The sun bounced off the water along the highway. Every twist and turn in the road revealed a new look at the Pacific Ocean, where the waves rolled up on the countless beaches and cliffs lining the coast of California.
Driving up along Highway One was the last stretch of my journey, which I had started as a business trip in San Francisco before renting a car and driving off to hike the mountains of Yosemite. With stops in Monterrey, Carmel and Santa Cruz, I wanted to spend my last few days driving along parts of the iconic highway and relax in these picturesque coastal towns before returning to San Francisco and ultimately boarding my flight back home. With the winding coastal roads, frosty hiking trails and hipster coffee shops behind me, I thought wrap up my trip by reflecting a bit about why I believe traveling alone is a very worthwhile experience.
If you’ve followed this blog for a little while, you’ll likely have gathered that I’m fairly used to traveling alone as I often go abroad for work by myself. The same was the case with San Francisco, but this time I decided to finally take some time off and set off to explore California by myself.
Spending more than a few hours is undoubtedly not for everyone; I have friends who would likely give up after half day of solitude and either turn around or simply be miserable for the rest of their trip. So before heading off by yourself, you have to set your expectations for your trip. A common assumption in literature and across hundreds of travel blogs is that traveling alone is a way to discover yourself as you’re forced to deal with new environments, situations and cultures by yourself and thereby learn more about who you actually are. This might be the case for some, but traveling by yourself doesn’t need to a spiritual journey of self-discovery.
There’s no need to go full eat, pray, love here.
So if you’ve never traveled by yourself, you don’t have set out expecting to ‘find’ yourself, but be prepared to at least find out whether you can stand your own company (mine is terrific, by the way). Beyond that, all you really need is a camera, a notebook and enough books to keep you engaged when that stunning evening sky just gets too dull to stare at.
There are clear advantages to being by yourself – you decide own schedule and can do whatever you feel like in the very moment without regards to anyone else. Disadvantages? Yeah, there’s plenty of those too. While hiking in Yosemite was an absolutely incredible experience, walking up a mountain by yourself with no one knowing your location has its risk. Just ask James Franco/Aron Ralston.
Wilderness aside, there are moments that you’d wish you could have shared with your loved ones, but in being by yourself, you’re also forced to stay in the moment and truly experience it for yourself. As mentioned in this recent article on Mr.Porter, traveling alone is no longer reserved for teenage backpackers and lost souls as more and more people undertake trips by themselves in recent years and the travel industry is therefore increasingly catering to this segment. So if you have a bit of bravery and freedom to undertake a trip by yourself, why not start with these eight suggestions.
Should you find yourself in California, perhaps also check out the convenient California capsule collection from Mr.Porter.
(There’s more pictures from the trip on my Instagram feed, so feel free to check those out as well.)