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I traveled solo for almost a decade. It was wonderful — but I'm over it.

Jamie Cattanach   

I traveled solo for almost a decade. It was wonderful — but I'm over it.
  • I spent about a decade traveling solo and I enjoyed it but I'm over it now.
  • Making close connections with others made me realize I wanted to share my experiences.

At 6:02 a.m. on a chilly Monday morning in April, the sun rose over northern Arizona's desert, driving shadows out of Horseshoe Bend.

Although it's one of the most famous viewpoints in America with millions of visitors a year, I was the only person there. My location-independent, freelance-writer lifestyle — and penchant for solo travel — came with some serious perks.

The wind pricked my skin and pulled tears from my eyes. I watched from my prized position at the canyon's edge as this landmark I'd only ever seen in photographs revealed itself to me, bit by bit. I felt totally alive and overwhelmingly grateful, baffled at how much richness my life had to offer.

The only thing that would have made it better is if I'd had someone to share it with.

I'm grateful for my footloose years

Ten years ago, I was terrified of solo travel, as so many people — especially women — are.

Then, I got accepted to workshop poetry at a literary event in Lisbon. As one of the only participants who came without the built-in social safety net of an MFA cohort, I roamed by myself, discovering lesser-known corners of the city and eating dinner with different people every night (and, yes, even having the requisite fling with a local).

Traveling solo felt like the ultimate freedom, a way to guarantee I'd find myself in exciting new scenarios with exciting new people I couldn't plan for as part of a group.

So I chased the thrill for years. I drove across America four times, couch-surfing and Airbnb-hopping. I went back overseas, this time for two months instead of two weeks.

Eventually, I moved into a 17-foot travel trailer so I could be on the go full-time, all on my own.

I experienced an abundance of beautiful moments during that decade. I'm so privileged to have been in a position to live such a romantic, bohemian lifestyle. But at some point, even the most heady romance can become exhausting.

Eventually, I found a new home and rethought traveling alone

On November 1, 2019, I hauled my trailer into Portland, Oregon. Looking over my shoulder at Mount Hood, some deep part of me relaxed. I had friends here, and figuring out where to land next had become a second full-time job for me.

Maybe, I thought, I'm home.

Later that month, I flew to Florida to see my family for Thanksgiving and signed a lease on a Portland apartment, sight unseen. It was scary, but it felt right in my gut. I got back, sold the trailer, and moved in. Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit and basically solidified my decision.

Because of the global pandemic, it was a while before I got to travel again. But when I did, I found solo trips left me feeling lonely, not lifted. In the pandemic pause, I'd been lucky enough to find a brilliant and creative group of friends in Portland. By then, traveling alone felt almost wasteful. Why wouldn't I want to share the joy of new experiences with someone I love?

Maybe all those social-media posts I'd made during my solo trips were a stand-in for what I actually craved: someone to enjoy moments with me in real-time.

I still travel alone on occasion. Going stag has its place, and sometimes, it's necessary. Adult schedules are difficult to wrangle, and I'm not going to miss something just because no one else is available.

But these days, I don't travel searching for connection — and bringing the beautiful connections I've already made doesn't feel like impinging on my freedom, but expanding it.

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