By Gwenn Voelckers
Who doesn’t remember one of the most romantic lines ever spoken in a movie: “You had me at hello” from the 1996 film “Jerry Maguire.”
In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, Tom Cruise’s title character pours out his heart to his on-screen wife, played by Renee Zellweger, and asks her for a second chance.
Zellweger stops Cruise mid-sentence and tearfully says “You had me at hello,” after which they fall into each other’s arms, destined for a long and happy reunion.
I watched the movie clip on YouTube this morning and it brought a tear to my eye. I’m a softy at heart.
But, what in the world does this have to do with solo travel?
For me, travel — like a captivating romance — holds intrigue, excitement and the promise of profound, life-changing moments.
When I took my first stroll by myself in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, I could easily have exclaimed, “You had me at bonjour!”
But those were the good ol’ days, when we could move easily throughout our lives and the world. Sadly, the pandemic brought travel to a near standstill in 2020, keeping most of us hunkered down at home for most of the year.
Because it may still be months before we can safely travel again (even with the roll-out of the vaccines), people are busy doing the next best thing: They are joyfully plotting, planning and preparing their future vacations and visits with loved ones.
Goodbye Netflix; hello TripAdvisor!
Now’s the perfect time to compile your bucket list of destinations near and far. And while you’re at it, consider including a solo dream trip in your planning.
Why do I have such a love affair with solo travel? Let me count the ways:
• You call the shots — When you travel alone, you are free to see and do whatever you like. Your decisions and itinerary are your own. And when it’s just you, you are reminded of who you are, what you enjoy doing the most, and what you like least. When you travel with other people, their interests may be at odds with yours. And precious time can be consumed with the inevitable negotiations that come with trying to satisfy everyone’s needs and desires. Traveling alone allows you to follow your heart and own path.
• You make new friends more easily — I’ve discovered this time and time again. When I’m on my own, other travelers and “locals” are more likely to strike up a conversation with me or extend an invitation to join them. I’ve met some of the nicest, most interesting people this way. When traveling with friends and family, we tend to stay focused on each other and lose the chance to meet people we might otherwise have met. That could be a missed opportunity, especially if you are single and hoping to meet someone new.
• You can release your adventurous spirit — By yourself (with no one watching), you may be willing to take more risks — maybe zip-lining, bungee jumping, or swimming with dolphins. I’ve never been that adventurous, but I have sampled some pretty exotic food, wrestled Old Paint into submission on a horse trail, and held on for dear life while rafting down the Colorado River.
• Likewise, you can find some heavenly time to yourself — On your own and with fewer distractions, the opportunity for a tranquil, soul-soothing retreat is within your grasp. Whenever I travel, I like to build in time to myself to relax and recharge my batteries. Solo travel makes guilt-free “me” time possible. Want to sleep in till noon, find splendid solitude in a secret garden or enjoy your own company and a nightcap at the end of the day? Go for it, because you can.
• You learn a new language faster — Je peux en témoigner! (I can vouch for that!). When traveling alone in France, I was forced to make sense of the language. It was either that or go hungry. Without a traveling companion to talk with or to aid in translation, I had to fend for myself. While I am far from fluent in French, I can at least order a croque-monsieur — a hot ham and cheese sandwich. Want to learn a language more quickly? Travel solo.
• You build your confidence and sense of independence — Even a small jaunt can boost your self-confidence. All the decisions are yours, including your budget. You decide how to get where you’re going, where to stay, and how much to spend on transportation, food, accommodations and things to do. In no time, you’ll discover your own resourcefulness, ability to solve problems, and capacity to spend some time alone. Those are invaluable, lifelong lessons.
Solo travel is ripe with opportunities for self-discovery, growth and joy. Start dreaming today. When the travel advisories are lifted, you’ll be ready. Pack your bags, and with no reservations (pun intended), set out on your journey with a spring in your step and unbridled anticipation for all the hidden treasures that await.
I’m already contemplating a vacation with just “me, myself and I” when the time is right. It might be a weekend away for a change of pace or a great big adventure for a jolt to the senses.
Lately, I’ve been pouring over travel guides for Austin, Texas. I have a sneaking suspicion that the “Live Music Capital of the World” will — you guessed it — have me at howdy!
NOTE: As of this writing, the CDC and other health experts and institutions advise staying at home as the pandemic surges.
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite Gwenn to speak, visit www.aloneandcontent.com