As I contemplate my retirement, I am also thinking about the places I would like to visit – not a bucket list, per se, but a wish list. (Bucket list always sounds so ‘end of days’ to me.) The last time I traveled was pre- pandemic when I went to Italy with three of my best friends. At the end of our time together, I tacked on a week of solo travel, just to see if I would like it. Could I navigate unfamiliar places and enjoy my own company? I wondered.
Stephanie Rosenbloom’s book Alone Time seeks to answer the very question I was trying to figure out back in 2018. Can I go it alone? Turns out, I could and it was kind of amazing. After two of our party of four headed back to Canada, my friend Sheila and I went from Amalfi to Verona, a city I had always wanted to visit. Then, after she left to return home, I went to Bologna, another Italian city I hadn’t yet been to. After a few days there, I made a pit stop in Paris, a place I had never visited but thought, since my flight was routed through there, I should at least stop off and see the highlights. I fell in love with the city of lights and can’t wait to return.
Rosenbloom had an epiphany about solo travel while on assignment (she’s a journalist) for the Travel section of the New York Times. She was in Paris to write a story called “Solo in Paris.” She could write whatever she wanted.
Each morning I left my hotel in the 9th arrondissement, just east of the apartment where Proust wrote much of Remembrance of Things Past, and didn’t return until I had gone some twenty miles in whichever direction whim and croissants (and olive fougasse and pistachio financiers) took me.
Without having to consider anyone else’s agenda, Rosenbloom was able to see “le merveilleux quotidien” (roughly translated to ‘the marvelous everyday life’). It was this experience that encouraged her to consider more solo travel, and it’s these adventures that she shares in Alone Time.
Over the course of the book, Rosenbloom shares her experiences in Paris (another visit), Istanbul, Florence, and New York. (She’s a New Yorker, but as someone who has played the game of tourist in my own city, I appreciated her home town’s inclusion in the exercise.) Alone Time isn’t just a travel memoir, though. Rosenbloom talks a lot about the benefits of being alone, and of slowing life down to savour the minutiae of everyday life. Without an itinerary, she’s able to go where she pleases and stop when she wants, and that is something that definitely appeals to me.
Alone Time also encourages one to follow their passions. When you travel alone you only have to please yourself. For me, that would probably include visiting all the bookish places and I know that probably isn’t all that exciting to other people. I know that when we were in Amalfi, there was a handmade paper-making museum not too far from where we were staying. It wasn’t interesting to anyone but me, so I went by myself.
I very much enjoyed Alone Time. If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that I am introverted at heart. I love people and as a teacher I have no problem standing in front of a class, but I really enjoy quiet time. The older I get, the more I crave time alone with my books and a cup of tea. Rosenbloom’s book appealed to that part of me who, after a lifetime of pleasing others, just wants to please herself. Solo travel is definitely a way to do that.
Rosenbloom calls her book “a love letter to loners, to witches and shamans, to those who cherish their friends, spouses, and partners, yet also want alone time to think, create, have an adventure, learn a skill, or solve a problem.” It’s all that, and more.