Oddly, I should not make a good traveler. I don't sleep well, I have bad hips and worse knees, I hate feeling rushed, I'm not fond of crowds or noise, and when I'm at home, I tend to be somewhat reclusive by nature. I enjoy my creature comforts, from a comfortable bed to a shower or bath every day, I get vertigo, there are foods I can't eat, and now that I'm middle-aged, I've developed severe obstructive sleep apnea. All of which would induce many people to decide that staying home is the easier option.
Yet I love to travel. And the best trips I've done, I've made alone. In 1979, when I'd just finished art school, I made a 7 week tour of England and Wales. In 2008, I went to Morocco twice, once for two and a half weeks, once for 6 weeks. I went to New York for a dance class in 2009. When I was married, we made at least two trips a year, perhaps a week or two in Reno or Las Vegas, and three weeks or a month somewhere new and interesting: Europe, the UK, Mexico, Jamaica, the American Southwest, Arizona, Oregon Coast, the Canadian Prairies. We traveled by car, sometimes we flew, we sometimes stayed in timeshare condos, sometimes stayed in motels, and sometimes we camped in our Airstream trailer.
Some trips, I researched and planned carefully. Going to Europe, for example, if you rent a car, picking it up and dropping it off in different countries can add hundreds of dollars to your cost, so you need to know you will pick up a car in, say, Geneva, see parts of Germany and Austria, then drop the car in Berne before heading to France. You can buy a Eurail pass before you leave home that gives you 10 or 15 days of rail travel in a given period, so you need to map out how you'll use that within the span of everything you want to see.
Other times, I've been much more spontaneous. On a car trip, for example, you may have a list of places you want to visit, but on your way, you may simply want to see what there is to see and stop when you find a place that looks interesting or pleasant. On my trip to New York, I had a dance class to attend, but beyond that, I did no research, because there is no lack of things to see and do there. Rather than feel pressured to tick off items on a list, I did what made sense for any given day. I went for walks, I made plans with people I met in the class, and I hopped on a bus tour one day because it happened to be sitting by the curb as I walked by.
My trips to Morocco and New York changed me. Simply being able to go somewhere like Africa alone instills confidence. I also learned that there are senses and ways of knowing that we rarely experience in the West, yet they're not magical or strange. It is possible to navigate in a foreign country, to understand the intentions of others, to get what you need or avoid trouble, without speaking the language or having a thorough grasp of the culture. Just as animals know whether another is friend or foe, prey or predator, part of the pack or a competitor, we know a great deal without words or the range of senses and knowledge we rely on in our normal environment.