Traveling On Own Can Be Liberating Experience
Solo travel is an art closely related to the art of self-indulgence. To travel alone is to also take time to get to know yourself; to develop your own prescription for a healthier and happier life.
Of course, a vacation shared with someone else can be wonderful, too--or, a test of one’s flexibility. In real life, seldom do two people maintain the same energy and enthusiasm level for long periods. Nothing is more distressing than to have a traveling companion who was born to shop, while you and your camera want to run away to the countryside.
Those who have chosen to travel alone--whether they are single or not--say there is a lot to recommend the experience.
“Women are more adventurous than men,” says Del Mar clinical psychologist Sandra Ceren. “Women make friends easier than men, being more apt to link on to another solo fellow-traveler. Personally, I’ve traveled alone, because my husband doesn’t care to travel as much as I do.”
“Shyness and anxiety, even self-pity are symptoms initially felt by many solo-travel novices. After all, we’ve been taught that this is a world of twos. The reality is, traveling alone says nothing about you, except that you are daring and self-reliant.”
Traveling is fun, self-revealing and exhilarating, Ceren says, adding “there is no better way to doom your vacation, than to fixate on meeting someone special as the goal for your trip.”
Twenty-five years ago, when singular travel wasn’t fashionable, Dorothy Muth, a writer who now lives in Carlsbad, decided on a solo trip to Mexico City. “I was scared silly. But, as soon as I arrived at the hotel and began to explore the city, I immediately loved every minute of my trip. The discovery of my newly found independence was intoxicating. I didn’t want to come home.”
Next, she flew to the Caribbean Islands, Europe and the Soviet Union for a couple of weeks. She also spent six months in Italy on her own; making lifelong friendships. “I met interesting locals everywhere; was invited to their homes, learned their customs, ate their food and visited out-of-tourist places that I doubt I would have seen, had I not been traveling alone.”
Alone, your impressions are often more vivid, and there’s the added incentive to meet local people.
But solo travel isn’t for everyone. Before going around the world in 80 days, a neophyte traveler should first spend a couple of days and nights alone; not too far from home.
Hotels, resorts and bed and breakfast inns are preferable to impersonal motels. Find a place where you’ll feel comfortable and safe--one that you’ll look forward to returning to after a self-indulgent, lazy day.
Most B&B; inns do not have television in their guest rooms. That’s a big plus--no hiding out in front of the TV at night. Go out and enjoy the local restaurants and night life.
“Playing tourist in my own back yard was fun,” says Robert Wyatt, a retired accountant in Solana Beach. “I went to all kinds of places tourists go--museums, galleries, the zoo, the excursion-boat around the San Diego Bay, and, at night, I went to the theater. Two unlimited days of fun!”
The goal of this close-to-home experience is to learn how comfortable you can be alone and increase your feeling of self-reliance. Avoid the temptation to call home, talk to or meet any old friends.
Once you’re at ease with the idea of solo travel, you’ll be ready to give it a real try. If you plan your trip for at least 200 miles away from home and allow yourself at least five to seven days, you’ll have time to really settle into the experience.
Here are some suggestions to help you on your way:
1st: Target your trip around your favorite pastime: Tennis, golf, biking, sailing, gliding, flying, wine tasting, cooking, photography, shopping, museum-hopping, bird-watching, or whatever--that’s how to spotlight your vacation.
2nd: For every activity there’s an association, club, magazine, newsletter or book to help you on your trip’s research. To cite a few places where you might want to begin your inquiries: The Coronet Newsstand in Oceanside has more than 3,000 magazines featuring all kinds of activities and places to travel. Local libraries offer a variety of travel videos; Word Journeys in Solana Beach is a bookstore specializing in travel; Auto Club of Southern California, with offices throughout North County, offers free maps of every state to its members.
3rd: Driving alone for a few hours doesn’t have to be tense or boring:
* Books-on-tape. A good mystery, biography, historical novel . . . anything you normally don’t have time to read--borrow them from the library.
* Tapes with your favorite type of music.
* A loaded camera next to you at all times--Stop the car anytime--there’s no one to nag you. And click away.
* A picnic basket filled with small bottles of water and fruit juices and your favorite sandwiches and snacks pre-cut bite-size.
4th: By now you know what kind of accommodation is best for you.
Hotel reservations for your first and last night are essential. Nothing will dampen your spirits more than to arrive somewhere tired and have to go hotel shopping. Wing it the rest of the time--information centers are usually extremely helpful in finding last-minute accommodations to fit your pocketbook.
Warning: Resort golf and tennis packages are priced for double occupancy, thus penalizing the single tourist. Suggestion: Phone for a mid-week reservation and ask if they will waive the single-occupancy penalty. With the downturn in tourism, many resorts fall short of their occupancy break-even point and may offer discounts.
5th: Discovering the right place to dine is self indulgently important. While browsing in any town, find a small restaurant with promises of tempting edibles. If you like it, go back a second night--getting a better table and service.
You can amuse yourself while solo-eating by watching bored couples stare into the salt and pepper shaker, count the petals on the flowering cactus and read the menu from left to right. No need to feel self-conscious. Eavesdrop, read your travel books and brochures, plan the next day’s adventures and write your trip’s journal.”
6th: Night life can’t be ignored: Single theater tickets are easy to get at the last minute, says Brenda Mason-Carter, avid golfer and bridge player at Fairbanks Country Club. “I travel with my golf clubs, sometimes meeting fun people at resorts. New-found friends develop into dinner companions--lively conversation--sometimes a foursome for the evening’s bridge game.” Brenda wastes no time finding estate auctions’ evening previews and gallery openings. “I usually go to at least one evening lecture on a subject of interest that I just don’t have the time to attend during my busy days.”
7th: The hotel’s concierge is often a valuable source of information. He or she will help you with directions, recommend places to eat, make the best city tour’s reservations and assist you with last minute travel changes.
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