Not actually alone

On a day trip into the city, I enjoyed another world entirely. Pacific Heights, San Francisco, January 2004

On a day trip into the city, I enjoyed strolling through another world entirely.
Pacific Heights, San Francisco, January 2004

“There are only two things I like to do alone: reading and traveling, and for the same reason.  When you travel, and when you read, you are not actually alone, but rather surrounded by other worlds entirely, the footsteps and phrases of whole other lives keeping you company as you go.”Shauna Niequist

There’s nothing to compare with sharing the beauty and excitement of travel with friends and family, but even so, I completely agree with what Niequist says here.  I also enjoy traveling alone, and reading alone, and for the same reason.

Oddly, there’s a sense in which, traveling solo, I connect with new people more (because I notice them more) and I end up having some interesting conversations with strangers. When I travel with friends and family, I am in a sort of cocoon of the familiar and safe.  On my own, my senses are more alert, more finely tuned, less distracted, and I enter those “whole other worlds” more completely.

Reading is, of course, the ultimate solo escape; one doesn’t have to worry about timetables or personal safety or finances or finding a decent place to have lunch.  If I had to choose one or the other, reading would win out over actual physical travel every time.  But traveling, whether near or far, can open the mind to awareness of the wider world in a way that reading cannot do as completely.  No matter how vividly we re-create sights and sounds and smells in our imagination, it’s not quite the same as actually being there

Sometime this year, I hope you will make time for a solo getaway, even for just an hour or two. If you’re timid about traveling alone, choose a place closer to home that seems safer, but try to choose something a bit unfamiliar.  Museums, parks, even riding the public transportation to a different destination can be a fun adventure.  Take along a few things that will make your day easier or more complete — a camera, a water bottle, sunscreen or some energy snacks — but try to travel light, to enjoy the sense of freedom that comes with being by yourself.

What other worlds and other lives are out there waiting to make your acquaintance?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Traveling and reading are indeed synonyms from the perspective of the pleasure they bring.

    I found your post interesting.

    • Thank you, Benjamin! I am so happy you stopped by to “visit” with us here.

  2. Good morning, Julia! Your mention of public transportation reminded me of when I was attending high school at Minnehaha Academy, south-east of Minneapolis, when we lived north of Minneapolis. There were multiple bus routes I could take home, depending on time and on how adventurous I felt, transferring to a different bus at least twice. That was fun.
    But, every day is kind of an adventure, in high school, so I digress….

    • I still totally love riding public transportation. Short of walking (my top favorite way to get around) it’s such a great way to really get to know a place. Lots of cool visits with locals en route, too. I had such fun on the buses and trains of England and Scotland in July! One doesn’t need to be in high school to have such adventures.

  3. mike c

    Inspiring. But what are energy snacks? Cheetos, beef jerky or Mar’s Bars.?

    • I wish! For me, I’m talking nuts (preferably unsalted and without flavorings), maybe mixed with dried fruits, and protein bars of various sorts. I mostly stay away from junk food, even at the USO airport lounges where they have a ton of it on offer for free. BUT I made an exception last month, during which I ate more Scottish shortbread than I’ve probably had the rest of my life combined!

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