There is always some kind of fear about exploring a city on your own, or traveling independently. Sure, there are more people than not who do that through couch hopping and other such means. Yet there is still a stigma associated with this choice, evoking thoughts of “You’re crazy” and “What if something happens to you?”
Like anything at all, venturing alone is not so bad if you approach it in a smart, safe way. Common sense and some kind of a plan is all it takes.
It all sounds simple enough–“I already know to use common sense. Tell me something I don’t know.”
When it comes to traveling solo, or at least splitting from your pack for a day to pursue your own adventure, there is still some kind of societal concern that it looks weird, seems sad, or may just be boring. But there is no shame in doing anything you like on your own. You read books, watch TV, and do other stuff like that alone without feeling weird, right? I chalk it up to being a similar experience.
My first real brush with this was a big step, but a worthwhile one. On a class trip in college, myself and a small portion of other students in my field spent nearly a week in San Francisco. It was a far away enough trip that my parents constantly reminded me to stick with my friends, keep my phone on me, tell my professor where I was going to be, and, in a slightly more adult way, “don’t talk to strangers”.
Having that kind of stress bleed onto you sticks, so for a while I was concerned that I’d get snatched up without even trying. But as the days went by, I was getting mildly irritated at my classmates for only wanting to hit the same spots. So one afternoon, while I tagged behind my group heading to Fisherman’s Wharf, I made an impulsive dart for the MUNI, taking a train to Castro. I wasn’t completely dumb about it. I pulled one friend aside to say I’d join up later, and to text me where they’d be in a couple of hours. From there I was free. And it was refreshing.
The rest of the afternoon wasn’t just great because I got to see everything that I wanted to see. I got to roll at my own pace and not have to keep a constant running dialogue with someone about every single thing in front of us. I could stop by the old Castro Camera location and just look around with my own thoughts to myself. I could stop in Hot Cookie and chat with the cashier and take photos without being rushed along. Mostly, I strolled the sidewalks admiring the sky in contrast to the bright signage, and knew it was a time with just myself, taking mental photographs at each point.
Thinking on it weeks after, what I appreciated most from veering off was that there was a feeling of pride or achievement. I slipped through a far off part of the city without feeling weird, getting lost, getting intimidated, or getting hurt. I did it on my own and took away my own personal story from it. That’s why I can genuinely support the idea of being a lone adventurer.