The Consummate Traveler: The Art of Traveling Solo

August 17, 2013 Updated: August 17, 2013

Have you ever felt the need to just get away by yourself? Or, does the thought of traveling all alone make you nervous? As chance would have it, I experienced a bit of both worlds recently on my last business trip, and I’d like to share some thoughts on the subject.

First, although I do not have any apprehensions about being alone (I live by myself and enjoy it), I have found that I do not like traveling solo. Last month I had to spend one week out of a three-week project in Paris, alone, and I felt the difference! All of my trips for work involve a group of about three or four people, so this was definitely a big change for me.

During working hours, my colleagues surrounded me so there was no issue. However, the loneliness kicked in at dinner. But interestingly enough, one thing you may notice if you ever go to Paris is that at the cafes, there are people dining alone, all the time. They look confident and just fine with it, and don’t have magazines and books to “disguise” their being solo. I think the casual atmosphere of dining al fresco in a bistro or café makes this more comfortable versus going to a formal restaurant.

On the weekend, I booked a guided visit of Versailles with a small tour group. I had really wanted to visit Versailles and contemplated doing it alone, but I opted for this arrangement instead and it was really great. It gave me a chance to meet three new people in a more intimate setting. Also, having someone to chat with and discuss the art and history of the venue with certainly made the entire experience more enjoyable.

After returning from my week alone, I had a new appreciation and value for my relationship with my colleagues. At the same time however, I am more comfortable with the idea of going on a trip alone and feel better prepared for the next time I find myself in this situation.

If you think you may want to venture out on a vacation alone but still feel a bit weary, consider these tips to get your feet wet:

1. Start small: If you are accustomed to being surrounded with others, go to a movie or a play in your local town by yourself. Take note of your comfort level and decide if this is right for you.

2. Consider a spa retreat: It is common to see travelers at spa vacations or on a “wellness” retreat by themselves. Since most of these experiences involve classes or group activities for part of the day, you will naturally meet new people and maybe even make some lasting new friendships.

3. Keep the timing short: I think mini vacations over a long weekend are more fun and manageable by yourself than extended stays of five days or longer.

As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels.