I’ll let that sit there for a minute.
The writer managed to create a mini storm with the tone of the article, those who left comments felt like she had given them a voice, that it made sense and others thought it was pretentious and negative.
Let’s not forget, it’s her opinion. However it left me shaking my head, not because I’m an expert solo traveller – far from it – but because I have friends who are and because I’ve just started solo exploring and met plenty of fellow solo travellers who are anything except undateable. My friends are resilient, kind and they know their own strength because they went off alone and found it down some dusty road, under far flung moons and seas closer to home. Isn’t that worth celebrating?
When I was 23 I moved from London to New York City, alone. There was a dream in my mind ever since I was a teenager, that America was going to be a place I called home one day. When it happened I was overconfident, incredibly naive and buoyed by excitement and hope and to this day it remains one of the toughest things I ever did, but the most rewarding and terrific decisions too.
Walking into job in a cut throat advertising agency, I stood out for being British and the office girls turned me into their daily toy to mentally mess with. When I went home at night, exhausted and fraught and curled up in my tiny apartment (complete with cliche off Broadway actress roommate and the odd cockroach) in a rickety old building, a few blocks back from Times Square and listened to the sirens calling out their symphony of New York at night, I’d fall asleep knowing the challenge was having an effect on me that was for the better. On Saturday mornings, I’d shake off the week and float down five flights of stairs and within a few blocks I’d stand looking at the Hudson River in front of me and the skyscrapers of Times Square behind me, in a sort of state of wonder. I did this. Wait, I’m doing this. I’m stronger than I think.
To be able to take myself to a diner and eat lunch at the counter by myself, next to the other people eating by themselves. Something about that felt so wonderfully as though it suited me down to the ground, that this was a city where you could be as free to do what you wanted as you ever dreamed, alone or in company.
That’s when I knew if I could implant myself into one of the biggest cities in the world at such a young age, deal with the craziness of it, the scale of homesickness, the depth of strangers kindness and find such pure, sweet independence, that whatever I did with the rest of my life I could move forward with more confidence than I’d ever had.
Coming from a city such as London, the rat race, the routine, the morning shoves from perfect strangers on your daily commute makes you shut down, close off, hurry through. Travelling, whether solo or with friends, reminds you that perfect strangers can show you such compassion that it will surprise you, that kindness becomes a way of thinking first, not last and that bonds with new people are forged faster on your travels than at home because you share this experience together and there’s something kindred about one travelling soul to another.
This is what my friends tell me of their solo travel experiences too, that the solitude is a real head clearing experience, that walking into the unknown teaches you incredible resilience and shows you just how much personal strength and wonderful curiosity you have within. They are forever changed, altered for the better. Far from undateable, they build circles of friends around them, filled with free spirits, fun seekers and grounded, honest people who know that to travel and see all the corners of this earth will make you realise how tiny you are and how beautiful it is.
Travellers are bright, funny, wondrous people. They are who you want to be with, they just don’t suffer fools because they are a little wiser, a little kinder and they know it and only want to meet their equal.
You’ll know you’re around one when you’re inspired to do new things, try new places, or suddenly find that you too now own a backpack and a heavily stamped passport and can’t remember when your love of travel started.
Dig out your backpack, dust off your map, find your passport and try it, you’ll never be the same again and I guarantee you won’t want to be.