I am a solo traveler.  This is not to say that I don’t occasionally enjoy a getaway with friends  — but that’s a different kind of travel. Then, the main event is the company, with the destination merely a backdrop and any outsider the supporting cast. When it comes to adventure travel, make mine solo please.

Czech Republic – View of the Vltava River and the Prague Castle.

Solo doesn’t mean going it alone. Tourists are everywhere, including the furthest reaches of the planet. Wherever I choose to go, I can be reasonably sure that I’ll meet someone who has also gone through the effort of getting there, an indication that we share at least some common ground. And wherever tourists go, there are locals who, within the framework of their culture and resources are prepared to make them welcome.

 

Why Solo?

Punakah Dzong (circa 1637–38) is one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Bhutan.

Traveling on my own enables me to focus on all that unfolds around me in the moment, without the filter of sharing impressions with companions or having to factor in their needs. It makes it easier for me to connect with the people I meet along the way. And they are more likely initiate contact without feeling they are intruding. To them I am the interesting oddity who came all the way from a world that is as foreign to them as theirs is to me.

 

 

How it Began

Traditional marching band at the famous Cologne Carnaval.

I was barely in my teens when I had my first taste of solo travel: a two-week visit in the family of my German exchange student. I immediately became the center of attention, the visiting Parisian. My friend took me on daily outings around Cologne, to monuments, museums and the hip shopping areas. Her mother showered me with kindness and made sure I tasted all the local specialties, including a sinful five-layer chocolate cake at the poshest tearoom it town. Her girlfriends were interested in my clothes, and their brothers were… merely interested. Never mind that back home there were entire classrooms filled with the likes of me, here I was unique. I was pampered like visiting royalty. I decided right then that solo travel was definitely the way to go.

A Lifetime of Memories

Venice – The best way to admire the glorious Renaissance architecture is from the water.

Throughout my traveling life, solo never failed to deliver unexpected perks. I once struck a conversation on a train from Milan to Venice with a lovely woman who then called my hotel the next day to invite me to tea. Her apartment turned out to be the piano nobile (noble floor) of her ancestral palazzo, at the end of a street that bore her family’s name. An invitation to a Venetian’s home is a rare privilege, to enter a private Palazzo an even rarer one. I doubt I would ever have had this opportunity had I not been traveling alone.

Ritual food offering to the Buddhist monastery.

In Chiang Mai the historic city in the mountains of Northern Thailand, the manager of my hotel invited me to join her on a visit to the nearby Buddhist temple. She gave me a crash course on the rituals involved that allowed me not only to observe but also to participate in the daily offering of food her property made to the monks.

 

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Tanzania – Katavi Wildlife camp. A pride of lionesses enjoy the start of the rainy season.

The most “alone” I’ve ever been on a trip was in  Kataviin the farthest southwestern corner of Tanzania, where at the very end of the safari season, I happened to be the only visitor at the remote Katavi Wildlife Camp. The rich floodplain was teaming with game. Alone with my guide in the open-sided land cruiser in the infinite wilderness of the African bush, I experienced some of my most amazing game drives anywhere. Then the young Oxford-educated British camp-manager joined me for dinner on veranda, and stimulating conversations interspersed with long pauses to contemplate the diamond-studded night sky and listen to the raucous silence of the bush.

Namibia – Exploring Sossusvlei, one the the tallest dune fields on the planet.

In recent years (perhaps an additional perk brought about by gray hair?) I occasionally find myself “adopted” by fellow tourists of  my own children or even grandchildren’s generation. They sometime invite me to share their table at mealtime. After a time, I always get the same questions: “Do you often travel alone?” Every chance I get. “Aren’t you, afraid?” Not a bit. I meet the nicest people on these journeys…

My treasured solo travel memories are as many as the trips I have taken. If you are an occasional or dedicated solo traveler, or if you are just considering it, or not, please share your thoughts.