Design Your Life

Why Traveling Solo is Different from Traveling Alone

By Candace Doby

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I just returned from a rejuvenating Hawaiian vacation, which served its purpose of recalibrating my mind, body and soul after a stressful graduate school semester. I ate traditional island dishes, parasailed 700 ft above the ocean, ran along majestic beaches and soaked up the Hawaiian sun.

Throughout my stay, I met an array of locals and fellow vacationers who asked me the same question. “Are you here alone?”

I didn’t think much of the inquiry until my casual, affirmative reply transformed their curiosity into astonishment.

“Really, you’re in Hawaii by yourself?”

I couldn’t wrap my head around the big deal until I reflected on it one evening from my hotel room. After 15 minutes of replaying the interactions and deciphering my thoughts, I finally got it.

Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to experience myself on a magnificent island, watch the sunset from a hammock or appreciate the calming of the ocean without a partner.

I wasn’t supposed to sit under palm trees with my thoughts, walk along the beach to consider the direction of my path or reconnect with nature without my family.

Nor was I supposed to listen to the music of waterfalls, eat delectable cuisines or backstroke in clear, green water without my friends.

Really?

Alone is a choice. Though I traveled to Hawaii without a person or people familiar to me, I never chose to be alone.

I met beach buddies Lei and Ana who invited me to a barbeque on the sand with Chef Wayne. In the short time we were together, Lei, a local who travels between Hawaii and LA, reminded me about the importance of Ohana. Family. Ana, a German exchange student, helped me recall the significance of (internal) exploration. Chef Wayne, a Hawaii native, reminded me of three key lessons through his stories: talk with your talent; if you’re going to do it, do it right; enjoy life.

A bellman at my hotel, who nicknamed me Ms. Peach, checked in with me everyday. David from Seattle, whom I met on a walk, had been living in Hawaii for the past seven years and filled me in on particulars of island life. I should also mention the birds and geckos that danced around my feet. They, too, kept me company.

In addition, I re-centered myself on the trip, which intensified my connection to my source. And because God is within me, I’ll never be unaccompanied.

My Hawaiian adventure caused me to make a distinction between traveling solo and traveling alone. The human and non-human life around me—us— ensures we are never alone unless we choose to ignore its presence.

So, the next time a fellow vacationer approaches me during a solo trip and asks if I’m traveling alone, I’ll glance at the locals around me, peek at the birds above me and politely answer, ‘no.’

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