Going Solo

A column about traveling the world on your own

Solo traveler Susan diRende by a creek in the North Island of New Zealand

Going Solo is a travel column and a lifestyle column in one. Four years ago, I sold everything and hit the road for what I thought was going to be a year of exploration and discovery through travel. I wasn’t entirely sure what it would look like. I planned the first couple of months by going to an artists residency center in New Zealand. I knew only 3 things about the place: New Zealand lamb, the flightless kiwi bird, and that Lord of the Rings was shot there. So discovery was right there at the top as I landed on January 1, 2015. 

Here it is four years later, and I’m still on the road. I discovered I loved this nomadic life. I found myself more connected – to people, to nature, to the physical world in all its manifestations and, yes, to myself – than I had ever been in my life. 

The Via Francigena pilgrim’s road to Rome leaves Lucca, Italy by an old aqueduct

There were places I fit (Lucca in Tuscany) and placed I fled (Tangier in Morocco). There were lots of moments that felt like a letdown at the time that are luminous now in memory ( New Year’s Eve in Fiji) and intense experiences that I hardly think of anymore (a 7.8 earthquake in Kaikoura that cut off the town for four days). 

By dawn after a midnight 7.8 magnitude earthquake, emergency services were already out with hot beverages and food for displaced travelers.

Through it all I felt safe and connected, more so I think than if I had been traveling with others, companions I’d have to consider, worry about, compromise with as well as share. Instead I met people every day, chatted about the shared moment, connected with them because I had no one else to talk to. I could change my plans on a dime because there was no one to consult, to disappoint, to worry if our new direction turned out to be a dead end. And there was joy that is only possible when there is no one out there to share it with, only the self being there in the moment that passes like a moonrise or a bit of mist rising. 

Solo travel around the world is scary. So is a roller coaster. For most people roller coasters are fun-scary while getting lost in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language is panic-scary. I feel just the opposite. (More about roller coasters later.) I feel supremely safe out there on my own, even when I get lost, even when I lose things as I invariably do. Losing things is part of the game. So is getting lost. Learning to roll with whatever happens is the ticket that gets you in the game of discovery, of surprise, of joy, and sometimes the big payoff of transcendent experience. 

 

Morning yoga on my bungalow deck in Tahiti

So I go solo. I take side tracks and follow random impulses. I meet people and paint pictures and sometimes make friends. This column is about the fruits of my wanderings, the discoveries big and small made here and there. What I found. What I felt. How it all came about. What I made of it.

My wish for you is that you find in what I write something to make of it for yourselves.

Read the next Going Solo column: Going Solo: Solitary and Safe

Susan diRende travels the world on her own and has been living with no fixed abode since the end of 2014. This twice-monthly column aims to encourage others to try going solo and explores what can be gained from the experience. All photos ©Susan diRende

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