Last weekend I went on a short city trip to Rome – all by myself. I’ve always been afraid of traveling alone, or even to go out to dinner alone, which is why I decided to face both those fears in Rome. In today’s post I thought I’d share what it’s like to travel alone and what I learned.
1. I don’t like being alone as much
I always thought that I liked being alone. I really don’t mind spending an evening or even a few days at home by myself. What I learned though, is that being alone at home is very different from being alone in a strange city. I am no stranger to Italy (I grew up there) but I had never been to Rome. I didn’t know my way around the city and I didn’t know anyone there. Also, I was staying in an unfamiliar apartment with only a small suitcase of familiar things. I found it very difficult to be alone in a strange city – I’ve never felt that way before. It was a little confrontational.
2. Eating alone is not a big deal
One of my fears was walking into a restaurant alone and ask for a “table for one”. And then sit down and be by myself for an entire meal, while other people are happily sharing their dishes and having conversations. What I learned is that this ‘fear’ of mine was completely unnecessary. Eating alone is no big deal – nobody looks at you funny or gives you sad stares. In fact, I saw many other people eating alone. Sometimes I brought a book to read, other times I just sat and thought about things. It was actually pretty great.
3. It gives you new perspectives
What I realized is that when I’m living my life at home I am constantly distracted – by work, social events, other people, routine… I am hardly ever alone to sit and reflect on my life. Even when I’m driving to and from work I distract myself with music or the radio. When I was sitting in my apartment in Rome, all alone, I was able to look at my life from a distance. It gave me new insights and perspectives on what I think is important in life. It was refreshing.
4. 3 days is not enough
If you really want to spend some time by yourself and be comfortable, you need more than 3 days. I realized pretty quickly that 3 days is just not enough. I was in a strange city that I really wanted to explore. This means that I felt pretty restless and anxious to go out and do stuff. I wanted to see the whole city in the few days I was there, which means I spent little time really sitting alone and just be by myself. If I’d had more time, like a week, I would’ve been less anxious to go out and see the city and spent more time just being alone. Also, it took me the full three days to really feel comfortable in the apartment and the city. More time would’ve been better.
5. It was uncomfortable – but not terrifying
As scary and uncomfortable my solo trip was – I survived. I know I didn’t go backpacking through Thailand for three months, but this little trip was a big deal for me. It is encouraging to me that I was able to do it with only a few uncomfortable, lonely moments. I will definitely travel solo again, and next time I’ll know I can do it. I have to say I’d prefer a hotel next time, because it feels a little more lively. Sitting in a quiet apartment alone at night can be very lonely. Although I guess that’s the point.
I highly recommend traveling alone to everyone: even if it’s just a few days, not too far from home. It’s scary, but so rewarding at the same time. By the way: Rome is one of the best places to go alone. It’s safe, beautiful, the people are friendly and there’s lots to see. What’s stopping you?!