I have now spent multiple holidays wandering around countries both with friends and alone and I have to say that traveling alone during the holiday season is definitely an experience. I grew up in a household that didn’t take the holidays as seriously as many other people or even cultures. My family tried to ween us off of Christmas at a very young age and so it was never a big deal to me. In fact by the time I was in middle school, I was usually sharing a Christmas present and birthday present with my sibling rather than having my own. I feel that people don’t always understand just how independent I was raised to be. That being said, this past year, I made a deal with my family that I would head back home for Thanksgiving and ended up spending the entire week there with them. In exchange for making that trip, I would not be coming home for Christmas or New Year’s Eve. So, as you know, I went to Europe instead.
There’s something to be said about exploring cities on your own when you’re alone and especially during the holidays when it is time for people to be hanging out with their loved ones and their families. Flying into Oslo on Christmas Eve knowing that the airport was closing early for the holidays and having to check into a hotel alone, definitely made it very apparent that I was alone on a major holiday. Spending Christmas and NYE alone on this trip definitely made me realize just how much I like solo traveling and just how much I don’t like solo traveling.
Saying that my Christmas dinner was a store bought meal that I brought back to my hotel to sit and eat in my room is not something I want to brag about. Watching the fireworks over Stockholm by myself and not having anyone to hug or say “HAPPY NEW YEAR” to is a very sad moment. I feel that solo traveling is glorified and people think that it’s the most amazing thing in the world and please, don’t get me wrong. I love solo traveling and I will always continue to do it but sometimes, I do wish that I had someone to celebrate these moments with.
Getting the chance to see the sunset over the water just outside of Oslo on a dock all to myself was amazing and probably the best Christmas present I could have ever given to myself. I stood on a dock, completely alone and had moments to reflect on everything in my life and how it had changed so drastically in 2016. I didn’t need to worry about the pressures of finding Christmas presents for people, I didn’t need to worry about making small talk, in fact I hadn’t spoken words to anyone in a few hours at that point and I was able to really spend time being thankful that I could have that experience. I am not religious but I was given a chance to experience something that most people will never get to experience because of this holiday. Not having anyone to share this with is hard but I am glad that I had the chance to experience it alone. It was a good opportunity for me to focus on myself and recenter myself to remember that no matter how bad things feel like they are getting, the world is so much bigger and it refocuses me.
On the flip side, standing completely alone while being surrounded by thousands of strangers speaking all different languages waiting to see the same fireworks show made me lonelier than standing alone in Oslo. I think that, in retrospect, it was a great experience for me and I am glad that I did that. I am glad that I ventured out my hotel to see the fireworks even though it took quite a bit of convincing from friends back home and I had to go through an internal battle in my head. But I’m glad that I did it but I have to admit that I started out 2017 very lonely. Watching everyone around me grab their friends and their loved ones to wish them a great start to the year while I stood there, waited for the fireworks to stop and then I just walked home was a bit of a downer experience. Please don’t get me wrong, I am glad I went to see the fireworks and I wouldn’t have traded that experience for the world. I will always treasure that experience and being able to see the fireworks. Plus it really was a great start to the year. But it made me realize that no matter how much I like to pretend I am okay being alone, I am okay being selfish and so independent to a fault – sometimes, having someone is okay. And sometimes it’s nice to have someone to share those special moments with.
I will always continue to solo travel, and to be honest, I will probably always continue to travel during the holidays because my work gives me extra vacation time during the holidays. It just makes sense to use it for traveling so that I do not have to use up all my vacation time that I’ve been storing. But, I definitely realized after this trip that solo traveling is not all that it’s cracked out to be. I won’t stop doing it, but I think I will learn to appreciate it more and stop wearing the travel goggles and telling everyone that it’s the best thing in the world.