Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Flying Solo

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town
is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” - Freya Stark

Having travelled alone extensively during 2008, I can heartily agree with Freya Stark. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to travelling solo, and this entry looks at a few of them.

The three most obvious disadvantages are bearing the full cost of the trip on your own; your personal security; and not having someone to share the experience with.

The Costs
Generally, travelling on your own is more expensive than travelling with at least one other person. The old saying that, "Two can live as cheaply as one," makes a lot of sense when travelling in company.

Accommodation is always cheaper per person when shared between two people, since persons travelling alone have to pay a premium for occupying a room on their own. Other costs can be shared between two people, such as car rental and fuel costs, Chinese banquets and extra large pizza - not to mention sharing the cost of a decent bottle of red wine as opposed to a bottle of cheap plonk.

Travelling in company is generally safer than travelling solo - especially for women. And that applies wherever you travel, not just in certain parts of the third world. Horror stories abound by the hundreds – if not thousands – of holidays gone wrong, and this is neither the time or place to recount them. For now it is enough to raise a red flag about it.

The Shared Experience
Sharing the experience – that is, sharing the joys, pitfalls, highs and lows, of a journey with a good friend of partner. Having someone to reminisce with after a long and exciting vacation can be one of the great rewards of travel. Conversations that begin: “Do you remember when…?” Or, “What about the day we…”, can lead to long recollections of shared adventures that keep the travel experience alive for many years after the actual events themselves.

The most obvious benefit of flying solo is the fact that you can do what you want, when you want, for a long as you want, and not compromise your choices by negotiating with a travel partner. The solo traveller answers to no-one but themselves.

Want to stay up until 3am - be my guest. Want to sleep-in until 11am - go ahead. Want to change your schedule at the last minute and go on a river cruise rather than visit a museum – you’ll have no-one to argue with but yourself over that decision.

Yes, it seems hedonistic and selfish, but hey, you are paying thousands of dollars for your vacation, so you might as well make the most of it. Constant haggling over where to go and when, with a partner who doesn’t share your sense of adventure or interests can sap all the joy and excitement out of the travel experience. By travelling on your own you have no-one to blame but yourself if you are not having a good time.

Of course, you have to really enjoy your own company if you are going to travel solo. This has started me thinking about that aspect of the travel experience, and I will return to the question soon in a future entry.

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