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Things to remember when you're traveling alone


(Lauren Simkin Berke - For The Washington Post)

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By John Pancake
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, January 7, 2011; 2:25 PM

Maybe it's because I'm an only child, but I like traveling alone.

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You can have great adventures when you take a trip with friends. But traveling alone makes you think about who you are and why you're here. There's a special sweetness to solitude. It's less complicated. There's nobody to blame if things go wrong, nobody to accommodate, no schedule to stick to but your own. If you want to hike to the top of a bluff and drink a beer while the sun sets over the Danube, there's nobody to remind you of that dinner reservation at the little bistro that Madge and Allen raved about.

When I travel by myself, the three things I always take are a black wool shirt, a journal and a scrap of advice from G.K. Chesterton, who was famous for missing trains: "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered."

Just about everything else is optional. On my way home from Zagreb once, I jotted down some things to remember about solitary traveling. I admit, it's an eccentric list.

Live out of a small suitcase. Being alone is about being free. Lighter is freer.

You don't have to have a plan. And if you do have one, why not change it on a whim? Just because.

Visiting a friend in an out-of-the-way village is going to yield more discoveries than checking in at one of the "1,000 places to visit before you die." Life is better with fewer checklists.

If you have a choice, walk, don't ride. Traveling alone is about moving through places, not about getting to them.

Trains are better than planes. Sit by the window. Talk to the person next to you.

Travel rivers when you can. I like short rides on cheap boats.

Drink less, think more.

Ever heard anybody say: I wish I hadn't spent so much time in Key West, the Galapagos, on Smith Island, Mackinac, South Caicos, Crete, Santa Catalina, Nantucket . . .? Me neither. Leave extra time to visit islands.


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