Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Further Afield

I owe a big thank-you and an even bigger apology to Danielle for writing such a wonderful guest post for my blog; obviously, it was supposed to be published during my trip abroad but then my holiday became abbreviated and, essentially, I failed at being a good blog friend.  Danielle, thank you for your patience - your time has arrived!  (AT over at Jumped the Pond wrote a guest post for me, too, and has shared it over on her blog.  Make sure you check it out!)  Since you're here reading this, I'm going to blatantly take advantage of the fact that I have you spellbound (insert evil laugh here) and also point you to this article from the New York Times about women traveling alone as well as my friend Kate's response to it.

You'll see how relevant the Frugal Traveler article is when you read on to the last post in this guest blogging series...

Ode to Single Lady Travel

One of my favorite things in life is, controversially, solo travel.  It's divisive to be sure, the idea of exploring and uncovering the wider world on one's own, but is also absolutely rewarding. Spending time alone in a new place naturally leads to discovery not only of a new place but also of the self.

I'm not single and I often don't travel alone: readers of Bloody Brilliant will know that The Irishman and I travel together on nearly all trips besides those for work (and last year, I even accompanied him when he went to Madrid for a conference). But I made it really clear to him early on in our relationship that I sometimes prefer to go off on my own to a new place and that he will just have to deal with it. And he does. At first he wasn't sure why I would want to fly off somewhere without him, but he's always respected my wishes and now even sort of gets it. So I've spent long weekends in Amsterdam and Paris on my own since we've together, both visiting friends and all on my own, and I wouldn't be adverse to going to the countryside on my own either.

Why do I enjoy traveling alone so much? Besides the delight of self-discovery, there is a warm feeling selfishness that you can't quite get from spending time in your home. Yes, hanging out at home with all of your stuff is comfortable and reassuring, but so is staying in a luxurious boutique hotel (single rooms are cheaper than doubles!) with only a few items and a whole weekend wide open for you to fill as you wish. You can sleep in if you want (or not if you're a morning person) and there is no one with you making you compromise about when you set off for a day of exploring. If you want to have cake for breakfast in a decadent cafĂ©, no one will stop you. Who cares if waiters raise an eyebow? YOU'RE ON VACATION. And how you spend your time is yours. Museums? Art galleries? Shopping? Spa day? Hikes? Swimming? Tracking down long lost ancestors? Whatever you want to do, you can – there are no rules beyond the ones you make for yourself. On our recent trip to Paris, I made a stark realization: Paris is not for lovers, it's for ladies. The most wonderful things to do there are eat macaroons, fondle shoes, and ogle at shop windows. Boys don't like to do those things. They like to eat large amounts of steak frites, and make girls feel guilty for doing those things. So my next trip to Paris will be for the soldes in February, ALONE.

But seriously. Travel with friends and lovers is exciting as you share new experiences or see wonderful things together. But there is something special about having the time and space on one's own to think and be and exist in a different place. It's not easy; the worst part is probably evening meals. That is when you see all of the inhabitants of a place out and about, dining with their partners and friends, and you're the person on her own in the corner – possibly with a book. Even these situations, though, are easily overcome and mastered; savoring each bite, people watching, treating yourself to a nice glass of wine (or 3)... all of these make a solo meal an experience rather than "passing the time". Cities and villages alike have pubs where you can be by yourself for an evening, and before you know it it's midnight and you're exhausted from the excitement of your day.

I understand that safety can be a concern for a lady traveling on her own, but let common sense guide you and you'll be fine. Traveling alone in cities is easier, as there are always people around. Out in the country, staying in B&Bs where the owners are always there can give an added sense of security as well as always making sure your phone is charged and available. I suppose I never worry about it, though, as living in a city conditions you to having street smarts no matter where you are in the world.

And after three or four days of escapism in another world, it's so so lovely to come home. Whether you're single or partnered up, returning to your home after solo travels is one of the best parts. Your stuff is there. You are there. Sitting wrapped up on your sofa with a cup of tea, the best souvenir is a warm glow of satisfaction that envelopes you as you think about everything you did, by yourself, for yourself, and the memories that will be yours to cherish always.


  1. Betsy, canim! Muchos gracias for your shout out! I love keeping up with your blog though you're so much more diligent than me. I'm striving to be a more consistent blogger. Any tips???

    Big Istanbul Love.
    Kate x

  2. Thank you for this post (that I stumbled upon quite randomly)! :-) I am a girl, and I sometimes travel alone and adore it - if it wasn't for the strange looks I get every single time I tell anybody (most friends included) that I'm travelling alone... why is it such a big deal?

  3. Kate - I think you go for quality over quantity! Your posts are always so very well though-out and are so written to lovingly; it's really a joy to read them! It might be impossible to get the exact blend that we want of frequent AND crafted posts... unless, that is, we quit our day jobs!

    Alicely - welcome to the blougue! I really admire solo travelers like you and Kate and Danielle. I must try it again sometime soon. Let us know if you have any tips on making it the best experience possible!


I love reading your thoughts and suggestions! Please do leave a comment so we can get to know each other better.