RHAYNA KRAMER — Last week, I tried a social experiment. I woke up early in the morning, hopped in my car, drove to Easton–and enjoyed myself.
I know what you’re thinking: so what? Any 22-year-old should be perfectly capable of driving to and from a destination without making a big deal of it. But that’s just it: for me, it was a big deal because I was by myself.
Traveling alone–and being comfortable with it–is one of the most challenging experiences many of us will ever face. I studied abroad in Scotland and later traveled to Denver, Colorado for my internship. Any opportunities to truly enjoy myself were often soured by my anxiety.
I found planning solo excursions to be particularly overwhelming. Fears of getting lost, loneliness, social anxiety, and vulnerability–especially as a woman–prompted me to find traveling buddies ASAP or only go on organized group excursions. When traveling plans with others fell through, I felt too paralyzed to go through with my original plans. It wasn’t long before feelings of loneliness and inadequacy surfaced–loneliness because I was so distanced from my support system back home and inadequacy because I wasn’t making the most of my travels.
So when I went to Easton on my own, I was testing my ability to enjoy my own company again. Here are 3 things I learned about traveling alone.
1) You get to go where you want, when you want, and for how long you want.
One of the things I really appreciate about traveling alone is that you can set your own itinerary. You don’t have to depend on another person’s timeline. If you want to get to your destination early, you can. No more hassle, waiting for friends to awaken from their noonday slumber. No more confirming outings with friends who cancel at the last minute. In addition, you can go to places that interest only you.
2) You stand a chance of meeting new, interesting people.
Most of us go to a social event only if the people we know are also going to be there. While this certainly helps with social anxiety, we often miss opportunities to form meaningful connections with new people. Your next friend, lover, or networking opportunity may be within your reach, but you may be too closed off in your own circle to notice. Being open to new connections is especially important because your friends may not always be there.
3) You are your own best company.
Know thyself: healthy relationships with others start with ourselves. Self-care is essential for our well-being and self-respect for our personal growth. Traveling alone can yield profound revelation and self-discovery.
Traveling alone is a challenge. Certain circumstances make smart, safe travel with others absolutely necessary. But there are plenty of situations in which we will find ourselves alone–and we must equip ourselves with the internal tools to navigate them.
Rhayna Kramer ‘19 is an English literature major and an economics minor from Canal Winchester, Ohio.