Have you ever traveled alone? If your answer is “no,” I suggest you do something to change it to “yes.” It doesn’t need to be an entire trip alone, and it doesn’t need to be a grand adventure. You could even just excuse yourself and take a 20-minute walk alone the next time you’re on a trip with family or friends. There’s this special feeling I get when I’m alone on a trip, a feeling that’s markedly different from how I feel when I’m surrounded by people I know. And I think other people should know that feeling, too.
When you’re alone, there’s nothing to distract you from getting caught up in your surroundings. You breathe in your environment. You breathe out your reactions. First your mind feels clear and bright- and then your brain is filled with all sorts of reflections and ideas. Being alone gives you the space you need to reflect on your presence in this unknown place, to really drink in the possibilities of what’s around you.
A few years ago I went on a group trip to a foreign country. And while it was a wonderful trip, I remember feeling a bit constrained by the group format. At one point, I dashed off on my own to explore a local market. I hardly went far- and in fact, within 15 minutes, I ran into people I knew. But those 15 minutes helped me feel refreshed. They helped me rejigger my brain, and get into a different vein of thinking. They helped me feel more connected to my surroundings, more attuned to my reactions. They gave me an adrenaline rush that I just don’t get when I’m sharing the moment with someone else.
Silence can indeed be golden. Sometimes, you need to remove the possibility of talking out loud to hear what your inner thoughts have to say. It’s the same reason I don’t listen to music as I go about my daily routine- I like giving my brain time to really digest what’s in there. I don’t think it’s coincidental that many of my best ideas come to me while I’m walking around.
I guess this post can serve as a sort of warning to anyone I travel with in the future. Because yes, at some point, I will wander off, away from you. I will wake up before you to go for a walk, I will ask to wander a museum on my own, I will choose to keep exploring solo when you choose to stop for a drink. It isn’t personal, I promise. I just want to be alone with my thoughts for a while.