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I can’t tell you how many times someone has made the assumption that I travel solo because I can’t find someone to join me on my trip. As though traveling with other people is the default. As though traveling alone is some sort of pitiful Plan B.

It took me a long time to understand that there’s a huge disconnect between the average person’s assumptions about what a solo trip is like and what I actually experience.

Solo travel is my preference; it’s my default. This doesn’t mean I never travel with others, but it does mean that I’m extremely selective about who I’ll travel with, and in what context. I have no problem telling someone “no” if they try to invite themselves on a trip that I purposely want to take alone.

Why do some people prefer to travel alone?

I’ve seen a lot of solo travelers describe their main motivation for going it alone as, essentially, impatience. The most common answer is usually some variation of, “Because I just want to be able to pack my bags and go.” And I get that — waiting around on other people is annoying, and having to depend on people who turn out to be undependable is even worse. But as deeply as I can empathize with that, it’s not quite the root of it for me.

I finally realized that when I tell people I love traveling alone, I’m oversimplifying. And by oversimplifying, I’ve been unintentionally feeding the pesky misconception that solo travel means being literally alone the entire time.

Here’s what I actually love about traveling alone: having full control over the ratio of alone time to human-interaction time that makes me feel the most balanced, happy, and alive.

I’m an introvert, so being around other people 24/7 is incredibly draining for me, no matter how much I love them. I need to be alone in order to properly recharge.

The irony is that traveling alone encourages me to be the most social version of myself. When I travel, my curiosity drives me more than my shyness does. Chatting with locals, expats, and fellow travelers always turns out to be the most memorable and enriching aspect of any solo trip I take, so I want to push myself to strike up those conversations. And the truth is that I’m not nearly as inclined to step outside of my comfort zone if I’m traveling with a friend or family member, because socializing with them feels like both the safe and obligatory option.

Since I tend to be more social when I travel alone, it becomes even more crucial that I balance that stimulation out with a quiet afternoon in the window seat of a café, a mindful walk through a park, or even just a nap.

Of course, the balance that feels best for you might be a little (or entirely) different from what feels best for me, and that’s perfectly okay. The key is to pay attention to what drains you and what recharges you, and structure your travel plans accordingly. That way, instead of feeling exhausted and unsettled by the end of your trip, you’ll feel rejuvenated and inspired.

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