Sunday, September 7, 2014

Single on the Open Road (or Airplane) -Thoughts on Traveling Alone

 Awhile back I wrote on treating my knee naturally. Since then, a friend and I have decided to write a book on natural treatments for arthritis and arthritis pain.  Many readers commented. Now I would love to hear from others, especially with regard to diet or other methods that you've found to lessen arthritis pain (or pain in other areas of your life).  I'm not looking for quack medicine, but rather ways such as exercise, yoga, diet changes and aromatherapy that may have worked for you.   

In the past year, I have only taken two vacations of one week each.  Adjusting to a new town, going to school and learning about my new home by taking lots of full day explorations have put my travel by the wayside a bit.  The majority of my retirement lifestyle is not travel, however I normally like to plan a two to three long (three week trips) a year.  This year one of those trips will happen in December-I'll go to Houston for Christmas and then explore the gulf coast both for some vacation time and to explore the possibility of some snowbird time in future years.  In the spring, I hope to take that train vacation to San Francisco, and my third vacation is tentative much longer-a drive to DC by one route with a return on another road

At least two of these vacations (and probably three) will be taken alone.  By this I mean that I will not be part of a tour group, and most likely will not be taking anyone with me at least two of those times.  Many singles would not take a vacation alone because they would fear it is daunting or lonely.  Others might take a plane trip somewhere but would not be comfortable doing a road trip, be it for safety issues.

The first time I traveled by myself it was, well, different. I was used to traveling with my husband and/or at least one child.  My last two vacations in Europe were a driving trip of western Europe with my sister, husband, and son. This was followed with a trip to Venice and Florence with my two children after my husband's death.  My first really long vacation back in the us was a drive from Denver to Moab through Monument Valley to Arizona and then San Diego.

Once I started traveling alone, it was a different experience.  I did learn quickly that traveling alone does not necessarily have to be lonely, and that it can be safe. Admittedly, the driving is done alone, but I like to drive. In my experience MOST open road car travelers travel this way because they enjoy driving, the drive, and those off the road opportunities. People who don't enjoy the journey will most likely be in an RV, or fly or even take a train. In the end, I learned that traveling alone does not have to be lonely, and that to avoid travel just because I was single was self defeating, and unrewarding.  To that end, these are some of the things I have learned (and am still learning) along the way.

First, the boring stuff.  Open road travel has changed, as have communication options on the road.  I mentioned elsewhere that I maintain my car using the "highly used" guidelines rather than the "routine maintenance" on my car.  My car always has some food, water and blankets. I have never broken down, am prepared.  I have a good towing program with my insurance, if  not I would have AAA. I have an expensive cooler/picnic basket.  I get out at least every four hours and walk. When I do stop, if there is any question as to where to do so, I go where the truckers go. Truck drivers talk with each other, are nosy and generally travel in groups, increasing the savings factor.  Finally, I have a phone-a smart phone. One that has GPS, can take pictures of the license plates of tailgating drivers, and more.

When I'm choosing where to stay, I look for places with an opportunity to chat with other people.    There are many ways to do that, depending on style and comfort level. One option is to look at sleeping options where there are chances to meet others, and take advantages of group options when they occur.  For example, when I travel I generally look at overnight options such as bed and breakfasts, or hostels.  A larger bed and breakfast will often have family style dining at breakfast or afternoon cocktails where you will have a chance to visit with others.  Upscale hostels have private rooms but give you the opportunity to visit in group rooms.

One occasional commenter here, Stellamarina, sleeps in group rooms on hostels.  If I wasn't a night owl and open mouth breather I would do the same.  When I am on the highway in motel heaven, I take a bathing suit and swim at the end of the day in the warm weather, as do many others.  And finally, I travel with dogs, with are their own conversation piece.  When I was in San Diego, our small but nice hotel had an ocean front restaurant. While I am not big on eating in the hotel, this hotel had drinks snacks and music beginning at four. While almost all the guests ate elsewhere at least nine times out of ten, the bar/restaurant was full every evening between four and seven-and most of us were guests who were taking a break between sightseeing and going out to dinner. Conversations were all over the place.

There is no shame in dining alone.  I have never had a problem.  Certainly one of the reasons for this is that I generally choose non hotel, non tourists local type restaurants.  First because they have better food than hotel restaurants, and second because they tend to be small or family style tables, such as my favorite crab restaurant in old town Alexandria, Virginia. I generally tend to eat on the early side. If it's a place that takes reservations, I always call and ask if they have a table for one or two near a window.  If it's a place with outdoor tables, I generally choose that option. Both cases allow me to people watch while dining, which is entertaining on it's own. Sometimes I bring a kindle with me.  In my experience eating alone is always preferable to eating in my room-and not just in the city or at the resort.
(And this is where I add that yes, I do go to at least one expensive, famous chef gourmet restaurant in each town.  Alone)

 My regular stop between Texas and Colorado is a small down that is really a pass through for people driving between Texas and the Midwest and the resorts of Colorado and New Mexico.  While it has a few fast food restaurants, it also has a refurbished hotel and restaurant that almost everyone traveling uses for dinner.  Inevitably conversations go between tables and discussions as to travel experiences and destinations arise.  No matter how tired I am, when I go to eat there I always am glad I did not settle for Subway in my room.

As far as the sightseeing/exploration aspect of travel, I do my best to find chances to interact as well.  For one thing, I learned many moons ago that in a big city (or even a smaller one), taking the hop on hop off bus tour is a wonderful way to learn about a city if you  are new, and it gives you a real chance to play tourist and chat with others.  To those who are hesitating right now I would only say this.  After ten years of living in Washington DC I took one of these tours.  I've recommended it as a first choice for everyone I've hosted there since-and they had me.  Also, aside from socialization aspects, it gives you at least a photo opp for all those things you won't have time to see up close and personal.

I also look to see if there is something going on that has anything to do with my interest or hobbies, specially if I will be there for more than a few days. If its a hands on thing to do, the more the better.  If there was a quilt meeting or show, for example, I would find away to schedule that.  I let people I know through social media and blogs know when I am traveling. They know really good tips, and occasionally a chance for a get together comes up.

When it comes to entertainment let me just say this.  It's much easier trying to find a single last minute discounted ticket for the Book of Mormon than two, three or more.  Nuff Said??

So there you have me. Traveling alone-but not lonely.  Do you know people who travel alone?  Do you travel alone? Do you have any tips for single travelers?


  1. Arthritis tip: For me, whenever I eat white bread or anything baked with white flour I get a severe flare up. My hand joints get swollen and I am in pain. I can't use my hands. So, I avoid the white stuff like the plague. If I do indulge, I'll have to take two ibuprofen to relieve the pain, extremely hot baths with epson salts and just wait it out till I get back to 'normal'. I have to do yoga stretches every single day, especially for my back. And I try to get several walks in per week. (in the summer, I swim).
    I know one day, eventually, these tactics won't work and I'll need stronger stuff, but for now, this has been working for me. Laying off those carbs, though difficult at times, is my key.

    1. I admit I am unable to eliminate carbs although whenever possible I do half whole wheat and half brown sugar. I am going to try seated yoga since I cannot get down on the ground.

  2. My husband swears his three cups of green tea have eliminated his pain (well, his hip pain that is :) )
    I travel alone a lot. My husband hates to leave the house.
    I just got back from house hunting in Dover. A 48 hour trip with about 300 miles in the car and 7 hours in the air. The family diner suggested on Trip Advisor was excellent. Sitting at diner counters is a good place to find out what is up in town. My favorite thing is when I happen upon a fish fry or art fest.
    You are far more adventurous about sleeping arrangements. I like places that serve breakfast for my chat time, but I like my private room ;)
    "Attractions" ap on the gps satisfies my need to see off beat things (Lincoln- Douglas debate place in Chicago). I have been known to drive 20 miles off the beaten path to a country store in Amish areas of the country.
    I never use a rest stop at night. Too many serial killers lurk there - lol. In fact I rarely travel after dark.
    Thanks for the tip on car care. Never thought about that.
    If you drive out to DC next summer, drop me a line. I'll come into town and eat at your favorite sea food place with you!
    Happy travels.

    1. yea, I am not a tea drinker except in the coldest weather (and then I do cider and hot chocolate mainly) so I may need to think about taking the tea pills.

      I admit I 've been known to use a rest stop for a few hours even to sleep. But I have large dogs. Never had a problem so far.

      I'd like to aim for DC in the spring, but we shall see.

  3. I have to agree with Cindi. My joint pain seems to correlate with my diet. Refined carbs have been proven to increase inflammation, so that is probably at the root of the problem. It might seem simplistic, but getting enough sleep, and exercising in moderation helps, too.

    1. Yes, I agree with those, I although giving up carbs is probably not in my future, I do work on using whole wheat when I can. I've also been reading that nightshade plants can cause issues. My poor V8 Juice.

  4. I do know a few people who travel alone and they do say they have to stop a bit more on the way as they get a bit tired with no one to talk to on their drives. However, they do say they are not lonely and the stops just allow them to enjoy things they might not have had the chance to...if they were traveling with someone else.

    God bless

  5. Funny you should mention me as I am reading this while staying at a hostel in Akurayri, Iceland and traveling around Iceland on my own for a few weeks. I need to follow your example and rent a car and travel cross country the next time I am on the mainland US. Yay for traveling on your own and being able to decide what you want to do everyday.

  6. Vada in Tx. First let me tell you how much I enioy your blog. I have to add to the comments about wheat products causing inflammation in the body.I was like you about bread.I refused to give it up for years because it is my favorite food.Finally the evidence became overwhelming about wheat and sugar so I started leaving it out of my diet for the most part.Sometimes I feel sorry for myself because I am a Texas girl raised on bread and desserts but I like to think that I can put my health before my cravings and I feel so much better.Even the whole wheat is inflammatory so just try to adapt to a life without grains.It gets easier every single day....Good luck.Check out Pinterest for ideas for foods.It has been a huge help to me.

  7. I have severe arthritis and no cartledge in both knees. It's taken a year, but I am painfree, have improved range of motion and muscle strength. I still have difficulty standing for more than a few minutes and walking more than a block.

    Every day I do 10 min of leg stretches. 3x/week, I do a variety of waterwalking for 30 min. 2x/week, I use the gym's recumbent crosstrainer, which allows you to do "stair climbing" from seated position. It's important to stretch both the front (quads) and back (hamstrings) of your legs; e.g., walk forward and backward.


Things I'm Enjoying This Monday-And A Couple Things That Are Frustrating Me!!

One of the many reasons I don't do serious (other than visiting family) travel during the summer is the chance to stay at home. Warm w...