investing in yourself: on taking a trip alone

4 September 2018



The bustle of the cafe overpowers me slightly as I sit alone in the corner. Watching as families gather to eat their fry-ups, drink coffee, and chatter loudly and expressively. As couples gaze at each other over a shared pot of tea. I feel a little like some kind of voyeur – with my back to the chair, eyes to the room. A girl sits in front of the window by herself, hiking backpack beside her. I wonder where she’s been, and where she’s going to.

Being alone often allows you to see more in these situations – to experience the world around you. It takes some getting used to – some kind of paranoid inclination that people may think less of you, and an active aversion of eyes from your iPhone – but I’ve come to like it, sometimes even prefer it. 

Because really, you’re never really by yourself; these strangers beside you are ships on your sea.

Taking a trip alone to me means everything on your own terms. You can see what you want to see, set your own pace, and more importantly, you don’t have to wait for anyone else in order to do so. You don’t need permission to carve out the experience you want, which as a woman feels something of a rarity.

Not everyone can afford to ‘travel’ – it is one of life's great privileges. Globetrotting is an exclusive rite of passage for a lucky few. But taking a trip alone shouldn't be only for those with an excess of expendable income.

A 'trip' can mean anywhere, for any length of time. Even if it’s for a day; a week; a few hours. Even if it’s in a tent down the road, a few moments in nature you’ve never seen before – it’s not about the money, it’s a new experience paired with reflective solitude. 

My first trip alone was earlier this year while living in New Zealand, and involved 24 hours in Queenstown. I flew down, I walked the streets, I caught a bus to Arrowtown and back, I drank coffee, I ate in restaurants, and then I retired my room, marvelling at how peaceful I felt. Alone, I’d found, I could walk my own paths. But mostly I could just be… silent. 

Doesn’t the world sometimes feel so overwhelming with noise? 

Queenstown marked the first time in a long while that I’d felt comfortable on my own – at peace, even. That night I slept better than I had in months, completely undisturbed. I remember returning back to Wellington feeling refreshed and warmed up (figuratively and literally in a New Zealand Winter), for within weeks I’d be travelling by myself across America and Canada. I wasn’t completely alone though – on that trip I bunkered down with long-lost friends who I hadn’t seen for years. We reminisced on times gone by, and I found within them parts of myself I’d forgotten existed. My agenda, my memories, my adventure, just for me.

Now I find myself on a train speeding across Ireland. I’m meeting friends in the capital city, but I’d thought beforehand I’d like to take a little time for myself, too. As I walked along Galway Bay and saw the rainbow above, I was comforted that this little moment was mine, solely mine.

Maybe we shouldn’t consider taking a trip by yourself to be time ‘alone’ – the connotations of this word seem to radiate with loneliness and with sadness. Instead maybe we should reframe our rhetoric and think of it as a personal investment. Any time you can give to yourself is a blessing. It’s time in which to rebuild, restructure, and rejuvenate what it means to be ourselves. 

Go away and give yourself permission to grow.


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