. The key to a significant solo journey or adventure is to pick something that has real resonance for you. For Vicky it was Elvis, for Mary it’s nail polish. Yours will be unique to you.

Let go of baggage Pack for your solo trip as if you are heading into outer space (you’ll actually be able to do that soon). Remember, you’ll be schlepping your own bags, so keep things simple. Yes you can wear the same shirt two days in a row (no-one’s paying attention to you, I promise) and in fact, unless you tend to sweat like a pig, you can get a lot more mileage than that from your outerwear. Don’t let your bags be a burden! The best advice on this, ever? Take half the clothes and twice the money.

See also: Living the Single Life - Whether You're Single or Not

Record the evidence “Everyone has a photographic memory – it’s just that most of us don’t have any film.” Touche, Steven Wright! No matter how amazing your experience is, you will not remember the details as one day overtakes the next. Journaling is a great way to capture your hairy, scary moments and your sudden epiphanies. If writing isn’t your thing, you can do what I do – send yourself postcards that capture what you’ll remember from each amazing day. Send an actual postcard, not an email. You can’t believe how much fun it is to arrive home and have a pile of memories waiting for you in your mailbox.

Use protection I treat travel insurance like a lottery ticket. Winning for me is when I fly east and my bags fly west. Why? Because the lost luggage clause allows me to buy whatever I need to tide me over ‘til the roving bags are returned. This can take days! For the $32 it costs in premiums, you can get yourself some pretty nice “emergency” wardrobe items that you might not buy otherwise. Just sayin’. Oh, and if any part of the trip goes haywire, it’s nice to know someone’s got your back. Whether you take a solo journey once a year or once in your lifetime, it’s worth whatever it costs to spend quality time with yourself. And when your life changes, it changes for good. You can’t go back.