Last week I spent five days exploring Cusco, Peru completely solo. And if I’m honest, despite doing some really cool things and meeting some great people, I was missing having travel buddies to explore and adventure with me. I even started writing a blog about why traveling alone is tough.
But then, Saturday.
Saturday, I finally realized what all those travel bloggers who have come before me were talking about when they sang the praises of solo travel. All those writers who said that traveling alone was great and fun and life-giving.
Because despite being somewhat (ok, a lot) unsuccessful with American men, apparently a blonde-haired, blue-eyed American who speaks fluent Spanish is of interest to a small handful of Latin American guys. And that is how I found myself sitting and chatting to Marcos, the guy who runs the front desk at my hostel. And that is how, shortly thereafter, I got invited to go get drinks at a bar in Cusco.
But here’s the thing. I barely like going to loud, crowded bars with my best friends.
Marcos is a nice guy. A sweet guy. A guy I loved sitting with and talking to for a good long while. And Marcos taught me something so wonderful:
When you travel alone, you get to do whatever the heck you want.
Despite my commitment to say yes to things on this trip (which, by the way, I’ve been pretty dang good at doing so far), the truth is that I didn’t want to go a bar. So guess what? I didn’t go.
And that felt liberating.
Instead of spending the evening in a smoky, noisy bar, I found myself eating an Alpaca burger at a cute restaurant, reading a book from start to finish.
Lame? Maybe. But it was exactly what I wanted from the evening.
And here’s the thing I realized while I was sitting there. I think it felt so freeing because we follow our own instincts and preferences so infrequently. And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think many people even know what they actually like, independent of the many voices and opinions around them.
A friend once told me that he loved that I knew who I was and what I wanted. It’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. Because learning what it is you like, then having the courage to actually follow through on those interests takes time and effort and guts.
And that’s what I’m loving about solo travel. I’m learning what I like, and then I’m actually doing it – regardless of what I’m supposed to do. It’s amazing.
So here’s to traveling alone. And to doing what you want to do. And to living into the freedom that comes with following your own interests.
And guess what? You don’t have to be on the road to do that.