Sometimes, the best travel companion you can have is yourself. Here’s how I’ve started embracing solo travel.
While I’ve never actually taken a big solo trip (it’s on my list), I’m comfortable doing plenty of social-type things on my own — dinner, movie, grocery store (kidding)… You name it.
… Yeah, I know. Treating yo’self to a little dinner date is hardly much of a risk, but hey — it’s a start.
What about you?
Question, though: When you see someone doing something alone (that you’d typically associate as a group activity), do you automatically feel bad for them? Like, per say, someone by themselves at a summer music festival or concert?
That was me all the way a few weeks ago, you guys (and here’s why).
Not long ago, it was a hot, humid (and holiday) morning and I was making my way downtown to hop on a one-way Amtrak to — drumroll, please!
… Lol, I actually really do love MKE.
Of course it might seem unnatural — those are the types experiences that bind us with friends for a lifetime. So you’d assume going it solo would be a less enriching experience, eh?
I disagree, and here’s why. (Below, I’ll explain why and how I think you should do more things by yourself, too!)
Backstory would help, I think:
Just before the Fourth of July, a locally-based creative agency (that I’ve previously worked with) invited me to attend Summerfest on behalf of their client (and one of the festival sponsors), BMO Harris Bank.
If you’re unfamiliar (as I was), Summerfest is known as “The World’s Largest Music Festival.” It hosts hundreds of bands, artists and vendors over a two-week period.
Typically, I love being in Chicago over the Fourth of July, but I always welcome a chance to take a mini-city escape, but you know I was sold upon hearing “Music.”
(And also, how the hell have I not heard about Summerfest? Am I the last to know about this? Seriously.)
BMO kindly extended an invitation to bring a friend along — and little did they know what they were getting into with a hybrid of me, my mother, a bit of booze and a lotta live music.
Initially, at least. I was planning to have my mom come out for the holiday to join me — but she ended up not being able to come last-minute. (Our house in on the market back home in O-H-I-O; she’s busy, busy, busy.)
The choice was clear, though: Solo adventure time! (… As anti-social as that may sound to some.)
If you’ve not much of a solo-type-of-gal — travel or not — et me tell you… It can be the best, most restorative thing ever.
You can pretty much do, eat and see whatever, wherever and whenever you want — and being that independent is incredibly empowering.
… And even though my adventure to Milwaukee was barely 24 hours, my escape felt exactly that — freeing.
Upfront, though, I must admit: My arrival to Summerfest was a bit of a cheat.
A few of BMO Harris’s brand team members were there to greet me, walk me inside and give me a quick lay-of-the-land. They even invited me to eat with them for a bit, too.
I remember marveling at how organized and easily-operated everything was. (I can barely find my phone in my bag at a music festival!)
Apparently, this is a phenomenon called the #BMOEffect — and I’m still not totally sure there’s an exact definitely per-se, but I know it’s more of a feeling or standard.
… Anyone want to guess how many times I used the phrase “#BMOEffect” with unsuspecting strangers and new friends as the night went on (and my intake crept up)?
Off I went to explore the festival grounds.
My initial reaction? This place is freakin’ huge. Like, gigantic.
I wandered for a bit, grabbed a drink, watched people pass by and loitered on a series of picnic benches in close proximity of the bar. Many of them watched me in return, but I could tell some thought I was — well, lost. Missing my group.
Do you see that gondola situation in these photos? I’m not kidding, I rode it three times.
While I spent much of my night at BMO’s Pavilion stage (home to many of Summerfest’s classic rock headliners — REO Speedwagon, Steve Miller Band and a handful of artists that I have admittedly never heard of), I really enjoyed sprawling out on a blanket people-watching.
I spent the majority of my evening doing just that (with a trip to that Wendy’s food truck — BRILLIANT), but eventually made my way back toward the stage to see Third Eye Blind.
On my walk back, I met my two new BFFs — the three of us were huddled under a vendor tent looking at the artist’s sketches. They also happen to be the two of the biggest Third Eye Blind fans I’ve ever met in my entire life. Literally, I thought I was going to have to pull a CPR stunt at one point.
It was so sweet.
… Ever feel like the Universe winks at you from time to time?
(Later, I’d later find out that (1) they’re are still in college and (2) I can still hang like I am. It was #BMO-sized smiles all around the entire night… As you can see from this photo, lollllll — Gets me every time.)
So, why should you do more things by yourself?
Solo escapades push you, check your ego and stretch your comfort level — but ultimately, they’re an awesome reminder of how capable (strong, kick-ass, etc.) you are.
Being alone — or doing anything alone, really — teaches you the most important thing in life: Learning to listen to yourself. (And not while multi-tasking on your phone, sister.)
Sometimes, you just need to disconnect and enjoy your own company.
… And when you do, here’s a few things you’ll be able to look forward to — or perhaps can already relate to.:
- You abandon your plan.
You can’t control everything, and trust — shit’s gonna go awry. Being okay with that — and simply adjusting your sails, so-to-speak, is crucial. That’s part of the adventure, right?
- You become fine in just letting things go.
Rule number one of going stag? There will be awkward moments. It’s a given! Let go — you’ll figure it out; you always do, don’t you? When you learn to just let life happen, you tend to have a hell of a lot more fun living it.
- You become your own BFF.
Life is chaotic, overwhelming and distracting — and sometimes all at once.
When is the last time you were actually able to sit quietly* with yourself and think? Or, I dunno, not think? In the midst of all this, you’ll learn about yourself. You’ll grow, figure out what inspires you (and what doesn’t).
(*I realize the irony in using this word given I was at a music festival, but I mean intuitively.)
The metaphor I like to use is an internal GPS — your heart. When’s the last time you checked in and just let it guide you, girl? Listen to the directions, quit trying to beat traffic and take shortcuts.
… That was deep. Moving on:
- You meet some really awesome people (and whatdya know, there’s those memories we were talking about earlier…)
Would I have my Summerfest crew if I’d been with a group of my friends? Perhaps, but likely not — this forces you to open up to other people, which can seem scary.
Just say hi. Pay compliments. Smile. Life’s to short — and connection is something we all crave.
Who knows, a simple “hello” could lead you all the way back to Marquette’s campus until an obscene hour in the morning?
Oh, and PS: One of the guys was from my hometown — and he caddied (golf) for my mom at our country club way back in the day. So weird, right?
- You find out how un-lonely it actually is.
Honestly, the best gift you can give yourself is a little bit of TLC — some time to ask your own questions and listen quietly for the answers.
Overall, here’s what I’ve noticed: An amazing thing happens when you get real with yourself and start doing things what you love (even if that means you don’t have anyone to do them with): Your life slows down, but in a good way.
You stop wishing for the weekend to roll around and you begin to live in each moment, feeling like a human being — rather than a human doing. You feel me?
Try it (or if you’re a veteran already, let me know why you love your solo adventures in the comment section below)… You’ve got nothing to lose — except for your fear of being alone.
Thanks to BMO Harris for partnering on this post (and for inviting me to Summerfest!)