Why solo travel is everything I thought it would be and more 

By Sarah Cannata

I enjoy my own company.

There. I said it.

Loner. Introvert. Hermit. Bizarre. Outsider. Solitary. Each of these words have been used either by me or more often, others to describe me over the years. A great advantage of nearing almost 30 years on this planet is that mostly, I’m no longer all that fussed anymore about what people think of me. I can’t say that I don’t care at all about what others say and think because ultimately, that would be lying. I am human.

Thinking back…

When I think back to my early twenties and how much unnecessary effort I put into ‘fitting in’ with everyone else, I cringe at some of those memories. Going out drinking and clubbing into the early hours (it got old very quickly – like after a couple of weeks), listening to those around me who encouraged me to wear heels and more feminine clothing such as dresses and skirts (trust me, you’ve never seen a more awkward person in heels), colouring my hair (as I looked into the mirror while in the hairdresser’s chair and slowly saw my hair transform into Ronald McDonald-like coloured locks, it’s safe to say I learnt my lesson)… I could continue but to spare myself further embarrassment, I won’t.

Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I’ve learnt to stick to my own guns. Even when everyone else around me is shouting out something different. I’ll be honest, the news that I was going to Malta alone for two weeks wasn’t received well by some people around me. My parents were worried but what I was more surprised by was how shocked everyone else seemed to be that I wanted to travel alone. If only I could capture some of the looks people gave me when I told them about my plans. Let’s just say that if I wasn’t an oddball to some people before, I definitely am now.

What is the issue with being alone?

Alone. It’s a word that seems to disturb people – I’ve never had any issues eating out alone (I did it daily on my trip and didn’t think twice about it), going to the movies alone (I happily watched Wonder Woman in a theatre where I was literally the only one watching), shopping alone – in fact, the thought of shopping with others, regardless of who they are, would have to rank as one of my worst nightmares. I don’t need others to tell me what I feel comfortable wearing or look good in. I’m capable of judging both all by myself.

Why I’m a fan of solo travel

One of the highest points in Malta

Looking back, what I enjoyed most about solo travel is the opportunities it gave me that I doubt I’d otherwise have experienced. As I was alone on a lot of bus rides and tours, people would often come up and talk to me or ask me questions, assuming I was a local. I’ve been on holidays with others and that’s never happened before. It’s almost like being in a crowd acts as repellent for people. I find chatting with people from all corners of the world quite fascinating. The questions people ask, the observations they make about those around them and so on.

There was the taxi driver who – while holding onto my seat for dear life as he drove at ridiculous speeds and on the wrong side of the road – asked me if I was married only after asking me where I was going. The fellow traveller I enjoyed a drink with who went onto tell me that he feels sad when he looks around at couples and sees them enjoying a meal together while he sits alone. A chance encounter with a lawyer who I later discovered was quite a renowned figure in Malta and the older couple from Brazil who were learning English just for fun.

What is rather comical to me is that normally, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a social butterfly or chatterbox. I just loved the fact that nobody knew who I was in Malta, what I did for a living, my personality or anything else… I was a blank canvas and I did a lot of things that I usually would never do at home because I knew no one would know me or even care. Like swimming although, my version of swimming is really just putting my feet in the water. It’s pretty un-Australian but I can’t actually swim.

The time of my life

When I sit here and think back to my travels, I can still sense that overwhelming feeling of joy and freedom knowing that I woke up each day and just did whatever I wanted to. I didn’t need to factor in work or anyone else into my decisions – long walks on the beach in the early morning (my Maltese body clock was set to wake up no later than 6am each day, which is kind of a miracle as I’m very much a night owl normally), a cheeky cocktail late in the afternoon, gelati by the beach and a pastizzi as a snack… talk about living it up!

Mdina, Malta’s Silent City

Each day was a new experience of some kind. Making my way through the semi-silent (because of the tourists) streets of Mdina, The Silent City. Having a go at riding a segway on some of the highest points of Malta in Dingli, riding in a small boat and seeing the wonder that is the Blue Grotto and its caves for myself, visiting Valletta where my Mum’s family lived when they were younger, eating the best pastizzi of my life in Gozo. So many times, I’d stop and think for a few seconds. I’d have to consider whether I was really there and if I was really seeing all of these remarkable things. Honestly, I wasn’t at all phased that I was experiencing these things alone and felt more content than ever.

The best thing about travelling alone

The headspace that it gave me to think and reflect. I’ve found myself thinking about the past and the future quite a bit this year. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can pretty much mark off my twenties as a necessary disaster (because it’s made me who I am today). They have, however, been redeemed by the last couple of years that have allowed me to breathe. To know who I am and where I’m going.

This trip blessed me with the opportunity to remember how I felt the last time I visited Malta for three days. I can still recall how lost and hopeless I felt and the dread of returning back to normal life. A life where I had created a situation where I was working 24/7 and couldn’t really find a way to escape from besides starting fresh. This time around, as I walked along the narrow streets, I felt a sense of calm. I know how much things have changed for me for the better. I know I have so much more ahead of me. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.

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