December 09, 2023

OPINION: Solo travels

Last weekend, I took a trip to Kansas City to celebrate my birthday. Everyone I told asked if I was meeting with family or friends… Nope, I was in Kansas City with me, myself and I.

The idea of solo traveling often spooks people, usually for a number of reasons. I’ve found that for many people, the idea of even getting lunch on your own is terrifying. To add travel, housing and all activities to that is more than many can bear.

People often ask me how much fun I can actually have when I’m on my own. They ask about loneliness and safety. While it certainly helps that I am an introvert, I think that magazine Travel + Leisure puts it well in their definition.

“Solo travel at its best is deliciously self-indulgent: eat whatever and whenever you want, spend as long or as little as you like in a place, skip famous sights, sign up for the super cheesy. It’s a time where the only compromises you have to make are with yourself. People traveling by themselves will find they are, in some cases, pushing themselves a little harder, in others, giving themselves a little more slack.”

Depending on the trip and the day, I have seen both instances in myself. A lot of the fun in solo travel for me is that you really can do whatever you want. I’m a nerd. I know I’m a nerd. I like to do nerdy stuff that not everyone likes to do. For example, let me explain what I did in Kansas City.

On Friday, I went to the American Jazz Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Hallmark’s museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, along with a stop at Gate’s Bar-B-Q. Saturday I visited the National WWI Museum, Union Station and the Kansas City Museum, with lunch at Burnt End BBQ. Both days I was back to my AirBNB by nightfall and spent the rest of the night reading.

Previous solo trips have included Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin and London, to name a few, all along the same vein. Museums, museums, classic local food, and then more museums.

When it comes to getting to different locations, I try to walk between my stops if they’re close. The term “close” is certainly relative, something I’ve learned from family vacations. If my next destination is within a mile away, I’m usually happy to walk.

The first trip I truly got to plan was a family vacation to San Francisco. I love planning trips, but my family certainly had some feedback for me. Apparently 10 miles of walking in a day was too much for them. To be fair, it was a little farther than I thought and I didn’t counter in the massive hills.

With my solo trips around Europe, I often walked that distance each day of the trip. Of course, I walked a lot more in general while abroad, so 10 miles a day wasn’t as dramatic. The point of all this is to say, when I’m traveling on my own, it’s not a big deal to walk between destinations, while as I might have to look at other options when traveling with others.

As mentioned previously, I often like to focus on history when traveling, so spending days at a time at museums is wonderful to me. That’s definitely not true for everyone. Solo traveling gives me the freedom to go at my own pace and learn as much as I want.

Another nice thing about solo travel is the flexibility you have. Generally, I like to stick to a plan. When on a trip with multiple people, it’s harder to change plans around or cancel one attraction if someone in the trip was looking forward to it.

When traveling on my own, I get to relax once the sun sets. Many people might want to go out for dinner and drinks, or go dancing at a club. When it’s up to me, I’ll head to where I’m staying once all the museums close, spending the night reading or simply going to bed early in preparation for an early morning the next day.

Finishing my day by nightfall also helps in terms of safety. If I can help it, my activities for the day are done before it gets dark outside. I have been lucky enough to generally not feel unsafe in any of my travels, but I still try to be cautious and aware of my surroundings.

With all of this, that doesn’t mean I don’t still love traveling with other people. It can be wonderful to share these new experiences with other people and try things you wouldn’t on your own, not to mention having someone to watch your bag at the airport if you need to stretch your legs.

Really, I just want to encourage people to not be afraid of doing things on their own. My first solo trip wasn’t because I wanted to go on my own, but because no one else wanted to go. I didn’t let that stop me from going on a trip I knew I would enjoy, and since then I’ve learned that it can be a wonderful experience.

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.