I thought my psychiatrist was, uh, crazy when he suggested it. “Travel alone,” he said. “Do more things by yourself.” It’s not the kind of advice you like to hear when you’re going through depression, but that’s what he told me. The goal was to become more emotionally independent, more resilient, more whole. I had to learn to enjoy my own company more, and to turn inward for my own affirmation.
Sounds like heavy stuff, but it made sense. Solo travel forces you to rely completely on yourself – your wits, your instinct, your judgment. You decide where to go and when, and if things go wrong – your bag is lost in Thailand, you’re pickpocketed in the Paris metro, you miss a flight because of wrong scheduling between islands in Papua New Guinea – you alone have to take responsibility.
Conversely, every little triumph becomes a small celebration. When the inexpensive hotel I booked in Florence turned out to be a gem with painted ceilings and a lovely view, I treated myself to dinner in an unlikely place which the friendly receptionist recommended – a vegetarian restaurant in the land of bistecca, where the meatless stew was divine and the lime pie absolutely delicious.
In Assisi, for my 50th birthday, I worried for a moment that I should have brought some company for the milestone, and might end up too lonely – until the restaurant manager offered me a complimentary birthday cheese plate and a choice from among four different kinds of moscato, aside from the famed Umbrian sagrantino.