By Gwenn Voelckers
By the time this edition of “In Good Health” hits the newsstands, I will have packed my bags, hired a cat sitter and stopped the mail.
I’ll be on my way to France for my annual solo sojourn to Paris to celebrate my birthday and further explore and enjoy one of my favorite places on earth.
In September, the tourist crowds have thinned, the weather is more to my liking (on the cooler side), and the locals have returned from holiday to open their shops, restaurants, homes and hearts to travelers like me.
My love affair with Paris was kindled on my 50th birthday. I wanted that important half-way milestone to be special and memorable. And it was!
I had dreamed of going to Paris for years and I wasn’t going to let my single status derail my dreams.
When I told my friends about my plans, I got mixed reactions. Many exclaimed “Oh, I could never do that! All alone?!”
They were right, of course. They would never experience the fun and fulfillment of traveling solo as long as they held onto that attitude.
Traveling alone, just like living alone, requires the right frame of mind to be successful and enjoyable.
But why travel alone in the first place? Why not grab a friend or two and make it a shared experience? Because the potential for self-discovery and savoir faire that comes with solo travel is priceless.
I’m not suggesting an exclusive diet of solo travel, but I am encouraging you to consider this mode of travel, from time to time, for this important reason: You’ll gain both confidence and wisdom from your experience.
So, step on board and consider these benefits:
• You call the shots
When you travel alone, you are free to see and do whatever you like. Your decisions and itinerary are your own. And when it’s just you, you are reminded of who you are, what you enjoy doing most, and what you like least.
When you travel with other people, their interests may be at odds with yours. And precious time can be consumed with the inevitable negotiations that come with trying to satisfy everyone’s needs and desires.
Traveling alone allows you to follow your heart and own path.
• You make new friends more easily
I’ve discovered this time and time again. When I’m on my own, other travelers and “locals” are more likely to strike up a conversation with me or extend an invitation to join them. I’ve met some of the nicest, most interesting people this way.
When traveling with friends and family, we tend to stay focused on each other and lose the chance to meet people we might otherwise have met. That could be a missed opportunity, especially if you are single and hoping to meet someone new.
• You can release your adventurous spirit
By yourself (with no one watching), you may be willing to take more risks — dance at outdoor concerts, get a henna tattoo, eat gelato for breakfast, maybe even swim with the dolphins!
I’ve never gone swimming with dolphins, but I have sampled some pretty exotic food, wrestled Old Paint into submission on a horse trail and held on for dear life while rafting down the Colorado River.
• Likewise, you can find some heavenly time to yourself
On your own and with fewer distractions, the opportunity for a tranquil, soul-soothing retreat is within your grasp. Whenever I travel, I like to build in time to myself to relax and recharge my batteries. Solo travel makes guilt-free “me” time possible.
Want to sleep in till noon, find splendid solitude in a secret garden, or enjoy your own company and a nightcap at the end of the day? Go for it, because you can.
• You learn a new language faster
Je peux en témoigner! (I can vouch for that!). When traveling alone in France, I enjoy practicing the language. It was either that or go hungry. Ha!
But seriously, without a traveling companion to talk with or to aid in translation, I had to fend for myself. While I am far from fluent in French, I can at least order a croque-monsieur — a hot ham and cheese sandwich on my own. Want to learn a language more quickly? Travel solo.
• You build your confidence and sense of independence
Even a small jaunt can boost your self-confidence. All the decisions are yours, including your budget. You decide how to get where you’re going, where to stay, and how much to spend on transportation, food, accommodations, and things to do.
In no time, you’ll discover your own resourcefulness, ability to solve problems, and capacity to spend some time alone. Those are invaluable, lifelong lessons.
Solo travel is ripe with opportunities for self-reflection, growth, and joy. Start dreaming today. Pack your bags, and with no reservations (pun intended), set out on your journey with a spring in your step and a smile on your face for all the hidden treasures that await you.
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content empowerment workshops for women (now on hiatus) and the author of “Alone and Content: Inspiring, empowering essays to help divorced and widowed women feel whole and complete on their own ” To contact Voelckers or purchase her book, visit