Going Solo

Saint Louis Travel Blog

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In one week, I am embarking upon my first solo journey. I am heading to St. Louis to visit the gateway, experience the midwest, and chow down on some BBQ. All of which I am doing (for the most part) solo. It would be somewhat of an understatement to say that I am nervous. I am extremely excited, yet I can't help but be a wee bit nervous. I know that is silly. Any traveler worth their weight in guide books, should be pumped to pack a bag and jet off to all corners of the world at a moments notice. Regardless, my heart flutters a bit each time I think about being in a strange city all alone.

Sitting here thinking about all roads that lead to disaster whilst travelling alone, I am reminded of another trip I took around this time 11 years ago. I was a starry eyed eighth grader, ready to vamoose on out of Denver and visit our nation's capitol. That too was a first solo trip of sorts. My eighth grade DC trip was the first time I had traveled anywhere without my parents. I had new luggage and 100 dollars worth of travel sized toiletries. Rocking my disk man and candy pink backpack, I was an excited-nervous mess. Today I have upgraded to an iPod and a candy green colored suitcase, but the nerves are still brimming. In the interest of full disclosure, I will not be 100% solo. I am setting off for St. Louis to visit a college friend. Like I said, not 100% solo. However, I will be frolicking about alone for four days while my friend works. Apparently some people have grown up jobs. Fancy that?

So what is the big deal anyway? Why is traveling alone such a daunting undertaking? Staying alone, especially as a female, can be somewhat intimidating. Staying safe can be much more challenging when you are alone. Generally as a solo traveler you are completely reliant upon public transportation. In my case, being at the whim of the bus and metro system, is the most intimidating part. Eating alone is the epitome of horrifying for some. Trying to take photos alone is near impossible. Plus the simple fact that going solo can get lonely is a deterrent for many.

So why then would anyone want to travel alone. First of all, the term “solo travel” is somewhat of an oxymoron. It tends to be interpreted as alone, by yourself, all the time, 24 hours a day. Truly this does not need to be the case. Even if you are skipping off the plane alone, it is easy to meet up with fellow travelers and locals. In general, as a solo traveler you are more approachable and far less intimidating. When you are on your own, people are more likely to strike up a conversation. In fact you may even have gained the courage to strike up a conversation all on your own. It is all about opening yourself up and putting trust in others. Meeting people along the way, listening to stories, and opening up about your own experience is an exciting prospect.

Going it alone allows you flexibility. You are in complete control of your own trip. You get to set the itinerary, and then you get to ditch the itinerary if need be. There are no fellow travelers nagging about being tired or bored. The pressure to appease 5 different people is off. You are free to try new things or eat strange food without having to convince travel companions to do the same. Choice is the biggest incentive to a single traveler. You can choose when you get out of bed. You can choose where you have your breakfast. You can choose which art gallery or museum to visit. Choice means freedom and freedom is the very essence of travel right?

For me however the most exciting possibility about being solo is the opportunity to be introspective, reflective, and really observe my surroundings. I can't wait to take time for myself and do the things that make me happy. I want to be able to spend time taking in the sights and sounds of the city at my own pace. In everyday life we make so many compromises for other people. We as humans are always worried about our families, our jobs, credit card bills, etc. Though compromise is a necessity in life, when did it become selfish to take time for ourselves? Compromise should never be something we pack in our suitcases. Traveling alone allows you to be selfish. It's the ultimate will of freedom.

When I am in the mountains, there is a moment, that I have only ever experienced at the top of a pass or mountain top. Looking out on the vastness below, in that moment, experiencing that silence, you are truly alone and at peace. All stress is dissolved and you are able to think clearly. It is hard to imagine that same calm anywhere else. However traveling solo and being free to experience things on our own brings about another kind of calm. A calm that can only be found in doing things 100% for ourselves simply because we want to. There is a lot of power in that.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "One travels more usefully when alone because he reflects more." I don't know this to be true quite yet, however I can't imagine proving TJ wrong anytime soon. I plan on taking full advantage of my upcoming solo trip. I can't wait to read under a tree in Forrest Park, catch a Cardinals game, ride to the top of the arch, eat custard at Ted Drew's, and reflect on this past year while moseying around the art museum. Why? Well because I can. I'm going solo. I'm doing it, 100% for me, and nerves aside, I can't wait.
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383 km (238 miles) traveled
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