One year ago at this time I was bouncing around Italy, reveling in culture, art, history, and…gelato. On every corner, there was a beautiful Italian man (they’re all beautiful there) calling “Ciao Bella!” An American Girl’s Dream! I planned that trip overseas alone, knowing no one there and only having one plan: expand my world. As you can see from the posts then, I had a life-changing experience and I was positive I would do it again this summer. Well…enter: furlough days. When I realized that I was not going to be able to afford a trip across the pond again this summer, I turned my travel attention stateside. There are so many places in this country I’ve never seen. After striking out on finding someone to go with me, I started researching the best cities for solo travel, and at the top of the list was San Francisco, California. Umm…ok!
As I began to research the city, my excitement grew exponentially, but I was always disappointed when during a conversation with friends about the trip, they would interrupt and say, “Wait…you’re going by yourself? Why?”
I have wonderful friends. Truly, I could not be more blessed with friendships. However, most of them are not teachers with the luxury of two months off work during the summer. Others (most) are married and having babies. So where does that leave this single-in-the-city-teacher-girl? Alone! But I am tired of that word being synonymous with lonely. They are not the same! Especially with travel, all solo travel really means is planning the trip alone and committing to paying for all of it by yourself. Because once you’re there, everyone you meet is a potential mate for the day or evening or hour. I have met such wonderful people while traveling alone, and I never would have had conversations with them had I been with someone else. And even on days when I don’t meet people, I enjoy being by myself. I can walk out of the hotel, look each way, and decide for myself which direction I will go. I can choose which restaurant I try. I can spend two hours in a bookstore and not be worried about whether my friend is bored or ready to go. The city is my own personal playground, creating a truly organic travel experience that is unique in its solitude.
By nature, I am a social person. I would almost always rather have a friend’s company than be alone. But I refuse to let that be the reason that I won’t plan a trip and see this great big world we live in.
Last summer did not disappoint me, nor did my trip last week. It was bookended with Phoenix with girlfriends and San Diego with company, which was lovely in its structure as I was free to play on my own terms in between those towns. As it turned out, on the plane from Phoenix to San Francisco I met a sweet man named Pat Reilly (no, he was not a famous coach). He has sons my age and after hours of conversation, he started calling me his California daughter and took me to dinner on our first night in the city. I hope he and I are lifelong friends. Then bowing to the power of Facebook, I discovered that a friend from work and her husband were in San Francisco at the same time, so we played together a couple of days. See–you are never truly alone once you’re out in the world. Loneliness does not have to go along with alone or solo. You just have to get there, and then everything else falls into place.