"Why Traveling Alone Was One of the Best Things I've Ever Done"

On the second day of my two-week solo trip to China, I went to a Sichuan restaurant in Shanghai that my extensive research informed me was a good spot.

I was seated without much fuss, and after perusing the menu for a few minutes, I closed it, happy in my choices.

The waiter sidled over and asked me for my order.

"I'll have this one," I began, pointing at a noodle dish. He nodded in approval. "And this one," I said, my finger firmly set on the dumplings. Another nod. "And this one, please." I gestured to something chicken-based and then closed the menu.

He looked concerned. Then he looked at the empty seat at the table, "Just one?" he asked quietly.

"Yes, just one. I know it's a lot of food, but I will do my best, I promise," I said, trying to reassure him. He went away. I sipped my Negroni, and watched as he pointed me out to two other waiters, who conversed gravely before making their way back over to my table.

"Excuse me, too much food," the more-senior-looking woman told me.

"Oh no, it's okay, really. I know it's more than enough for one person, but I am only here for a couple of days and I want to try as many things as I can."

Who undereats on vacation anyway? Monsters.

Dinner.

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She looked unhappy about it, but nodded in agreement and went away. The meal came out; it was really, really good, and even though I had an audience of waitstaff watching my every bite, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

No, I didn't finish all the food, but they happily packaged up the leftovers which I took back to my AirBnB for my host. And the ridiculously large meal only cost me about $15, Negroni included.

Meals are pretty much the only time I ever feel even slightly weird about traveling alone. And only because I'm worried about missing out on delicious foods.

Pudong from the Huangpu River at dusk.

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When I went to China, I'd never traveled by myself. But I felt like it was something I needed to do, and so I booked a whirlwind five-city trip that ended in Beijing, where a good friend of mine was living.

In Shanghai, I got lost in the French Quarter looking for the propaganda museum. I went to a noodle place and was refused service because I was a tourist, and about 65 different people tried to scam me into attending a "tea ceremony".

In Hangzhou, I wandered around West Lake for hours looking for a particular restaurant, and eventually realized I had walked for three hours away from my hostel and didn't know how to get back (without walking another three hours).

Amazing. Dragon's Backbone rice terraces.

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In Guilin, I sat on the balcony of my hostel talking to a guy from my hometown (because yes, the world is that small) while incessant rain forced up the river by over six feet and cancelled my plan to do a boat trip to my next destination, Yangshuo.

In Yangshuo, I took a cooking class, and made new friends. I wandered around the town and ate dumplings on my own at a little laminex-table-hole-in-the-wall. And I walked up the many, many stairs that took me to the top of the Dragon's Backbone rice terraces outside Guilin on my way to the airport for my final solo destination: Xi'an.

I wandered through the park that houses the Terracotta Warriors. I rode a bike around the city walls and ate street food in the Muslim quarter, and I fell into bed exhausted every single night. Totally worn out from wandering and eating and taking a million pictures.

That holiday was three-and-a-half years ago.

Since then, I've visited Italy, France and Canada on my own, and loved every minute. But I still remember it perfectly. Because I was solely focused on taking in the sights, and absorbing as much as I could. I didn't have to worry about anyone else's plans or expectations, and managing my own was easy.

Bus stop. Time to kill.

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Gone was all the stress I usually feel, the worry that my travel companions aren't having a good time. In its place was just me, waking up every morning and asking myself, "What do I want to do today?"

It was totally exhilarating. And spending that much time alone, I learnt a lot about myself. I would chat with people I met along the way, but for large chunks of time I wasn't even talking to to anyone—even the service people around me—because I didn't speak their language and they didn't speak mine. I was, often, completely in my own head.

My happiness was completely dependent on me. Before I went on that trip, I feared sitting down alone in a restaurant and ordering a meal. I dreaded spending extended periods of time by myself, or admitting to people I was doing things solo.

This is my new friend Daniel. He is 5 weeks old.

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On my last day in Beijing, after a few days of holidaying with my friend, she had to go to work. Alone again, I decided to have one last plate of dumplings in China.

I went to the place my friend had shown me, and sat down. When the waiter came I ordered two plates, mostly because I was sad about having to say farewell to the dumplings of Beijing.

"No," the woman serving me said, very firmly. "One is enough. Two too much."

Dumpling!

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I opened my mouth to fight back. But then I decided her food motto could equally apply to my new feeling about holidays.

One person is enough.