Things I’ve learned about myself while travelling alone

The nice thing about going exploring on your own is there’s no compromise involved. You go at your own pace, see what you want to see.

But you are then at the mercy of strangers to snap the obligatory shots of you at tourist spots.

While wandering open-mouthed around the Sydney Opera House, a lone guy saw me angling to snap a self shot against the backdrop of the famous sail roof, and against the bridge. He offered to take one for me – kindly, I thought. And then he wanted to have a photo of us together, in which he snuck his arm around me. And the photo he’d taken of me … well, a three-year-old could have snapped a better pic. I gapped it down to the lower levels quick smart, and found a nice pair of women with accents that suggested they were from around Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka or similar to take my picture. As I started to leave to head down toward the quay, I spotted the creepy guy not far away looking at me – he’d followed me down.

I had to make conscious decisions to push myself.

Not automatically zooming in on the cheapest thing on the menu. Not automatically ruling out any dish involving tofu (I got the battered vegetables in chili miso at Mother Chu’s, and it was the best damn thing I tasted all the time I was there. The catered food was mediocre to dire on most days, so I didn’t feel too bad about fitting in some restaurant sampling).

Going with the flow.

When I needed to take a round trip on the Sky Safari at Taronga Zoo in order to get back up to the shuttle buses that were leaving soon, and they were only doing one-way trips, I took a single and caught a ferry back instead – mostly because the people in line behind me, who were with the same delegation, were doing the same (an example, I guess, of how easy it is to find buddies when you’re all travellers in a strange place together).

Realising just how sheltered you are – priceless.

I met a guy from Palestine – a place I simply can’t comprehend, a place he’d never left until this month, a place that’s been occupied all his life, a place that doesn’t even have its own currency, he told me. It was beauteous seeing him experience so many things for the first time – first time out of the country, first time on a plane, on a ferry, for pretty much everything that occurred over here.

He helped me find the Harbour Bridge – an epic mission, which made triumph taste so sweet – so I could see out my hope of walking over it, and I accompanied him to the Opera House. I’ll admit, I had wanted to do it alone – that really is how antisocial I actually am, I’d prefer to explore by myself – but it was all good fun. And come the next day, our last night in Sydney, I suddenly didn’t feel like being alone anymore, so it was nice to have someone to call on to wander the streets together. The city let through some rain that evening, and being a Tuesday it was quiet, but we took a meander around the CBD, my shoes cracked and flooding, squelching along.

It’s the little moments I want to remember. My face upturned to the sun whilst walking alongside Paddy’s Markets, heading to the leather goods shop I’d spotted days earlier (for the third time; it was closed when I first passed it, and when I went back a second time). Catching the tram without cocking it up and getting lost. Marvelling at the ferry terminal ticket machines, and the auto turnstiles. The sprawling wall at the end of Darling Harbour, engraved with the names of migrant families for generations past, and room for many more in the future. The matte black Lamborghini on the sidewalk outside a showroom on the way to Kings Cross. The sight, smell and sound of Chinatown and its market. The bustle and sheer scale of Sydney fish market. Being so close to an emu at Taronga Zoo I thought it was going to run into me. The sleeping koalas, so small in real life, curled up high in the branches of a tall, thin tree. And of course, lazily wandering the length of Bondi, which despite being the middle of winter, was packed out (though it’s not obvious from the shot here of me and my shadow).

I need my September holiday to be here already…

Do you ever travel by yourself? Love it? Hate it?

19 thoughts on “Things I’ve learned about myself while travelling alone

  • Reply Liv July 20, 2012 at 00:20

    I am single and made the decision a long time ago that I couldn’t wait around for a partner or friends to be ready to travel at the same time as me to the same places to which I wanted to travel. This means that I pretty much always travel by myself, and I LOVE it. It opens you up to so many experiences and people and places you might not otherwise come across. So much fun!

  • Reply Michelle July 20, 2012 at 01:26

    I would really love to travel alone. It sounds like it’d be fun!

  • Reply Bridget July 20, 2012 at 02:02

    Beautiful post <3

    I always travel alone, it's the only way to do it!

  • Reply Daisy July 20, 2012 at 02:55

    You know, I’ve never travelled alone. I’m a VERY social person and I think I would be lonely. But I can definitely see why one would want to – you gain a new level of self awareness being with yourself in your own company.

    One place I would want to travel alone to is Asia.

    • Reply Amanda July 20, 2012 at 16:23

      I think too many people are bogged down by the idea that it’s very lonely to travel alone. But in fact i found it far more social. People are much likelier to approach you and socialise with you if you’re alone rather than in a pair or group!

  • Reply lkrant July 20, 2012 at 03:53

    When I traveled for business, I was on y own in the evenings. It was enjoyable for short periods, but I never liked eating alone. A table for one only worked some of the time. Occasionally, I would befriend fellow travelers and have dinner with them.

  • Reply oilandgarlic July 20, 2012 at 06:57

    I have done solo travel. There are downsides but you really do discover a lot about yourself and after that, feel like you can conquer the world! Plus, if you’re social, it’s easy to meet others on the road. Yes, there are creepy guys to watch out for but a lot of amazing people too.

  • Reply LittleFrugalista July 20, 2012 at 07:52

    I went to Paris alone for a month and it was interesting but I don’t think I’d do it again. You certainly learn a lot about yourself, but I got very lonely. You would think I’d be used to being alone, being an only child!

  • Reply Newlyweds ona Budget (@NewlywedsBudget) July 20, 2012 at 11:27

    I traveled by myself to London when I was in college and I felt just so awkward. But eventually I got over it! IT’s all about confidence, and most people are nice enough to take your photo : )

  • Reply Amanda July 20, 2012 at 16:22

    It’s really interesting how a lot of people I know are quite hesitant about travelling alone, or hearing about all the things people learn about themselves when they eventually do so. I absolutely love travelling alone and some of my best experiences have only been possible because I was by myself. Such as meeting people from all walks of life and buddying up to visit places together. But you’re right though… Being at the mercy of others to take photos in front of tourist spots!

  • Reply fromshoppingtosaving July 21, 2012 at 05:23

    I loved this post!! I started wandering around alone in college and felt liberated. No one giving you opinions, changing your schedule, adding stops, etc. I wanted to travel alone one day, but we’ll see what happens. I also love traveling with the BF!

  • Reply The Asian Pear July 21, 2012 at 18:33

    I’ve never travelled 100% alone. I usually travel to meet someone or there’s someone I already know in the city and then I explore the city myself. I’ve always wanted to travel alone though. Maybe next year. I’m eyeing London and Ireland!

  • Reply Karen July 22, 2012 at 08:35

    I’ve traveled alone and it’s ok. I’d rather go alone than not at all but I do appreciate sharing the experience with someone else. I’m not that interested in meeting people when I travel. Probably because I am shy and introverted 🙂

  • Reply Revanche July 29, 2012 at 14:18

    I did NY, DC, part of Seattle, alone a couple of times. I wander cities alone in general when I’m on business trips solo, or being stifled by my colleagues and actually can get away from them. In the last case, it makes the meals alone a bit more delicious.

    Some kinds of travel I feel needs to be shared but other kinds are great alone. Only in the US have I felt truly like creepy guys were a serious issue but maybe that’s because I’m extra vigilant in other countries and have different expectations on my home ground.

  • Reply Lifestyle Carnival – 14th Edition | When Life Gives You Lemons August 5, 2012 at 22:30

    […] eemusings @ Musings of an Abstract Aucklander writes Things I’ve learned about myself while travelling alone – Thoughts on the art of travelling […]

  • Reply DebtKiller August 6, 2012 at 05:18

    Never given this much thought (traveling alone), but given my recent situation, it may be in my future.

  • Reply Lifestyle Carnival 14th Edition | Lifestyle Carnival August 6, 2012 at 10:06

    […] eemusings @ Musings of an Abstract Aucklander writes Things I’ve learned about myself while travelling alone – Thoughts on the art of travelling […]

  • Reply Christy April 25, 2013 at 04:44

    Lovely post! I always learn more when I travel solo than when I travel with my partner. I’m leaving Saturday for a two week solo trip! 🙂

  • Reply Four tips for travelling with your partner (or, how to not kill your travel buddy) | NZ Muse January 12, 2014 at 16:32

    […] with a partner is a double edged sword. Travelling alone means no compromising, but conversely, no one to share the experience with. Travelling with someone else flips that […]

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