As a confirmed bachelor at 40, I dare say that traveling solo is near the top of the list of benefits. People ask me all the time if I find the experience lonely. I say, “I’m too busy meeting fellow travelers, exploring at my own pace and drinking to think about it.”
Sure, there are times when you have an amazing meal, watch a sunset over a romantic city or see something unexpected where I think that having a little lady friend would be nice to share it with. That feeling lasts a few moments then I just move on to soaking in my surroundings.
Which brings me to a series of articles, cover stories and opinion pieces on single women and men who are my age and have settled into the singledom with grace and humor.
Let’s start with Stephanie Rosenblum’s piece in the New York Times, “Travel Industry Responds to Rise in Solo Sojourners.” She quotes the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study, where it presents that 24 percent of overseas leisure travelers were solo, up 15 percent from the year before. It doesn’t mean that they are single. Some may be in a relationship where the couple gives one an other some “me” time.
Here’s the quote I like the most from 42-year old Cath Cole from England, who went to the Dominican Republic on her own via the travel company SolosVacations:
“I was single at the time and none of my friends could get away,” she said. “Being self-employed, I often get holiday time at late notice and many of my friends can’t be flexible, so whether I’m in a relationship or not, I still consider Solos … The best part is definitely the people you meet, even the ones you don’t stay in touch with, because they are what make the holiday. I’ve become Facebook friends with a number of them and still meet up with one or two of the ones I clicked with the best.
When I left my job this year, I gave advice. I told them, “Travel now. If you are waiting for a friend or partner to go with you, don’t. Just go. Stop making excuses.” Mother Teresa traveled around on her own. She didn’t need a boyfriend to go with her so she wouldn’t have to take selfies.
The benefits of traveling on your own far out way the difficulties. Unfortunately, I believe with women the safety issue can be a concern depending on where and when you go. I’m thinking of the story from 2013 of Sarai Sierra, who was killed by a homeless man in Istanbul when she traveled there on her own. Read into the story and make your own decision.
Then there are the childless couples who travel. In 2013, Time Magazine published a cover story on the subject when the dek, “When having it all means not having children.” The cover photo was a couple lounging at the beach.
More recently, Time posted a story by Ashley Ross, Why Every Woman Should Travel Alone.
When I said I was going on my own, their reactions were all very similar. “Wow, that is very brave of you!” “Aren’t you scared?” “Will it be safe?” “Alone? I could never do that.” As a single 26-year-old living in New York, I was sick of seeing my friends with significant others post photos of incredible journeys. And any time I tried to get a group together for an exotic trip, it was too difficult to nail down a date—and especially a price—that worked for everyone.
Here’s what it boils down to for me. If I waited to find a significant other to travel with, I would never go anywhere. Also, if I did find someone, three months in I would be wondering if she’s travel worthy enough. It’s my version of Elaine Benes’s sponge worthy. I was casually dating a woman, a fellow travel nut, and she said out of nowhere one morning, “I want to travel with you.” I thought about it and was like, “ummmmmm, hmmmmm.” That relationship went nowhere.
I also realize that I have my own pace. I exhaustively research every city on where to and leave days where I can spontaneous do anything based on my mood. I think I would be sick of me after a week. While I don’t have a temper, I would think in my mind when something goes wrong, “I had to listen to you. Bad idea.” I rather blame myself.
Finally, I’m not out to get laid with some exotic European gal or fellow traveler. Honest. It’s a dumb preconceived notion to make with solo travelers. I’m not Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy is too busy updating her Instagram to notice me. When I do meet other single women on my travels it’s “great meeting you, let’s be Facebook friends, let me know if you’re visiting New York.”
So to all the couples and families, we’ll be fine. For those thinking on traveling on your own, don’t worry what others think.