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My Life's A Trip

Luxury Without Snobbery*

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Question From A Reader: Do You Enjoy Traveling Alone?

Having a blast in Belize. I went alone, but make friends quickly. (Photos in this post courtesy of Sara Saedi who runs The Blowoff Blog)

Editor’s Note: Blog reader (and my friend, Liz) wrote to me and asked “Has anyone asked you about traveling alone? I’ve done it but only for a few days at a time…and I personally don’t love it. I mean, I end up meeting really nice people and chatting with them and all that…but I still don’t love it. Actually, I’m ok during the day but HATE dinner. Even if I end up next to a lively couple or whoever, I just need to talk about my day with someone I KNOW.  It just bums me out to not be sharing experiences to then recap at dinner.  The point being, I think I just hate having dinner alone. Maybe your readers are all far cooler than that and don’t need people to talk to physically at the end of the day. And maybe you don’t need that either…but I’d be interested in hearing about that aspect of your travel.”

I get this question, “how do you travel alone?” or variations on it, all the time and I think it should be addressed. Personally, I adore solo travel. There are things I love about all travel, and certain things I prefer about traveling with my husband, or with a friend (or friends) and by myself. I certainly enjoy moving at my own pace (specifically for photography). Even more than that, I like the freedom solo travel provides for me to pursue my own passions without compromise. If I want to get up and take pictures at the crack of dawn, and maybe blow off that museum I’m scheduled to see if the light is good,  I can do that. Unless my traveling companion is another serious photographer, or I’m on a photo tour, I don’t get to do that. I try to focus solo trips around places that I’m very interested in photographing as my solo destinations.

I always, always wind up making new friends and I think that is a very important skill to have in life. I’ve never had a problem meeting people, although I’d be fine if I didn’t. I have plenty of friends in my real life and I don’t really need many more. But I tend to get “adopted” and I like the way solo travel pushes me out of my comfort zone. What I dislike about solo travel is the hassle factor (i.e. taking all my bags to the restroom during my 90 minute layover at Heathrow).

There are a lot of people who are uncomfortable eating alone (I just recommend eating at bars or sushi bars where solo dining is not unusual.) Sushi bars were made for just that. I also have friends (who work in the movie industry) who are uncomfortable going to the movies alone. I think that is silly– I might not go at 7 pm on a Saturday by myself to go see Skyfall, but I would have missed a lot of films if my movie going schedule required me to take into account my husband’s interest and/or availability.

One of the keys things about enjoying solo travel is knowing yourself. I know that I’m driven by curiosity. I’ve learned this through every ink blot test I’ve ever taken. Blog reader Liz is more likely driven by hospitality and/or community, so that is going to be an issue for her. The question is it is an issue, or is it a deal breaker?

Tours and Workshops Are a Great Option for Solo Travelers

If you have the opportunity to travel solo and some apprehension about doing so, my advice would be to do what I did to get over that issue: sign up for a tour or workshop someplace you want to travel, and pick a trip focusing on one of your passions– it can be anything from surfing bootcamp to a yoga retreat, or go learn another language, skill, or hobby in another city or country. If you’re still a bit scared, don’t think of it as vacation or a trip– think of it as continuing education in a place you’d like to visit.

I did this a few years before I started this blog when I signed up for a screenwriting workshop run by Zoetrope in Belize. I had always wanted to visit Belize, and I was working on a project that was not getting any helpful feedback from the producers who asked me to write it. I was nervous that I wouldn’t have a good time, or like anyone there. I figured the very least that would happen is I might get some advice on how to polish the dialogue and see a new country.

I had a great time at that writing workshop in Belize, and I had enjoyable companions for dinner every night. I got to explore the Mayan ruins of Caracol, stay at the amazing Blancaneaux Lodge, and fly on Francis Ford Coppola’s plane, the Sofia. There was much wine and lively dinner conversation involved. I did make friends. Some temporary, single-serving friends, but a few I still keep in touch with. The photos in this post are by my friend Sara Saedi who is now a real life friend. And we both did well by that workshop. Since we met in Belize, Sara has since moved to Los Angeles, won an Emmy, and now is writing for a mid-season television show called the Goodwin Games for Fox. My writing has shifted mostly to blogging, but I did turn the project I was working on at that workshop and was proud of the draft I delivered.

Rainforest realness in Belize. Not to bad of a view between re-writes.

A skull near the ruins of Caracol

The gorgeous rainforest of Belize, and the setting of Blancaneux.

I met the lovely Echo Gaffney on this trip. She is still a Facebook Friend I enjoy interacting with.

The amazing Blancaneux Lodge’s rustic luxe atmosphere. That is my friend Sara on the right, reading some pages of a script.

Dinner at Blancaneux was a blast every night, with excellent locally sourced produce and, since it’s a Coppola Resort, Lots of wine.

Left: Mosquito netting above the bedding at Blananceaux Right: My favorite room detail: The Shell Phone (which actually worked)

While I haven’t written a screenplay in two years, I have thought often about returning to Belize, especially since two of my favorite travel bloggers in the business focus on that amazing country (which I think is vastly superior to Costa Rica). Check out my friend Lorenzo’s Belize Adventure and my friend Erin’s No Checked Bags. I often do.

For my friend Liz who asked this question, I know two of her great passions are wine and food. Liz was married at a Chateau in the south of France. I can understand how it might be harder for her to enjoy a bottle of fine vino by herself without feeling a little self-conscious.  I’d suggest someone like her take a high-end food and wine tour (there are several). That way you’re going to have at least one topic of conversation in common with everyone you meet. If you know your passions, you know your tribe, and you are likely to get a friend or two out of the deal.  No, it’s not the same thing as traveling with your spouse or a good friend, but it’s nice to have that option if you’re uncomfortable going solo. You always have the option to Skype your husband when you’re done for the day.