When I was 26, I went on a cruise by myself.
I hadn't planned on it, but I'd gotten a free cruise. And I was raised to never say no to free stuff in life. Especially when that free stuff happens to be something as awesome as a trip down the Mexican Riviera in February.
Initially, I had at least three people lined up to go with me. Because I'm co-dependent. And when you're co-dependent, you don't just invite one person. You have a back-up plan. When your self-worth is tangled up in how much people want to be with you, you make sure you're never alone.
But one by one, every one of those friends backed out. And here I was, going on a cruise by myself.
And I hated it.
I felt awkward and weird, and I was certain everyone on the ship was making fun of me for being the only party of one. I would walk into my empty balcony suite at the end of every night, and I would feel sorry for myself.
I'm the only person on this ship who is such a loser, she had to go on a cruise by herself.
Was I a whiny pain in the ass, or what?
In the past 10 years since that cruise, I've traveled solo more often than I've relied on someone else to travel with me. It's been empowering and stressful, and it's helped me manage my codependency far better than any therapy ever has.
I don't latch onto people quite as much.
When you're traveling on your own, you gain a sense of independence you never knew you had inside of you. If something goes wrong, it's probably your fault. If you didn't think to check the CDC's website for recommended immunizations for your destination, that's on you. But it's also your responsibility to get yourself out of whatever mess you've gotten into.
I can brainstorm my way out of a mess so fast these days, I should have a cool nickname, like "The Fixer." And it's all thanks to the scrappy ingenuity I've gained from making and fixing my mistakes on my solo travels.
Befriending someone for a few hours is totally worth it.
I used to think that making friends with someone was only worth the energy if that person happened to become one of your besties. Why bother taking the time to get to know a person if you're just going to say goodbye in two hours?
When you're traveling solo, you kind of need to make five-minute friendships because sometimes they're the only ones available. You might meet someone hella cool at your hostel, only to find out they're jetting out the next day. Unless you want to spend your entire trip alone, you're going to need to be okay with making a few fair-weather friends.
And since I'm not expending more energy than necessary on my close relationships (co-dependent relationships take a lot more worry and work than the garden variety), I now have the stamina to take on a few quickie compadres.
I'm not going to die alone—no matter how many besties I have.
Many co-dependents have debilitating fears of dying alone. It's why we hold on to others so tight.
But there's nearly 7.5 billion people out there.
That's 7.5 billion possible friendships. If you're only focusing on a few close ones, wouldn't you say the odds are just a little out of your favor?
So instead of clinging to just a few people, I've decided to cast a wider net.
Even though I haven't made myself totally reliant on my newfound friends, I've found I can still rely on them—even from halfway around the world. Some of the people I've befriended with while traveling solo are still the people I call upon when I need a job, a place to stay or even life advice.
And if I ever needed a travel buddy to drop everything to accompany me on a free cruise? You can bet I'd have at least a half dozen takers.
Just because you're alone doesn't mean you're a loner.
There's plenty of reasons that people travel solo. Sometimes you plan to go on a cruise and everyone backs out. Sometimes you just want to do the stuff you want to do when you want to do it without worrying about anyone else's feelings. Sometimes you just don't want to hang out with other people all the time, and that's okay.
Traveling solo doesn't mean you're selfish or mean or that no one else likes you. It just means that you're on an adventure for one. And sometimes you meet some cool people, and for a brief moment your adventure for one widens to include a few more.
Why was I worried about everyone else on that cruise when I could have been having a blast on my own? Instead of stressing about why people didn't want to hang out with me, I should have been worried about why I didn't want to hang out with me.
These days, traveling solo means I get to hang out with the coolest person I know (it's me!). And that's pretty sweet because this girl would never be the kind of friend to ever say no to going on a free cruise. Like ever.