Four Reasons to Solo Travel

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For my birthday this year, I wanted to travel. We are currently stationed in Italy, and there are so many amazing places that can be visited over a long weekend. However, my husband was in the middle of a busy few months at work, and looked forward to some down time at home when he had a couple of extra days off. But he was happy for me to head out for a few days, while he and the kids held down the fort at home. A girls weekend! I thought. I asked around, hoping to plan a fun girls weekend with one or two other military spouses from our community. But schedules wouldn’t align this time. For this trip, I would be on my own.

I booked train tickets and a tiny hotel room in Naples, Italy. My parents offered to gift me an experience for my birthday, so I booked a full day excursion to the isle of Capri. During the five hour train ride, I rested, read, and planned my weekend. I bookmarked restaurants I wanted to try, and formed a loose idea of which parts of the city I wanted to visit. I kept the plan flexible, making room for spontaneity. I had a great time, and shared a few photos from my trip on social media. 

The Isle of Capri. I view I never would have made it to, with kids in tow.

Whenever I travel alone, I get a few different responses from other moms. There are usually comments along the lines of:

“Wow, I never thought of doing that, what a good idea!” 

“I’m a little jealous of all that alone time”

“You are brave, I’m not sure I could do that.”

While some people may not find solo travel appealing, I think there are many who find the idea intriguing, but don’t quite believe they can do it. I am here to tell my fellow moms, if this is something you want to do, you have what it takes! We tend to view solo travel as young adults as a fairly normal endeavor – a right of passage of sorts. Then, as time passes, the patterns of our lives change with marriage, babies, so many responsibilities. There are certainly times when it may be impossible to get away due to finances, breastfeeding, etc. But when your little ones have moved on to solid food, and the opportunity presents itself – go for it! 

If you still need a little encouragement, I’ll share a few things I love about solo travel.

1. The opportunity to reconnect with myself. 

As I mom, the sheer amount of quiet during a solo trip feels strange, and a bit daunting at first. Day to day life tends to be busy, noisy, and hurried. Traveling alone, whether by car, train, or plane can provide a chance to slow down and actually hear myself think. At times, I have used this as an opportunity to reflect, journal, and reevaluate direction and personal goals. Other times, I have simply enjoyed the chance to read a book, uninterrupted. However you choose to use this time, it is the perfect opportunity to remember who you are and what you enjoy, allowing you to return to your family refreshed, and maybe even energized.

2. The chance for my kids to bond with their dad.

One of the things that can hold us back from solo travel as moms, is a feeling of guilt about leaving our kids. But as my kids have gotten older, I’ve learned that giving them time with just their dad is so good for their relationships. Letting go and letting my husband parent without me looking over his shoulder – telling him how I would handle something – is really important too. It hasn’t necessarily been easy getting to this place, and has required some tough conversations at times, but it has been so worth it. As a military family stationed overseas, it’s important for both of us to know and feel confident that he can handle the kids if/when I’m not around for a bit. Don’t be afraid to leave your kids with their dad. Remember, he loves them just as much as you do!

3. The time to fully immerse myself in my surroundings. 

I love to travel and learn about different places and cultures. When I am on my own, I can use all of my senses to take in the experience. I also love sharing experiences with others, but there is something special about taking the time to slow down in a museum, or to walk as long as I want, without worrying whether someone else is getting bored or tired. It’s fun to be spontaneous, and wander in a direction that looks interesting, even if there isn’t a specific destination in mind. 

Street corner in Naples, Italy.

4. Building my confidence

Traveling alone can feel daunting. Questions and insecurities abound. What if I get lost? What if I end up on the “wrong side of town” – alone? What if strangers approach me when they see me eating alone? Feeling prepared is so helpful. Familiarize yourself ahead of time with the area, using maps and guidebooks. Have a plan for how to get back to your hotel or train station, even if you lose GPS. Stick to areas that  are well lit, or where there are plenty of people. Decide what modes of transportation you are comfortable with, and stick with that. Personally, I prefer walking or taking a bus (being around other people) than being alone in a taxi. Look ahead at your maps, and walk confidently. It is easy to blend in and look like a local, if you know where you are going. Naples is a crowded, chaotic city, and many people feel uneasy about visiting there. I decided to dress like the locals, walk fast, and generally look like I knew what I was doing. I walked all over the city, sat alone in various restaurants, and never once was approached or bothered by anyone. It is actually easier to blend in when you are alone, because your language or accent doesn’t give you away. Some places are simply hard to navigate as a foreigner, or you may not have the time plan extensively. If there is room in your budget, group tours or excursions are another great way to travel on your own. I chose this route for the isle of Capri because the transportation is a bit complicated. I had a great day, enjoyed hearing from the tour guide, and got to know a couple of other women who were traveling solo too. I love hearing people’s stories and learning about their cultures as well.  

Don’t have the time or resources for a big trip? Start small! Spend a day in a nearby city, visit a museum, and check out a new restaurant. Spend a little time with one of the most interesting people you know – yourself.

How to blend in with the locals in Italy: wear black and bring a scarf. 

 

 

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Julie Barnes
Julie is the mother of three kids, ages 10, 6, and 3. Although she knew little about military service when her marriage began, she promised to follow her husband wherever the Army would send him. To her continuous surprise and delight, the Army has brought her family to Italy for a second time. A former piano teacher and worship leader, Julie has recently shifted her creative energy to writing. She has contributed to Legacy Magazine and She Is Kindred – A Storytelling Collective. Julie believes that telling our stories can help us understand each other’s unique journey and perspective, ultimately bringing us closer to one another. In her free time, Julie enjoys reading, cooking, sight-seeing, and learning Italian. Julie shares snapshots of her family’s life overseas on Instagram at @juliecodabarnes.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great article, Julie! Traveling solo can be a rewarding experience, offering a chance to reconnect with yourself and fully immerse in your surroundings. Despite initial apprehensions, it’s an opportunity for personal growth and a valuable chance for loved ones to bond without you. Don’t hesitate to embark on solo adventures – they might just become cherished memories.

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