The Single Life: Having a Wonderful Time, Glad You're Not Here
- Thursday, June 10, 2010
Ever since Noah began taking reservations for the Ark, travel has been designed for groups of two. Hope and Crosby, Thelma and Louise, Cheech & Chong—they all traveled in pairs. Group trips are also a popular option, but even then most everything seems to be built around sets of two. But what about traveling (gasp) alone? Could you, should you, would you?
While I'm a big fan of traveling with friends—in fact, as you read this I'm wandering about with a couple of travel buddies—there are distinct advantages to taking yourself on a trip. Granted, traveling solo in a double-occupancy world has unique challenges, but it has some fabulous benefits, too.
All About You
The first, most obvious benefit to traveling alone is that it's all about you. You're the only one you have to please. Don't like museums? Don't go. Alternatively, if your heart's desire is to spend all day staring at one special painting/battleground/architectural wonder/whatever, have at it. No one—with the possible exception of a suspicious-minded security guard—will mind. Get up when you want; eat when, where, and what you want; go where you want; stay as long as you want. Please yourself.
One of my all-time favorite travel memories is the afternoon I waved goodbye to my travelling companions and spent the day puttering around London. All. By. Myself. To be footloose and fancy free in my favorite city in the world was a dream come true. I found a fantastic World War II museum, daydreamed my way across Tower Bridge, met a real live gypsy, and—yes, I admit it—ate lunch at McDonald's. (After a week of English "cuisine" I craved something that tasted like home. My experience has been that a Quarter Pounder in the States is never as delicious as the one you find on foreign shores. But I digress...) You get the idea: when traveling alone you can be completely and utterly selfish. And sometimes—for limited periods—that is just bliss.
Rules of the Road
Some years ago I read about a woman who bicycled from London to Jerusalem all alone, camping by the roadside with only a tent between herself and whatever was out there in the dark. Granted, this was several decades ago, but still ... that doesn't seem very safe to me, does it to you? That's one of the downsides to traveling solo—no one is looking out for you. So, before you take off into the wild blue yonder, tell someone when and where you're going. Preferably someone who will miss you if you don't return as scheduled.
Once you arrive, exercise the same basic caution you would at home, kicked up a notch because you don't know the area. Just because it looks quaint and charming doesn't mean it's safe. On that same London trip I witnessed a purse-snatching at Picadilly Circus when a girl sat on the steps to check her phone for messages, setting her purse at her side. It was gone in a flash. Stay alert, keep your wits about you, and you should be fine.
When you go out for an evening's entertainment, many experts recommend telling the front desk clerk where you're going. My personal thinking is the front desk staff is likely too busy to keep track of your comings and goings. So tell that friendly clerk if you like, but I suggest leaving a note in your room saying where you're going and when you expect to return. You can toss the note or add it to your travel journal once you're safely back. And if, God forbid, the worst happens, that note will provide a fantastic clue for the police in their investigation. (Sorry. I've really got to stop watching so many detective shows.)
There are times when being on your own can be a bit of a downer. When you tire of your own company—and hopefully before that talking to yourself thing gets too out of hand—try one of these tips.
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