Travelling alone doesn't have to be lonely.
The first time I went travelling by myself was to Spain, about seven years ago. I was headed to a gorgeous, off-the-beaten-track farmhouse, two hours south of Cadiz. It was only when I turned the key in the ignition of the hire car that I released I didn’t know how to drive on the other side of the road. Or have a map.
When I finally arrived, the relief of having made in it one piece hit me like a tidal wave. The air smelled different, of flowers and smoke; the views across scrubby, undulating hills were endless. I appreciated it all the more for having got there under my own steam.
It’s amazing how much you learn about yourself when you travel solo. Every encounter is highly charged. Like the time I tried to park on a narrow, near-vertiginous road in the local town for supper. (I never made it to supper). Or when I arrived at a bar that had been recommended for its quiet location, only to find it in full, fiesta swing. At that moment, I was painfully aware of being alone.
It’s amazing how much you learn about yourself - every encounter is highly charged.
But there were moments of brilliance, too. Like stumbling upon the most gorgeous fruit market, en route to the beach, where I remained for the rest of the day. Or eating breakfast on my tiny patio in the sun (that bread basket lives on in my memory).
Travelling alone gives you free rein to wander endlessly – or to sit in a café and people-watch behind big sunglasses. It leads to unexpected conversations - with taxi drivers and shopkeepers. It encourages you to sit in a restaurant and order food in a foreign language – or to lose yourself in a book whilst your prawns go cold. It is an adventure; a chance to cultivate a relationship with yourself, and to discover a part of you that you didn’t know existed. Which is what travel is all about, isn’t it?