I hadn’t considered solo travel as a viable travel option until last year, when I took advantage of an amazing deal and spent a week in Israel. Since then I’ve been on a couple more solo travel trips, giving me the opportunity to think more about this particular style of travel. While I do enjoy certain aspects of the experience, on the whole I can definitely say that I really don’t enjoy solo travel as much as traveling with my partner.
One is the Loneliest Number
During normal sightseeing and exploration activities, I actually don’t mind being alone. In fact, it can be liberating to do whatever you want, go in any direction you choose and to not worry whether or not your travel companion is having a good time. No, sightseeing is fine, the worst is at mealtimes.
One of the great constants for any traveler is food. We all have to eat, and most times the culinary travel experience is just as, and sometimes more, enriching than touring around. I didn’t notice how much I depend on mealtime conversation though until it was absent.
Over the course of a week, there are at least 21 opportunities to eat, although I don’t usually eat breakfast, so that number is less for me personally. That’s a lot of time with little else to do other than sit at a table and pretend you’re not bored. Yes, I sometimes bring a book, but I get fairly self-conscious about it, interpreting every glance as an indictment about my personal life. I feel like wearing a placard that says, “I’m in a very happy, stable relationship, he’s just not here right now thank you very much.”
Aside from the imagined dispersions, I get bored when I eat alone. There are only so many times I can pretend to read the menu or play on my phone before I just want to get out of there. On more than one occasion I’ve gone to a takeaway or similarly speedy restaurant just to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of eating alone.
Sharing is Caring
It’s not an overstatement to say that a significant part of the relationship with my partner is built on shared experiences, especially when traveling. Some of our most treasured memories and funny stories come from travel experiences. When I travel solo, I still have amazing experiences and memories that will last forever, but they seem a bit more shallow. I know that Scott won’t have these memories and it makes me sad that I haven’t been able to share everything with him. Yes, I always tell myself that we’ll return together, but I’m not sure how realistic that is. Some places, like New Zealand, we will absolutely revisit together, but I’m not so sure about other destinations. Even if we do return together, it won’t be the same experience for either of us. I have to confess, I feel like I’m travel cheating on him when I take these solo trips. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to go on them, I will, but it is definitely an aspect of solo travel that doesn’t leave me with warm fuzzy feelings.
Solo travel can be a great way to explore the world. I’ve really enjoyed “being my own boss” on the road, going wherever I want, whenever I want. I have also had some fantastic interactions with people that I would never have had alone. In Jerusalem, I was invited to the table of a couple who felt bad that I was alone. That evening of frank and earnest conversation is a treasure that I will always remember, and it would not have happened had I been traveling with Scott. Solo travel also allows for unique moments of introspection, one of the most rewarding aspects of the travel experience. Instead of debating the next stop, I tend to slow down and enjoy my surroundings more.
So while I don’t deny the many positive aspects of solo travel, and I’ve enjoyed all of them, if I had to choose, I would always travel as one half of a couple. Sharing my travel experiences with my significant other is just too great a personal joy to relinquish for any reason.
Have you done solo travel? Do you prefer traveling alone, or with someone else?