Taking Solo Trips

Taking your family or your spouse on vacation requires sacrifice and savings, planning and patience.

Solo travel, in contrast, is selfish work. If a couple or family has one budget, a solo vacation is money spent on one person; it’s not money spent equitably on, say, a new dishwasher or a subscription to a local theater. This disparity is magnified by the vacation itself: While one person toils at home, the other is busy doing work’s opposite.

In Slate Ben Loehnen writes about why he usually travels without his husband (Loehnen travels the world as a bird-watcher), and the autonomy that solo travel gives him (he can do whatever he wants on his own budget). Plus, he says he and his husband live their lives as if on a tandem bike, and solo vacations are a chance to give each other a break from one another.

Vacationing with family, or partners, or friends gives you the opportunity to spend time with people you don’t often get to see in a setting built for making memories. Yet, the planning requires teamwork: A friend told me recently that she and a close friend planned a trip to Europe together this fall, but something has come up with one of them that may require them to call the airline to get their tickets changed at the cost of a few hundred dollars. “Is it fair that I have to pay to change my ticket because this date conflict has now come up for my friend?” she asked.

My solo trip to San Francisco was mostly made possible because I had the ability to book a last-minute deal without consulting anyone but myself. But at dinner one night with a friend from grad school, I thought, “Wouldn’t it have been nice to have all of the gang with us right now?”


19 Comments / Post A Comment

E$ (#1,636)

I love traveling by myself. Sometimes in the past it was by necessity (odd schedules, other people couldn’t afford to go) but I will still do it even when I have other options, I hope.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

I love LOOOVE solo trips. I’ve done Italy and Glasgow and Amsterdam by myself. Obviously required items are 1) self-sufficiency and 2) the willingness/ability to be quiet for a while (especially if you’re in a country where you can only just get by in the language!).

I would encourage anyone considering a solo trip to DO IT.

RocketSurgeon (#747)

I’ve traveled quite a bit, but always with friends or partners until last week. I flew to Berlin for an interview last Tuesday, and decided to stay for the weekend, without husband, without people to meet. It was fantastic. I walked miles and miles, took myself to nice dinners, ate gelato or ice cream daily and went to bed whenever I felt like it. Most of those things I would have done with a travel companion, but it was quite fun to explore an amazing city alone.

After this experience, I plan on trying to at least take a long weekend solo every year or so.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@RocketSurgeon Berlin’s a fantastic city to travel solo! I do so much solo travel for work and get so little vacation time that my leisure travel is almost always with my wife, but I enjoyed traveling alone for fun in the past.

RocketSurgeon (#747)

@Worker Parasite It was great. It really gave me the opportunity to practice my German, too. I realized how much I let my husband asking for things when we’re traveling in Germany (he’s German). Turns out I can converse pretty well, which was a lot of fun.

hellonheels (#1,407)

I love to travel by myself – it began with frequent solo business travel, and once I realized how much I enjoyed exploring new places according to my own whims, I began to do it occasionally for pleasure as well. I’ve traveled alone all over the US and a few different places in Europe. I think the lack of a travel companion is a huge enhancement to the cultural experience you get when traveling because when you don’t have anyone familiar to talk to, you talk to the locals, and it also lends itself to more spontaneity.

Also, WRT the friend changing the dates on a trip, this happened to me once. I was the one who had to change the dates, and I know my friend was pinching pennies to make the trip work in the first place, so I put the change fees on a credit card and paid them off as I could. Maybe I am a stickler for etiquette but I don’t think it’s fair to ask your companion to bear the (usually very high) cost of changes you’ve incurred to travel plans, flights especially.

sony_b (#225)

@hellonheels I had the same experience – I used to to travel a ton for work then I’d stay on for a few days or a week and go someplace else in-country for fun, sometimes with a work pal and sometimes on my own. I spent a week in Marrakech by myself last fall. It was terrifying, it was lonely, and it was FANTASTIC. Loved it. I’ve also spent good chunks of time alone in Antwerp, Stockholm, and beautiful, exotic Portland OR.

swirrlygrrl (#2,398)

I write this as my new-ish boyfriend and I are planning a trip to NYC…I am looking at this as a real test of our relationship. Travel is too important to me to be with someone long term who I can’t do it with.

That said: I love solo travel – I’m an intravert who loves to spend forever at museums and thinks the beauty of nature or an archeological site is best enjoyed without small talk. Plus, I’m less self conscious about my habit of taking massive amounts of pictures. As a conventionally attractive, non-threatening, young(ish) white woman, I also don’t generally have a problem finding company, either from other travellers or locals, when I want it as well. It’s led to some amazing experiences, like being taken to an Egyptian family’s home for a traditional iftar.

While I have travelled with other people and had a great time, the constant negotiation over itinerary, preferences on start and stopping times, and the need to take another person’s less camel-like bodily needs into account often frustatrate me. But having someone to take a photo with at the top of a mountain or wax poetic over the vegan chicken wings we’re sharing is something I miss.

@swirrlygrrl While I have travelled with other people and had a great time, the constant negotiation over itinerary, preferences on start and stopping times, and the need to take another person’s less camel-like bodily needs into account often frustatrate me.

I’m so glad I’m not the only person who feels like this! My friends/loved ones have referred to my preferred touring style as “death march,” and I mostly just get incredibly irritated that we are stopping at a bathroom AGAIN. I was raised by a Marine who took us on regular 7-hour nonstop car rides.

I take about one shared trip and 2-4 solo trips a year, and I’ve come to realize that’s best for all involved.

swirrlygrrl (#2,398)

@bowtiesarecool Ha! My ex described our trip to Italy as a “death march” also! He’s also the most well-hydrated person I have ever met.

Bill Fostex (#573)

Next week I’m taking a five-day solo trip to SOUTH DAKOTA. I can hardly wait.

readyornot (#816)

@Bill Fostex speaking of quiet.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@Bill Fostex Oooh, I’ll trade you – I get to go to glamourous WINNIPEG!

swirrlygrrl (#2,398)

@Worker Parasite I was once on a WestJet flight where the attendants discussed whether it was “Winterpeg” or “Winnerpeg.” And I love the Exchange district more than pretty much anywhere else.

Beezus (#1,007)

I have twice tried to go on solo trips – last year to Scotland and this fall to Ireland – and someone has ended up tagging along with me. Which, is great! Someone to explore with and drink with and to greatly cut down on the number of selfies taken – but I really want to experience a trip all alone, too!

San Francisco seems nice but I’ve heard you can’t really solo the PvP content.

Beans (#1,111)

Pro tip: don’t take a solo trip to a part of the world where the people are notoriously private and closed-off in nature ie the Baltic nations. It will be immensely lonely. Unless you’re really looking to get off the grid, emotionally speaking, in which case I highly recommend.

UrbanGarlic (#4,303)

I like having a day or two to myself on trips when friends are off doing something else. Since my idea of vacation usually involves 8+ hours per day walking, it can be tough to recruit people. I saw a significant portion of Paris in a day just walking the whole thing with no one holding me back.

Two of my four days in DC next month will be alone, which’ll be good for exploration.

itsk (#4,319)

I’m going on a short trip to Amsterdam this weekend. Nominally it was to meet up with some friends from North America (I’m living in the UK), but between two of the guys not being able to confirm what city they’re actually staying in (first it was Amsterdam, then it was Rotterdam, now it’s Leiden?) and a married couple where the wife keeps pointedly mentioning that it’s a romantic getaway evening for them without the kids in Amsterdam (I see them all the time, I don’t care to crash their date night), I’ve said screw it all and booked my hotel where I want to stay and have set up an itinerary of things I want to do, and will probably take myself out for a nice dinner somewhere. The only times I wish I had travel companions generally (I travel on my own a lot) is when I go to a restaurant by myself and when the bill for the hotel comes and I’m stuck with the entire thing.

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