For twenty years I had a built-in traveling companion. Now I was single again and wanted to travel.
OK, so what’s stopping me? Why not? I’ve traveled alone before and I can do it again!
Here’s the problem with being single and wanting to travel. It’s not easy to find a traveling companion. I don’t have sisters, children, or really close single girlfriends. Not even really close married girlfriends. And when they travel, they pretty much want to go with their husbands.
Even if I did have a network of possible travel companions, we’d likely run up against other difficulties. First problem: choosing a destination. Once you’ve decided on a place to travel together, you might not want to visit the same attractions or eat the same type of food. Deciding what to visit and where to eat often ends up with one person being disappointed.
If I want to get away somewhere, I’ve pretty much got to do it on my own. Bonus? I can go where I want and eat what I want without listening to someone else complain.
Most of the time, I’m quite OK traveling alone. If you consider two big dogs in the back of the car as traveling alone! I did a lot of solo traveling in my twenties, both driving and flying, and I was comfortable doing it again. Oh sure, I’d miss the companionship of having someone to eat meals with and explore new places, but overall it wasn’t a big deal to me.
My first solo trip was about 6 or 7 months into being single. It wasn’t a big deal. I had a complimentary pass to Hell’s Gate. I was thinking I’d go there and then keep going as far as Clinton, a cowboy town in the Cariboo region of British Columbia. There’s a nearby provincial park called Painted Chasm that I was interested in checking out. I was also thinking about continuing north to Quesnel to visit my second cousin, but she wasn’t feeling well, so my journey ended in Clinton. It was about a two hour drive to Hell’s Gate and another 3 or 4 hours to Clinton, so it was a good day’s drive.
My next solo trip was about a year later when I did drive to Quesnel and stayed there for a week. That’s about a 10 hour drive.
Then finding contract work and stopping and starting new jobs kept me busy for a couple of years until I went on my Oregon vacation in 2018.
Then another Oregon getaway in 2019, this time I stayed put in Lincoln City.
Worst things about solo travel?
Sure, there are some disadvantages about traveling solo. My list of the worst things about being an older single woman traveling alone might not be the same things on your list.
Not having someone to help keep an eye on your stuff.
“Stuff” in the loosest sense also includes dogs! When I’m at a rest stop, it would be nice if someone else was there to hold the dogs while I use the restroom. Traveling solo means I take the dogs out of the car and walk them around the pet area to take care of business. Then I put them back in the car, roll the windows partway down and open the sunroof to give them air, and then finally I can use the washroom. I’m always kind of worried that short time away from the car might give someone the opportunity to break in and steal something.
This means I always take my camera bag to the restroom, and that’s where I also keep my wallet and Kindle. Maybe my GPS.
Having someone stand guard at the car so I don’t have to take all my valuables with me would be nice.
Same as having someone watch my suitcase at the airport so I can stretch my legs and check out the shops.
When I’m hungry, I eat. I try to pick places with a patio where dogs are welcome. Other times I’ll grab take out. In Lincoln City, there’s a place called J’s with excellent fish and chips. Excellent prices! I stopped there frequently to buy a meal to take back to the Ester Lee Motel. I got to enjoy a cheap meal with an ocean view and not worry about my dogs. Perfect!
If I’ve read about a restaurant and want to eat there, dining alone isn’t going to stop me. I might feel self conscious just sitting there looking around, but if I bring my Kindle in with me, it’ll keep me busy while I wait for my food.
Have you ever looked around a restaurant? Everyone is sitting there looking at their phone and ignoring the person sitting across from them at the table.
Nobody cares that you’re eating alone.
Though, I’d avoid a romantic restaurant on Valentine’s Day if I’m dining solo. Just sayin’…
Wanting to have a photograph of me at an attraction.
You either have to be queen of the selfies, a long arm, or a selfie stick to take a picture of yourself and a point of interest.
After all, who doesn’t want a picture of themselves in front of the pink building of Voodoo Doughnuts 2 in Portland! See my article Selies or Helpsies for more tips.
Not having another driver when I’m tired.
My days of leaving Sacramento, California at 7am and crossing the US/Canada border back into British Columbia at 9pm are long over!
Sometimes you’re embarking on a journey that takes several days and you want to get as much driving done in a day as you can. Those are the times you just keep going, and when you’re tired, you look for a hotel.
Other times you have a route picked out with stops for attractions and have reserved a hotel at the end of the day’s drive.
Either of those scenarios doesn’t necessarily mean another driver is required, though it would be nice to let someone else take over the driving while you rest your eyes and relax.
I’d spent the night before in Crescent City and it was about 200 miles to Crater Lake. Arriving there around noon, I spent a couple of hours driving around the rim, stopping a few times for photos and snacks.
Bend is about 100 miles from Crater Lake and it was during this stretch that I wished I had another driver with me. I stopped at a rest area to escape the monotony of driving, and told myself to push on. Then I spent the rest of that leg watching my GPS count down the miles and estimated time of arrival in Bend.
I was sooooo glad to arrive at my motel and flopped on the bed, exhausted.
Everyone can use a little help now and then, even if they’re traveling single. But it wasn’t like I could just pick up a random driver somewhere along my route!
Staying put at night also means staying safe.
Only you can evaluate that based on the city you’re staying in, the property, and the part of town.
Safety always comes first. Always!
Night time can be scary. Most people don’t want to sit in their hotel room and watch TV, but prowling the streets of a strange town might not be a good plan.
If you’ve flown in to a destination and don’t have a car, even if the restaurant or movie house is a block or two away from the hotel, stay safe and catch a cab. Don’t risk being alone in a strange city wandering the sidewalks.
The only place where it’s probably safe to be alone on the sidewalks at night is on the Las Vegas Strip – an excellent destination for solo women travelers! I was 27 on my first solo visit. You can have have a fun night out without even leaving your hotel. Vegas is packed with tourists at all hours and you won’t find a town that’s better lit up! Just stay where the crowds are and enter through busy hotel entrances instead of lesser used side doors.
Mugged in Cancun
No, not me! I wasn’t mugged! I’ve never been to Cancun either, so you can stop worrying about me. Whew!
Years ago I worked for Air Canada Vacations. One day a man phoned and asked me about flying to Cancun. There happened to be a last minute sale for air only on a flight leaving a few days later – $199.
He told me that Fiesta West (a now defunct Vancouver tour operator) had a special, air and hotel for one week at $199 departing around the same date.
I’m pretty sure he was bullshitting me.
“Wow! That’s a great deal,” I told him. “You should call them and book it.”
Later that day he phoned back to book the $199 air only to Cancun. I asked him about the great deal at Fiesta West, and he muttered something about it being sold out.
A couple of weeks later my supervisor asked me if I remembered that man. I did, but only because of the “great deal” thing with Fiesta West.
Apparently he booked a hotel in downtown Cancun, instead of the beach where all the tourist hotels are. His hotel was in a seedy, non-tourist area. He decided to go for a little midnight stroll, got mugged, and his arm was broken. When he returned to B.C. he called Air Canada to see if there was anything they could do for him.
He didn’t buy insurance. We always ask whenever someone books a trip. A passenger can either buy insurance through Air Canada, buy travel insurance elsewhere, or not buy insurance at all. He took the third option.
Anyway, there was nothing Air Canada could do for him. He declined insurance, booked his own hotel, and didn’t take safety precautions.
Ladies, we’re smarter than the Cancun man!
What have we learned? Here are a few safety tips when traveling solo:
- If we’re in a strange place, book a hotel in a safe area where many tourists are staying.
- Even on a budget, your safety is worth spending a little more money on accommodations.
- Ask for a room in a section where there’s a lot of people traffic, not an isolated room.
- Unless you’re traveling with dogs and want a ground floor to get outside faster, ask for a room on a higher floor.
- If the hotel has underground parking, ask for an employee escort.
- Drive your car or take a cab at night. (Vegas exempt!)
- Don’t leave your drink unattended in your hotel bar or any restaurant. You don’t need a creep with a date rape drug taking advantage.
- Speaking of which, don’t drink to excess. Stick with sodas or iced tea.
- Be vigilant. Pickpockets often work in twos and while one is distracting you asking for the time, the other one robs you.
Always remember the most important thing to pack is your common sense.
The last reminder is something I’ve written about in other posts. Our goal is to avoid debt. Do not take a vacation and pay for it afterwards. Especially if that means paying for the trip for a long time afterwards. Set up a vacation fund and put extra cash in there. Take your vacation once you’re sure you’ve saved enough to cover your estimated expenses. You’ll probably be using your credit card for hotels, meals, attractions, and gas for your car. You want to be able to pay that bill in full.
No more debt! Right!
Now get out there and have fun. Traveling solo after divorce is a thing!