Thursday, March 23, 2017

travelling all bye:myself - PROs and CONs

Since my travel blogging is in particular on travelling bye:myself, it is time to ponder a little bit about single travel.
I had my first real single travel experience in 1992 to the United States. Before that I've been bye:myself to England, France, and Jamaica, but that was different insofar that I either stayed with a host family, with friends or have been there before in the company of friends. 1992 the trip to the US was just me alone going for the first time to a country I've never been before.

I travelled the so called "Deep South" resp. "Bible Belt" by Greyhound from Charlston, South Carolina, to New Orleans, Louisiana, and it was quite an experience. It was long before Internet and Smartphones, and when you were on your own, you were on your own. Anyway, after four very interesting weeks I came back really inspired and bursting with confidence. Initiation to a life of travelling bye:myself.

Then the same year I got pregnant (which had nothing to do with that initiation, though) and my travelling changed. Not only because I now had a baby in tow, but because I began to work as a freelancer and switched from vacationing to temporarily moving to places. Before my daughter started elementary school we stayed every year for a couple of months in Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica. Besides the baby I was bye:myself. Sounds tough? Actually it wasn't. Because the fact that you're by yourself does not mean that you're alone. You meet people and you have the chance to maybe show a different side of your personality. You make new friends who might have a totally different perception of you than your buddies back home. Because you are different. You are exposed to distinct situations that evoke sides of your personality that usually lie fallow.

After having travelled for almost twenty years together with my daughter, she eventually started to travel bye:herself and with her friends. Since I don't have a steady partner to be automatically my travel companion, I had to look for some friend to travel with me. And agree on the destination. And on the route. And on the activities. And coordinate time and length of the trip - and agree on the budget. Phew! That sounds exhausting.
Travelling by yourself is like living by yourself: you can do whatever you want and whenever you want it. You develop habits and - yes, quirks. Eventually you realize that you wouldn't want it any other way; and maybe that you hardly could have it any other way.

Just like living a single life has its pros and cons, travelling bye:yourself does, too. Here I'm weighing some pros and cons and would be happy if I can encourage you to try out whether you wouldn't like to travel with the best companion ever: yourself.

P like PROs


Personality!

My blog's title bye:myself is not a typo! When leaving my hometown and my everyday's life,  I'm saying "bye" to my comfort zone and to a part of - myself. It allows me to show a whole different side of me, I address people much more openly - and not only because I have to be more open. I'm leaving my everyday's self behind and give this other me more space. This does in no way mean that I'm pretending to be someone else - on the contrary, finally I have the chance to be absolutely myself with a clean slate. This is of course much easier without someone in tow who constantly reminds me that usually I'm like this or like that. Actually, by bidding bye to one side of myself, at the same time I say hello to another.

Power!

Needless to say that travelling bye:yourself gives you the luxury of freedom: from choosing your destination, the route, your accomodations etc. you can get up as early as you like or sleep as long as want skipping breakfast. You can stay at stores, museums or on a park bench as long as you please. You can talk to people or spend your day in silence. When I was in Florence bye:myself I visited eight (!) exhibitions in one day with a lunch break of only a couple of minutes; and I was happy and satisfied, it was just perfect for me. Most other people wouldn't call this a break or vacation. Most other people would call this boot camp. But I can spend my days exactly the way I like.

Public!

Many people tell me, they don't like to do things by themselves because they want to "share" the experience. In a way I can relate to that, especially when it comes to resting and dining. When I'm resting between let's say two exhibitions, it takes a couple of minutes. I sit down, drink my coffee or water - and off I go. What do you want me to do there? Stare at the wall? Stare at other people? Then I rather stare at more paintings. So that's not very relaxing, I give you that. But as always there's an upside - I'm getting far more things done resp. I get to see and experience much more in a day because I'm not distracted. There's not another person who needs to go to the bathroom, who is thirsty, who's tired and needs to sit for a while, who sees something in a shop window and needs to check it out. There's me, and I'm on a mission. My mission is to make the most of my day by seeing as much as possible.
Oh, and another thing: thanks to - yes, for some people a no-no - social media, I am sharing. I'm sharing with far more people than just one travel companion, I'm sharing with dozens of friends all over the world; who do not mess up my schedule by going to the bathroom.

People!

It's a fact that as a single traveller you get in touch with other people - travellers and locas alike - much easier than travelling as a couple or in a group. Many people are curious why I'm travelling bye:myself and how it works out for me. And very often they find me so interesting and my company so pleasing that they suggest to do something together; and I can choose to go for dinner and a drink with them or have a snack watching local TV in bed - bye:myself.

Privacy!

You can stretch out on this huge bed, you can put all the pillows you want behind your back. You have all the cute little toiletries for yourself and four towels instead of two. Everything is just for YOU, you don't need to share a thing. You can be noisy, you can leave the light on as long as you please and when you're tired there's nobody there who wants to keep watching tv or needs the night light for reading. The room is your oyster - and yours alone! 

C like CONs


Contact.

Travelling bye:yourself means you are...bye:yourself. Even if you enjoy travelling bye:yourself - and being alone in general, for that matter - there comes a moment when you feel like hanging out with other people, chatting over a drink, sharing your travel stories and experience. In a moment like this you cannot just turn your head to the right and there is your travel companion. You have to go out and approach people - and yes, they might reject you because they want a romantic drink in the sunset. 
After years and years of travelling bye:myself I cannot remember this happening to me. But that is because I'm prepared and willing being bye:myself when travelling bye:myself. If your not, from time to time this might become a toughie.
Actually social media such as facebook can be an instant cure for this: share your day with your friends back home. With every comment and like you will feel less alone.
Going on an organized day trip can be a great way of meeting other people since you get involved quite naturally. But being discreet is crucial. If you throw yourself on people and seem desperate, you will most certainly chase them away.
Then from my experience it's much easier to get involved with openminded and friendly people in smaller and - yes: cheaper - guesthouses than in luxury five star hotels. It's probably even not the people's attitude, it's just that the whole atmosphere is more reserved and not encouraging to mingle. 

Cocktails.

Going out for an exclusive dinner, having a lovely cocktail at a posh bar - I hardly ever do this when travelling bye:myself. And this is the situation where I feel like depending on others. While sight seeing, going to a museum or hanging out on the beach can be fun with or without other people's company, having a special meal and a couple of drinks is always more enjoyable with others; and you depend on finding other travellers who want to share this with you. People travelling together go out for dinner, they take their time to order, they have a glass of wine, they talk, have another glass of wine, then they eat, talk some more, more wine (ok, now I'm making these good people a bunch of winos - so ok, they're having coffee after their meal). When I go to dinner, I order, I eat, I drink, I pay, I leave. 20 minutes. And even if I linger over a second glass of wine - 30 minutes. While exhibitions demand focus, dining requires idleness. 

bye:myself
Sometimes it's really easy: At the Khantoke Dinner and Cultural Show in Chiang Mai I was seated next to a lovely couple from the United States. They asked me to take their picture and offered to take mine in return - and then we spent the rest of the evening together having a fantastic time.

Costs.

Travelling bye:myself is definitely more expensive than travelling with a companion. Only in Europe the price for a single room differs from a double room. Everywhere else you pay for the room, no matter if you stay there bye:yourself or if you share it with another guest. You cannot share taxi fares, fees for drivers etc. Unless you find another traveller - or even a couple or a small group - that is willing to share these costs with you. But your expenses are not automatically divided by two.

Care.

Getting sick on a trip is never funny. But getting sick when travelling bye:yourself is a pain...not only in the neck. The only time I felt really abandoned on a trip was when I got sick in Africa and had to get up and get me something to drink and go to the doctor - all bye:myself. I felt like vanishing from mother earth, I thought I would die bye:myself on an African island and nobody would ever know about it. Yes, I was a little dramatizing the situation, but that was for exactly this reason: I was alone! I was bye:myself!
It's really annoying when you have nobody you can boss around to get you something to drink and get your drugs from the pharmacy and take every shit from you because you feel lousy.
Solution: stop pitying yourself and get over it; or stay healthy.

Camera.

This single traveller problem shrunk significantly with the invention of smart phones and selfie sticks: you don't need to ask other people to take a picture of you in front of Buddha, you just take a selfie. I personally don't like selfies unless they are meant ironically (or artsy like my Biennale-Project). So I still ask people to take my picture in front Buddha sometimes; and sometimes I try to take a decent selfie with him. And often I simply don't have a picture of myself with Buddha.

Now that you can weigh some of the CONs against the PROs, I hope that I was able to encourage you to travel bye:yourself if you'd like to give it a try. Maybe you can start with a weekend trip to another city bye:yourself and check out whether this could be for you.

I'd be very happy if you'd share your perspective and experience on single travel with me.
If you have any question, I'd be pleased hearing from you!


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