Solo Travel Redux: Fear and Excitement

Baltra Airport

1998. That was the last time I went on a solo trip that was not business related. Every other vacation or trip has been with my partner or other people. That will change later this week when I board US Airways flight 796 to Tel Aviv.

No, Scott and I haven’t divorced and I’m not running away from home. I simply took advantage of an amazing deal from US Airways, which I will detail in a future post. Scott couldn’t get the time off, so voila! I’m traveling solo.

I know many people who travel solo and even several who write about it on a daily basis. I’ve read their sites, hosted their thoughts and opinions on LandLopers and am in total sync with their point of view. I understand the quandaries associated with this mode of travel and the inevitable feelings one experiences. That being said, I am nervous, a little fearful but extremely excited.

LandLopers World Cup
Me, circa 1998, in a hostel getting ready to watch Scotland World Cup match

Among my earliest memories are of having a fascination with international travel. I don’t know why, but I have always wanted to travel extensively and it even defined my college and post-grad education choices. That’s why, when I was in my senior year at the College of William and Mary, I started to save like a madman. At one point I was working five jobs and putting every spare cent into my savings account. My goal was simple, I would backpack around England and Scotland for as long as I could.

At the end of that year, I had saved a bit more than $3,500, a veritable fortune to me in those days. Airfare took a chunk, and the rest was for THE TRIP. I did extensive research (are you surprised?) and figured that I could last five weeks before I was destitute. The resulting experience was not only memorable, but it shaped my young adult years. Rather than satiating an incredible hunger though, I had become an addict and simply demanded more.

Fast forward to 2010. I never did an around the world trip, although Scott did. Instead, I have fed the travel monster through as many trips as I could afford (and sometimes not) to take. That is why I couldn’t turn down this opportunity to visit Israel, even though it would mean I would have to do so alone.

Now, to be a little immodest, I consider myself to be an experienced traveler and frankly I know that I can handle myself just about anywhere in the world. I have had some great travel experiences, but some dicey ones as well. Logically, I know that Israel won’t be a big deal logistically and should be fine from a safety point of view. Emotionally though, I am very hesitant.

I’m not sure if it’s because it’s THE Middle East, which is a constant feature on the nightly news, or if I’m just spoiled by having a traveling companion, but I am definitely anxious.

Loper at Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh
1998 Loper at Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

I value the travel experiences I have had with others. Simply put, it’s enjoyable to share travel memories with others. But I know from experience that solo travel also has its unique benefits. Introspection is an important one. There is nothing more therapeutic than sitting in a café somewhere, putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and hashing out one’s thoughts and feelings.

I’m not just excited for the week alone with my own thoughts, the destination itself captivates me endlessly. For whatever reason, although I’m not really religious, Biblical history and archaeology has always interested me. Perhaps it’s the result of endless internal debates or being forced to go to Sunday School as a young Loper, but I love visiting areas of religious interest and, let’s face it, nothing beats Israel in this department. I’m also a huge fan of archeology; in fact, when I was a kid I wanted to be an archeologist. The opportunity to explore some of the earliest and most important areas in the history of Western civilization is something that keeps me up at night quivering in anticipation.

I know that I will meet some amazing people on my trip and that I will create memories to last a lifetime. I also know that I will inevitably have some bad times, hopefully nothing more serious than being lonely, but one never knows.

Regardless of what awaits me in the cradle of the three major Abrahamic theologies, I can’t wait to take that step and discover it all on my own.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

5 Responses

  1. RenegadePilgrim

    While you are in Israel, go to Masada, spend the night at the hostel (it’s more like a hotel!) at the base of Masada and then get up at the crack of dawn, around 4a and hike the Snake Path to the top to watch the sunrise. I did this in July and it was awesome! If you plan it right, you can get back to the hostel before breakfast is done, eat, take a shower, then spend the day at the museum just up the hill.

    I just did Israel solo in July, I’d be happy to give you some suggestions if you need them or want them! Have fun!

    Reply
  2. Marsha

    My mom visited Israel in August and I second the jaunt to Masada.

    P.S. Solo travel really does rule. : )

    Reply
  3. Gray

    Aw, I feel like we’re pushing a little baby bird out of the nest. “Fly, Matt, fly!” 🙂
    Seriously, though, it’s okay to feel nervous before the big solo trip. Most of us regular solo travelers do, too. But we know the nerves will go away eventually and we’ll get to the enjoyable part of the journey. Being able to soak in the experience, unfiltered by anyone else’s thoughts and opinions, it becomes all yours. I’m excited for you. Have fun!

    Reply
  4. Keith

    I’m with you. As my solo trip draws nearer the nerves are starting to set in. It’s normal, it’s ok, I think the key is getting through that “crescendo” period after which you realize you can do it, your partner/SO is OK, and you’ll see them in no time.

    Hope you have a great trip Matt!

    Reply
  5. Kelly

    Cool!! Good luck! I’ve always wanted to go to Israel, I’ve heard some pretty amazing stuff! It’s so important to take time for yourself these days!

    Reply

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