I am about to embark on a three months trip to Indonesia to work on a very exciting project I cannot quite yet reveal. When the plan took form in my mind, it seemed the logical thing to do. Why work from home if I could work from Indonesia and go diving on the weekends and get massages every day? Honestly, such is my logic for decision making!
My flight leaves next Wednesday and only now does it hit me – while I have been traveling more than ever over the past year, I have not ever been ‘away’ for three months. I was in Cape Town for two over Christmas, but Cape Town is home and not ‘away’.
With that realization, the doubt crept in.
What was I gonna do alone for almost three months at the other end of the world? I always considered myself a solo traveler at heart, an introvert, easily overwhelmed by too many people and social engagements, seldom bored on my own. However, I always had a choice.
My trip starts with a press trip with Wonderful Indonesia and a bunch of fun people. You will probably hate me when I show you where I am going, but that’s not the point now.
Afterward, I will be on my own. Eat Pray and Loving it? I just don’t know yet. Last night I had a dream that one of my travel blogger friends asked me “Aren’t you going to be lonely all on your own now?” My initial impulse was to tell him, “Hell no, I am happy to have peace and quiet again!” But then it made me think. What if I was going to be lonely?
There are some things about solo travel nobody ever tells you, some things that I don’t even like to admit to myself. Until this dream. And so I thought I would share with you. The downside of solo travel.
What I hate about Solo Travel
My dad taught me that you should never take more on a trip than you can carry yourself. Those were wise words and usually, I stick to them. Though I’d say the term ‘carry’ is somewhat vague. I can take my luggage from the flat to the taxi and from the taxi onto the trolly, I can take it from the bus to the ferry counter and from the ferry counter to the ferry. Then I am spent.
I hate to admit it, but sometimes it is nice to have another person to help you with things like that. The one time an ex-boyfriend not only drove me to the airport but carried all my luggage, no trolly needed, to the counter was lovely. When I traveled with my friend who had brought a backpack that was bigger than herself, she was always very grateful for me just to help her put it on. Sharing is caring, and that also goes for luggage.
Dinner for One
I have eating alone down to an art. I really do. Nobody puts baby in a restaurant corner, and so I will ask for the table that I want, pull out my Kindle and ignore any stares. I have eaten on my own in countless restaurants all over the world – from fast to fancy.
But with that said, I like sharing food. I like to order everything on the menu and swap plates with my friends, so I get to taste more different things. I like to discuss the ingredients and the cooking techniques with my brother. I like to linger over yet another glass and chat the world away with my dad. I like to savor food not as sustenance but as an experience especially when I am discovering a new cuisine. That experience is always a bit short lived when you have to eat on your own.
There have been plenty of posts written on how to have your picture taken when you travel on your own. I must admit that I am usually too uncomfortable to ask a stranger because a) do they know what they are doing? and b) will they run off with my camera? I am usually really uncomfortable using the self-timer, but I still do it. At least I look like a fool when no one is watching and can take those hundred snaps just to find one decent enough to show to the world.
Either way, there are logistics involved, and I hate to admit it, the easiest way is probably a selfie stick. I have yet to buy one because I simply know the truth: people make fun of people with selfie sticks, and your chin always looks weird. Are you on your own? Prepare to get funny looks and funny facial features.
Okay, I will admit that I probably sleep in more nice beds* than the average traveler. As you may know, I have a slight pillow fetish, and so I love it and am eternally grateful when fancy hotels put me up. I arrive with every intention of lying spread-eagled surrounded by all the pillows, hold tight to the TV remote and snore to my heart’s content. But that never happens. I always sleep on one little side even in the biggest bed, I never watch TV and if I snore? Well, I wouldn’t know since I’m on my own, would I?
Honestly, the nicer the bed, the more alone I feel. That is the time when it hits me hard, when I wish there was a guy next to me not to let an amazing four-poster go to waste or at least a girlfriend to chat and eat everything from the overpriced minibar.
I guess that’s called intimacy, and I miss it most tangled in high thread count sheets when the lights are off.
All by myself
Yes, yes, you can meet people while traveling on your own. You definitely will meet people! In fact, most stories about solo travel will have you believe that you will be surrounded by a gazillion of your new best friends day in and night out from the second you leave home.
That may or may not be true. Depending on where you go and what type of person you are.
Instead of the above scenario, you may find yourself alone in a group of twenty-year-olds doing jello shots on Khao San Road or amongst smooching couples in the Seychelles. Neither are ideal to feel less lonely.
And in case you wonder, yes, I am still very much a fan of solo travel. I wouldn’t change the freedom, the sense of accomplishment, and the feeling of living according to my heart’s desire for anything in the world. When any of the above makes me sad, I just remind myself that I don’t want to be on honeymoon with a husband in a red speedo playing Baywatch and that I rather wake up early without a jello shot hangover and climb that fucking mountain!
What do you love/hate about solo travel?