Going alone, but not lonely

My recent column on the joys of traveling alone launched a steady flow of email from readers who shared their own stories of solo travel. Far more was submitted than can fit here, but this is a sampling. Submissions were edited for space.

I went alone to Killarney National Park in southwest Ireland and developed quite a close relationship with both those at my hostel and the forest itself. One afternoon I woke up from a pleasant dream on a bed of moss, surrounded by moss-covered trees. I looked up at tree branches pointing to each other like a large cobweb, and the moss absorbed all noise to create an overwhelming stillness. I felt as if no one was there at all.

— Malcolm Black, Evanston, Ill.

Most of my solo trips have involved an Amtrak train ride across the country to our national parks. On my most recent trip, I met three couples on a remote trail in southern Utah. We hiked together, then met the following day for dinner and spent the evening chatting at their rented cabin. Chances are I will never see these people again, but what an enriching experience.

— Michael J. Kozy, Pittsburgh

At the age of 60, I traveled Route 66 by myself. I decided to go solo so I could choose what to see, where to stay, what to take pictures of and to be able change plans if I wanted to. It was a wonderful trip.

— Jan Beck, Woodstock, Ill.

I began solo travel at 21 and have fallen in love with traveling alone across South and Southeast Asia. My favorite by far is meeting people I'm not supposed to meet. Sounds strange? Well, our world is divided into borders and separations. Being from Israel, I can't meet a person from Lebanon, Iran or Saudi Arabia even though they live just a few hours away. They are "the enemy." Traveling alone, I was able to befriend people from all of these countries. Now I can call "enemies" my friends all because I travel alone.

— R.C., Kfar Saba, Israel

I split from my group of friends in Rome, wanting to find locations from "Roman Holiday." Gregory Peck's flat in the film was not far from where I was staying, so I took the subway there. While peeking up the staircase and weighing whether I had the courage to trespass, two elderly gentlemen with zero English (but through gestures and smiles) offered to take my photo and then wanted to show me an art gallery across the courtyard. I figured out that one of the men owned the gallery. I wandered through, waiting for the sales pitch like a cynical American, but realized they just wanted to share their art: stunning landscapes packed into a tiny gallery made of local stone.

— Megan Bradshaw, Baltimore

At age 63, I took my first solo trip overseas. On a village bus in the Cotswolds district in England, a local woman commented on my "trainers" (my Nike walking shoes). That conversation led to nine years of friendship, frequent emails and my visit with her last summer when I returned to England. In 2011, I spent four weeks in Israel. In July I am headed to Iceland. I'm now 72, and if I stay healthy, I plan to continue traveling solo. I am never lonely, and have met some spectacularly wonderful people.

— Arlene Davis, Highland Park, Ill.

Sometimes the best thing about solo travel is that you can grab a last-minute space where they wouldn't have room for two. I grabbed the last seat on a sightseeing submarine in Maui, got a place (without a reservation) at the luncheon table at Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House in Lynchburg, Tenn., a third row seat to a London show and a single seat on a plane to fly over the Nazca Lines in Peru.

— Karen Greenstein, Las Cruces, NM..


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