Solo Leisure Travel

by Christopher Lovejoy on April 26, 2022

Leisure travel offers many opportunities to learn about yourself in relation to the world at large. The world at large, of course, includes, as a matter of course, anyone or anything that can serve as a potent catalyst for personal or spiritual growth ~ for the benefit of soul or spirit.

In essence, leisure travel opens up opportunities to learn and grow in knowledge and wisdom about yourself in relation to the world at large so as to deepen and broaden your perspective on life.

But what we don’t hear so much about is solo leisure travel, and here, I’m not talking only about travel in terms of crossing off destinations on a bucket list; I’m talking about solo leisure travel as (1) a versatile option; (2) a way of life, at least for a time; or (3) a profound way of being.

This last one ~ a way of being ~ is, for me, the most intriguing of all.

Just too Good to Ignore

Truth be told, we are all solitary, each in our own way, whether we like it or not. If you have a sense of Self, you have a sense of solitary, if only for a time. One need only read an astonishingly good book like You’re the One You’ve Been Waiting For to really and truly get what I mean.

When you’ve reached that unbearably delicious and delightful place where you can treat your solitude as a way of being (and not just as a way of life), you’re well on your way to interpreting anyone else’s solitude as a munificent fount of freedom, creativity, intimacy, and spirituality.

Only some of us can gather the care and courage to be solitary for life, but almost anyone can learn to revel in the joys of solitude for life. In so doing, they need only blow past feeling like a loner to realize the benefits of solitude with a sense of meaning, purpose, and direction.

Silence, Solitude, Solace

One area in life where solitude is widely recognized as gaining any sort of purchase is solace.

Many of us know enough to respect someone’s need for privacy after the loss of a loved one, where solitude can draw on silence to meet up with solace. What few seem to realize is that one need not lose anyone to do this; they need only stay open to their feelings of hurt, loss, or care.

One can learn to call on silence, solitude, and solace anywhere, at anytime, for any reason that seems appropriate ~ to soothe a hurt feeling; to realize the meaning of a loss, minor or major; or to restore a buoyant sense of calm and care after an especially trying or taxing time of it.

During such times, one might even come to savor or relish a deep experience of One Taste.

In the Wonder of Solitude

If we were especially fortunate as children, we tasted a sense of awe and wonder in solitude, one that continues to stand us in good stead to this very day, and it is from this sense of awe and wonder that we can continue to deepen, broaden, and heighten this sense for the benefit of all.

Early on, we learn, for ourselves, why it feels so good to be alone ~ with ourselves, with another, with others, with nature, with the world at large, within the grand scheme of things. In the wonder of solitude, we’re invited to be founts of freedom, creativity, intimacy, and spirituality.

We’re invited to drink from the royal wellsprings of sensitivity and sovereignty.

So Why Not Travel Alone?

I find it helpful to view and treat solo leisure travel as a process that moves through three phases. To echo my words above, such travel can be construed personally, first as: (1) a versatile option; then as (2) a way of life, at least for a time; and then as (3) a profound way of being.

I would surmise that extroverted personalities have little if any trouble moving into and through the first phase, and might even venture, with courage, into the second phase, but the final phase, by its very nature, is likely reserved for the inner worlds of introverted personalities.

The perennial question, “so why not travel alone?,” is one of those questions that can take a lifetime (or more, if you believe in reincarnation) to answer. Truth be told, it’s a rather delicious question, replete with promise and possibility, and applicable to each phase of the journey.

It’s also a question that enjoys a delightful companion: why does it feel so good to be alone?

Feels So Good to Be Alone

In my internal family system, I have a central core Self that has learned (and is learning) to take the lead in relation to its parts, most especially its exiles and protectors. To the degree to which I care for my parts is the degree to which I can savor and relish the feeling of being alone.

every bit of us, at every moment, is part and parcel of a wider Self ~ William James

If I identify as an exile (speak from, rather than speak for, an exile), I feel lonely, and if I identify as a protector (speak from, rather than speak for, a protector), I feel more alone in the world than I would like, but the degree to which I stay the course with Self, I feel calm and clear.

if a way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst ~ Thomas Hardy

The heart of Self feels natural, spontaneous, effortless, coming through in everyday life as calm, clear, curious, courageous, and compassionate. The essence of Self is captured by the passage that follows (“chop wood, carry water” is a reference to focal attention, diffuse attention):

my daily affairs, they are quite ordinary,
but I remain in total harmony with them

I don’t hold onto anything, and don’t reject
anything ~ nowhere an obstacle or conflict

and so, who cares about wealth and honor?
truth be told, even the poorest thing shines

truly, my miraculous power and activity are
summed up thus: “chop wood, carry water”

~ P’ang, Zen Master (c. 740-808 A.D.)

(edited slightly by yours truly for my Self)

Here, questions are begged: what about others? What roles might they play for a Self alone on a solitary journey? Must solo leisure travel be wholly solitary? Is there no room for encounters that bring intimacy, or for sublime experiences of ecstasy that seem to go on forever?

The Wisdom of Solitude

It is a most unfortunate fact of the human condition and the human experience that relatively few have the pleasure and privilege of leisure, of being and acting alone in their leisure, of travelling solo at their leisure. They might never encounter this most compelling of paradoxes:

connect with care, courage, compassion, and curiosity
or expect a clash of cares, concerns, and commitments

Why travel alone at my leisure? For one, there’s no better way for me to get to know myself. For two, I have space and time enough to choose my way with care, courage, compassion, and curiosity. For three, I have space and time enough to appreciate what is mine to appreciate.

Getting to know and accept my internal family intimately is an ongoing proposition, one that I expect to meet with care, courage, compassion, and curiosity for an entire lifetime (and beyond), all the better as I savor and relish moments of clarity, beauty, harmony, and serenity.

Edward Gibbon was quoted as saying, conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius. Here, I would tweak it to read: conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of selfhood. In some respects, two or more solitudes are better than one, but in other respects, one solitude alone can be and feel and go so much deeper.

Am I Ready to Travel Solo?

So when will I know I’m ready to travel solo at my leisure?

The pat answer to this amorphous question (with tongue held firmly in cheek) is that “I am ready to travel solo at my leisure when I know I can love and enjoy my own company so much that no one and no thing will ever persuade me to believe otherwise, come what may.”

At the risk of sounding too obvious, one begins the quest for solitude by treating solo leisure travel as a versatile option, not unlike dipping one’s toes in a body of water, before graduating to wading comfortably inside the shallow end, before seeking and finding the depths.

Practically speaking, one takes a few trips in the vicinity of one’s home base, before mapping out one’s movements beyond the perimeter of this vicinity, before mapping out entry points for moving through more strictly enforced boundaries, while cultivating a strong why.

To be sure, a big strong why is key, one that is ideally enlarged and strengthened with travel time.

But why “travel solo at my leisure?” And why “travel solo?” More to the point, “why travel at all?”

One common answer is “to see and do things,” which begs the question: “why see and do things?”

If pressed, inveterate travellers would likely respond by turns, thus: to be fit to stay fit, to learn and grow, to explore and express, to evolve and ascend, to transcend and include, to make some meaning, to love and be loved, to inspire and be inspired, and to “just follow your bliss.”

This travel prescription to “follow your bliss,” however, is not without its grunts and groans. When we leave our comfort zones, things happen, often without warning, even as we seek to “see, taste, and try new things!” Obstacles, difficulties, and challenges are par for the course.

We learn to adapt and adopt, even as we explore, engage, and embrace the new and the fresh. Getting away from it all is an opportunity to reflect on life; to let mind, heart, and gut wonder and wander and, if needs be, take stock. It’s an opportunity to explore, expand, and express a sense of Self in new and fresh ways, to see just how much one can handle alone without help or support.

Consider this gem as the ultimate gift of solo leisure travel:

I feel so Zen: I have all the time in the world

In light of this evocative gift, what’s the best way to go?

Going, Growing, Flowing

So what’s the best way to go and grow in the know with the flow?

Consider these prompts to get your creative juices flowing: is the focus of my travels on me (and what I experience)? Or on my encounters with what’s around me or going on around me? Is the focus of my travels on here, there, or everywhere? Is my focus on process or progress?


inner, outer, or both?
here, there, or everywhere?
process or progress?

Wherever you go, there you are, but unless you’re a master of time and place, most everyone, most of the time, desires and deserves the safety, security, and stability of a home base, even if temporary. Otherwise, said base becomes the primary point of travel until it is secured.

With the safe assumption of a secure home base (unless you’re a master juggler of travel assumptions), one can be in a place or position where one can then activate, elaborate, and perpetuate (at least for a time) what I like to call “going and growing with the knowing and flowing.”

If this proposition sounds too complex, take heart and keep it simple, as follows.

If you’re looking to explore, experience, and enjoy the vicinity of your home base, set your intention by pinpointing a desired experience before you leave your home base, thus: “I hereby allow myself to follow my bliss and welcome feelings of _______” (delight, for example).


try:

peace
love
joy
bliss
grace
ease

try:

clarity
beauty
harmony
serenity
intimacy
ecstasy

try:

calm
care
courage
contentment
compassion
curiosity

try:

awe
wonder
surprise
admiration
astonishment
amazement

Before leaving home, enter a state of heightened receptivity and sensitivity with the intention of following your most subtle and sublime impulses to see this or that, to go this way or that, all the while remaining acutely aware of where you are as you go and grow in the know with the flow.

In essence, one becomes what I call “a submissive transmissive” for a time.

For more extended solo leisure travel, consider this prescription: pick a string of destinations with one ultimate destination, and then pinpoint one or more desired experiences with the intention of bringing this trip to completion, bearing in mind that “I remain in service to others as a beneficent and beneficial resource, meeting and greeting others where they are.”

In light of these basic protocols, let’s revisit, one by one, the prompts above.


inner, outer, or both?

This prompt is travel code for “is your solo leisure travel experience more inclined toward being reflective (inner), reflexive (outer), or both reflective and reflexive (inner and outer, which requires much more mental and emotional versatility, i.e., more experience with travel).

Hint: being more reflective than reflexive means being more submissive than transmissive; being more reflexive than reflective, on the other hand, means being more transmissive than submissive. Finding your balance with submissive, transmissive is the work of a lifetime.


here, there, or everywhere?

This prompt is code for “is your solo leisure travel experience more focused on here (getting to know and love this one place really well), there (getting to know and love that destination really well), or everywhere (getting to know and love a string of favored destinations over time)?”

Hint: where here aims for knowing and loving a place in depth, here and there aims for knowing and loving two or more places in depth and with breadth, while everywhere I go aims for knowing and loving many places in depth, with breadth, in a bid to go even higher.


process or progress?

This prompt is travel code for “is your solo leisure travel experience mostly if not exclusively a process of inquiry and discovery or is it mostly if not exclusively a work in progress with goals and plans, where certain outcomes are expected and where certain results are desired.

Hint: where process is about “allowing the mystery,” progress is about “manifesting mastery.”


inner, outer, or both?
here, there, or everywhere?
process or progress?

Recall these prompts as shortcuts in your travels with other lovers of solo leisure travel.

Parting Thoughts

If I should ever meet and greet you in my solo journey, it need not be as two ships passing in the night. Better to find safe harbor and compare notes, if only for a time. From there, a shared vulnerability could lead to a deepening of Selves, which bodes well for any internal family.

A robust Self is the key to leadership, both within and without. With a robust Self, we need only look within for guidance through a critical albeit compassionate eye, so as to make our own choices and decisions, uninhibited and unimpeded by biases, prejudices, or popular notions.

Most especially the bias of a needy love on steroids:


I need you to redeem me, to make me whole again;
I need you to coddle my exiles, and be there for me
or I need you to agree with my gang of protectors:
with my critic, my pusher, my controller, my judge

otherwise, I cannot know and love the whole of you

As I pay heed to inner and outer, I wonder: what does this look like, sound like, feel like now? What do I notice? In view of what I see, hear, and feel, what do I know? Wherein lies the flow?

May you alone see fit to follow this line of questioning in your leisure travel.

/

awareness < > experience < > encounter

~ yours

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