Solo travel so far

My trip to the Caribbean last month was my first solo trip.

When I talk about solo travel, I’m not talking about when I fly somewhere to lead a workshop and then have a day free to explore whatever city I find myself in. I’m not talking about when I go somewhere to visit friends or family. I’m talking about a whole vacation, traveling on my own.

distant view of a line of buildings; taken during my solo travel
a street in Fort de France, Martinique

In this case, I spent two weeks in the Caribbean (mostly Guadeloupe) and then a couple days in New York City. After that, I wasn’t really solo: I visited my family in Connecticut and then flew to Spain for the TBEX conference.

So lots of people have been asking me, “How did that go? Did you like solo travel?”

My answer: yes and no.

What I liked about solo travel

  • I liked making my own decisions: what to do, when to do it, and for how long. I could sleep in or get up early. I could eat lunch at three in the afternoon or just eat a snack for dinner.
  • I liked not worrying about anyone else. I didn’t feel like I had to make sure anyone else was okay and having a good time and safe. I only had to take care of me. It meant that I was more relaxed than I generally allow myself to be when I’m traveling with other people.
  • Having a room to myself. When you’re all by yourself, you can do what you want. Pass gas. Eat in bed. Watch TV late into the night. Sleep diagonally.
  • Complete control over pictures of me. No one took pictures of me unless I wanted them to. My husband likes to take candid shots, and always catches me when my eyes are closed or my mouth full.

What I didn’t like about solo travel

  • I missed my husband and my son. I just missed their presence, especially my husband’s. I was already missing my daughter since she went to study in San Francisco, but now I missed all of them.
  • Now and then, decisions were hard to make, and those were the times I missed having someone with me. When I only had one day left in Guadeloupe, but there were several ways I could spend the day, it would have helped to have someone to help me weigh up the options.
  • Driving. Normally I would have shared the driving with my husband, but because he enjoys driving, I wouldn’t have had to do much of it. That would have meant I could see much more of the scenery I was passing through, and perhaps do some “drive-by shooting,” which is our nickname for just snapping pictures of the houses and people as we drive along. I also didn’t get to drink much since I had to drive home (my Airbnb home) afterwards.
  • I got lonely sometimes. In both Guadeloupe and Martinique, in particular, there were no English speakers around. I speak some French, but it’s a struggle, so I didn’t do all that much of it with my Airbnb hosts.

I can’t change any of that on my next solo trip, this summer in Asia, except that I won’t be driving at all. I did, however, learn some things that I can do differently:

  • Don’t push myself so much. I don’t have to see everything, even though I’d like to.
  • I don’t have to walk everywhere; it’s okay to take a bus or metro.
  • Go with the flow. If I take a wrong turn or get off at the wrong station, see where it takes me.
  • Pack differently and more lightly. But bring a backscratcher (another reason I missed my husband!).
  • Yes, watch the cash flow, but, no, don’t miss things because of it.

I’ll still miss my family and still get lonely sometimes and probably still have trouble making decisions sometimes. I’ll just have to keep that “go with the flow” mantra in mind.

Have you traveled solo? What would you add to my “Liked” or “Didn’t Like” lists?


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about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments! Read more…

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Yes traveling has its pros and cons, but if you are self sufficient and like to have your own agenda and list of things to do instead of compromising, then this is the absolute best way of traveling and I love it!

Years ago I’d travel for work but I always met up with co-workers so it doesn’t really count. I’m intrigued by the concept of traveling on my own at some point in the future to see some of the places that interest me. Because we travel slowly and full-time my husband and I split up many times to see different sights but I have some mixed feelings about solo travel. It’s always fun to share thoughts and rehash the sights and experiences with someone else.

Lovely post Rachel!

Yes, I’ve travelled solo and when I was young and single I did loads of solo travel and loved it. Now that I’m married and with a young son too 🙂 I like to mix things along, travel with them and travel alone. My husband doesn’t like “difficult” travel so when we’re together, I make sure that he’s comfortable and a couple of times a year, we have “date” weekends. Our son is pretty much like me and will do anything or go anywhere as long as there’s a bed, enough good food, and wifi LOL and once a year, we go on a mother-and-son bonding holiday which is a bit more adventurous and more outdoorsy. I’ve even been known to go camping with him although I actually dislike camping!

My husband is a fantastic loving man and very understanding of my wanderlust so a couple of times a year, I might go on a solo press trip as well.

I just think that you are dry brave and good for you. You have pinpointed any issues and solutions. I am a big advocate of not trying to do everything, though it is tempting. Sometimes you just need to have a space to re-group. Again, big achievement and you should be patting yourself on the back.

I can imagine that you missed your husband and son…but besides that you did everything you liked!
I just live solo travel! I don’t have a life partner so that’s different 🙂

It is good to do solo trips to get back to who you are! What you are about! Don’t you think?
Are you going to Bangkok too? When you’re going to Asia? #TBEX

I imagine that changing the way one travels also requires a period of adjustment. It may be just as difficult going back to traveling with your husband and son:-)

Haven’t really tried the solo travel thing, I think it would seem pretty strange though.

I honestly can’t remember when I took my first solo trip. I know it was Scotland for 3 weeks (maybe 1979). I made plans to do the trip with a friend and those fell through. My choice was to either cancel or go. I opted to go. My next solo adventure was Australia, and I never even bothered looking for a travel partner. There were lots of things I enjoyed and lots that I didn’t. Of course, back then there was no Internet. Connecting with other travelers was not that easy. I then traveled for business, and the solo travel for business and pleasure became a way of life. Even when I had a partner, I would go off on my own. He was not much of a traveler and I didn’t want to spend my life on the golf course. I love solo traveling and I love making plans to meet up with others when I’m on the road. I think it’s the best of both worlds.

It felt strange to be on a group trip without my husband (he was on a separate one) recently. But it was fun to be “alone” for novelty’s sake. I totally understand where you’re coming from. Striking the balance between solo travel to accomplish your goals and enjoying the company of your husband and family on other trips can be a challenge. Good on you for taking advantage of your sabbatical.

I enjoyed your candid comments about solo travel. I often have traveled alone for a day or two, but I don’t think ever longer. I always have hooked up with a group or family after. I don’t think I would enjoy traveling by myself. I like to share things. I certainly don’t mind a room all to myself! 🙂 but I like to do my sightseeing and meals with other people.

Ik heb bijna altijd lange en verre reizen alleen gemaakt.De taal vaak met handen en voeten moeten doen,maar ik kwam overal en kreeg te eten wat ik wilde:))Maar t kost wel veel energie je verstaanbaar te maken en te begrijpen wat ze zeggen,,
Aangezien ik alleenwonend ben,misschien dat t daarom voor mij minder moeilijk was..
De enige tijd dat ik t rot vond om alleen te zijn op mijn solo tours,was met t openbaar vervoer bij donker aankomen en naar plaats van bestemming te moeten gaan.Nadeel de ontbijten die je pas kan gaan gebruikenALS JE AL GEDOUCHED en aangekleed bent:(( Wel lekkerder in je pyama wakker worden met ontbijtje, dan douchen …ziekte en opname ziekenhuis is als je solo reist is wel een hele uitdaging.