The Beauty of Solo Travel Returns in Portland, ME

23 09 2009

On my recent visit to Portland, ME, I found myself, through a series of debacles with the friend who was meant to accompany me, on my own at the last minute. I haven’t traveled by myself for over a year now, and don’t believe I’ve ever traveled this way within the United States.

Oddly, solo travel in the U.S., where at least I am fluent in the language and fully proficient in the cultures, is far more daunting than travel in the same manner in a foreign country. Perhaps this is because citizens of other countries tend to be more welcoming, or perhaps because in America one often feels a stigma about finding oneself alone, as though all eyes are looking pityingly upon you. Perhaps it doesn’t help that knowing the language also means being surrounded by conversations you can understand but not partake in. Whatever the combination of forces, solo travel seems less liberating at home than it is abroad.

Not so this time around though. Whether it was the gorgeous, can’t-be-in-a-bad-mood weather or simply the beauty of Maine itself, traveling Portland on my own was as rewarding as any solo trip I’ve taken in the past, perhaps more so because it was unexpected. Wandering the narrow streets, savoring the sights and smells and tastes and sounds on my own time was a simple thrill, but even better (and more surprising) was the thrill of dining at some of Portland’s loveliest restaurants all by myself. I even relished in the pitying (and curious) glances I received from a neighboring party one night at dinner, but ultimately found that, in true Portland fashion, most were less likely to stare and more likely to share.

That’s because the beauty of Portland, above all else, lies in the people. Everywhere I went, whether to a gritty pub or fine dining establishment, historic landmark or pretty boutique, the people not only welcomed me but took the time to talk and share their own excitement about the city and all the amazing things that are happening there. And all this discussion made it even more vital that I was traveling solo, since it meant more time to open up my own mind and really ponder all I was hearing and learning. The sum which is too much for one post…

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