Zen and the Art of Solo Travel

I'm way past due reading this book. All I've read is 25 pages and I already know that it will influence me and my thoughts about solo travel.

I’m way past due reading this book. All I’ve read is 25 pages and I already know that it will influence me and trigger many thoughts that I will share in Solo Traveler.


And what is good, Phaedrus,
And what is not good __
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

A quote at the beginning of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

Sometimes, we don’t know what we know.

We don’t know our own intelligence, competence and resilience.

We don’t know our ability to navigate new places and negotiate new situations.

We don’t even know what we want and what we don’t want — what is good and what is not.

But, if given the opportunity, we can explore and experience knowing and integrate this knowing into our sense of self.

One of the ways we can do this is to travel solo.

You are not who you were.

I am an introvert. This personality trait is not likely to change. However, since becoming a widow, since traveling solo, I’ve discovered that somewhere along the way, I learned to act like an extrovert.

It happened without my noticing. I had been happy to stand in the shadow of Ron, my late, gregarious husband. As I did, I adopted his natural ability with others. In a context that included him it was not noticeable, but traveling on my own the fact that I had done so was quite obvious.

As I travel solo, managing all the logistics on my own, not losing my passport, starting conversations with complete strangers, becoming my own judge for what is good and bad, what I like and don’t like… I get to know myself better. And, what’s more, I integrate this knowledge, this feeling of strength, into my sense of self.

You are becoming.

It is my hope and expectation that I will continue to grow. Why not? As I travel solo I will exercise all these skills, develop new ones and reinforce the growth that has already taken place.

In the last two years I have been fortunate to meet and fall in love with a new life partner. He knows me as I am, the product of my natural being (an introvert), of my years with Ron (the skills I developed from my gregarious husband) and my time traveling solo during which I discovered my personal sense of good and bad as well as my own intelligence, competence, resilience and all that these mean in travel and in life.

I will continue to travel solo – it has meant so much to me. It gives me the solitude I need on occasion but, much more importantly, it gives me the opportunity to know myself better. And, as I do, I will return to my new love with ever more to offer.


  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Thanks so much. Feedback such as yours brings more joy than you can imagine.

  • NannerGoes

    Janice I absolutely love reading your posts. I’ve traveled both with groups or another person, and solo. I started out solo traveling out of necessity – I wanted to travel and no one was willing or able to join me so off I ventured on my own. But now I relish the opportunity to travel solo. I still enjoy travels with friends, but as others have commented, it’s a different kind of travel.

  • Pingback: Going Solo: Spending My 38th Birthday Alone in Albuquerque | Tue Night()

  • James Corporal

    I can’t agree with this more! All of my travels have been solo, and I’ve found out so much about myself through the process. I’m also an introvert and I’ve pushed myself to do something just slightly outside of my comfort zone on every trip. Over time I’ve seen as I’ve grown and become a stronger man because of it.

  • http://janetfouts.com Janet Fouts

    I travel completely differently when I’m alone. Most of my travel is for business and I know my goals and routines. I go for long, long walks and explore without worrying about what anybody else wants to do or what they want to eat. I love food stalls and off-the wall places that are ethnic and I indulge myself in all the odd foods I love to eat.
    Now, when I travel with family I don’t have to worry about details like the flight time, gates, the hotel, where’s my passport and all the other minutia. I just sit back and enjoy it. There’s good to both sides.

  • Bobbi Rubinstein

    So far I’ve only traveled cross country on my own, not abroad. But I hope to do that soon. I know it will change me in many ways. My husband and I both work from home and have most of our marriage. So finally getting settled on a plane, buckling up and staring out the window, if I’m lucky, is a moment I relish. Both our daughters, 21 and 24, have traveled overseas alone to study in foreign countries. What role models they are for me! As for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I read it in my 20s. I still draw upon an image from the book about the author paying attention to how he fixed his cycle and the concepts of quality and focus. I look forward to reading your comments on it. Could be worth a reread.

  • jacob smith

    Great post Janice. Discovered so much from journey encounters – good and bad.
    Panama city condos

  • Sara Wallace

    Great post Janice. I’ve learned so much about myself from travel experiences – positive and negative. They’ve shown me just how creative, resilient and courageous I am. The world and relating is the greatest teacher.

  • Susan

    Thank you for this post Janice. I completely agree that time alone, whether extensive travel or mini vacation, delivers so much; insight, growth, confidence, freedom of personal choice, expansion, even space for meditation – to come back with more to offer and more appreciation for what you have.

  • Isabelle Darcy

    Amen! I love your perspective on personal growth! A big one for me too is making friends with strangers.It’s been so rewarding and taught me more about myself than anything else in my life :)