- - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

People often ask me why I choose to travel alone. It’s not that I am a loner. I welcome company on my trips. But not for the entire time. My answer to them invariably ends with, “Because I want to get lost.”

Moving alone through distant streets provides you with the opportunity to become either a tourist or a traveler. Do you want to simply check the boxes of having seen the museum, the historic sites, the monuments, and have the photos and knick-knack mementos to prove you were there? Or do you want to become a sponge, soaking up other cultures and the day-to-day of other worlds, without having to rush from site to site, place to place?

Alone, you have a better opportunity to become a traveler, of truly learning about other cultures. You can be selfish. There is no one else to please but you. If you want to see the sights, see them. If you want to while away the hours in cafés, watching the world go by, or aimlessly wandering through streets and markets, do it. If you don’t want to talk to anyone, don’t. But then conversation is never hard to find when you want it.

Stepping foot in another country, surrounded by strangers and strange languages, provides me with a sense of clarity, a new perspective, I just can’t find at home. Wandering the streets alone in a foreign land provides you with an anonymity that isn’t possible in your own city. In a new location, you are who you say you are; you do what you say you do. Strangers you meet ask you about yourself. But then you begin to get inside your head, “Who am I, really?”

When surrounded by a language you don’t know, your head becomes noticeably less cluttered with the mundane. When at home, you may overhear someone near you discussing the day’s news, or last week’s football game. Your thoughts then turn to those topics, spinning in a number of directions. But without the outside distractions, it is incredibly easy to get lost in your thoughts - sometimes deep, existential thoughts about life, money, relationships. Other times, simply an evaluation of the street food you ate that day.

Alone, you’re allowed to get lost in the streets of a foreign city, find the off-the-beaten-path nooks and crannies. Alone, you’re allowed to get lost in your own head. Alone, you’re allowed to become a traveler. Just get lost.

Lea Hutchins is a globe-trotting freelance writer and PR consultant with Touch Communications LLC. She previously served in the White House press office under George W. Bush and worked as the director of communications for the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. She can be reached at lea@touch-communications.com. Follow her on Twitter @leahutchins.

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