Thoughts on Traveling Alone

A couple weeks ago I was given the opportunity to travel alone for four days for the first time in my life. All the foreign places I’ve been to in the past have been with my parents, friends, or with a school group. This summer I spent three days in Shanghai, China and then one day in Tokyo, Japan. After my trip, I’ve come to several conclusions about how traveling alone is different than traveling with others.

1. Whenever you go to a popular restaurant in China, you end up sharing a table with strangers, often a family with small children. This leads to awkward small talk and “can you pass the napkins” at the table. And while you’re eating, there’s no one to talk to, so you have to resort to your phone for entertainment, even if there’s no wifi.
2. Waiting in line gets boring when you’re waiting alone. So boring, in fact, that you end up drafting blog posts such as this one (I drafted this one in a 2-hour line at the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai).
3. You get a sense of peace that you can’t get by traveling with others. You really get to appreciate and learn more about the place you’re in, and you’re forced to completely immerse yourself in the culture.
4. You will find other groups of people loud and annoying. When you travel with friends, you are that “other” group. Only when I’ve traveled alone have I realized how obnoxious I become when I’m out with friends.
5. There are moments that you want to share with others, but more often there are moments that you’re glad to call your own. Yeah, some foods were just too tasty not to Snapchat to my bestie at home. But strolling around Hibiya Park in Tokyo and just being present in the moment is something I was glad to do alone.
6. There’s no one to hold your stuff when you need to use the restroom. This is THE struggle at airport bathrooms. Like, where do you put your giant suitcases?
7. It’s a lot more efficient and you end up doing more of what you want. There’s no bickering over what everyone wants to do, and you get to pick the restaurants you like. No dealing with picky eaters!

Oriental Pearl Tower (Dongfang Mingzhu) in Shanghai, China
Sensoji Temple in Tokyo, Japan

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