What’s a Single Girl to do with 2 months off?
September 23, 2008 12:40 PM   Subscribe

In the not so distant future, I will hit 7 years with my employer, which entitles me to the company benefit of 2 months off, with pay. I have been saving (I have about 5k set aside for this) and I want to start making plans within the next 6-12 months. Until recently, I had been spending the time and saving the money planning a trip for two as my ex receives the same benefit at the same time.

I am afraid if I don’t plan something and kick myself in the butt, my two months will be spent as a recluse in my apartment or visiting my mother in Idaho, which well, would be worse than not having the time off. I am having a really hard time picturing what to do now that I am very single. I can’t picture going on vacation by myself, but I need to get over that as I will be!

One idea that I have had is to drive to Seattle and park my car on the Alaskan Ferry and then see where life and 5k leads me, but I cant really see that stretching for two months. Besides, I have never been out of the USA and I would like to do some world traveling specifically for museums, history, and native culture. I don’t like densely populated areas or large crowds AT ALL. I know I would not enjoy resorts or a cruise or visiting a large city and want to travel off the beaten path, but I am clueless as to where to go that would still be safe.

Does anybody have experience with this or suggestions on where to go? Can you offer advice on getting over the mental weirdness of traveling alone for such an extended period of time?
posted by Jenny is Crafty to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Well, $5,000 is a decent amount of money to travel on for two months.

There's absolutely nothing weird about traveling alone. In fact, traveling alone doesn't really mean you're doing anything alone. You'll be forced to go out and meet people in order to socialize. Even if this sounds scary, you should go through with it because it'll be rewarding. And besides: those other people who are traveling solo are in the same boat as you. Nothing to feel weird about.

First, you need to figure out what kind of travel you like to do. Are you a five-star resort person, or can you eek by staying in budget motels and hostels?

Not including airfare or other transportation expenses, $5,000 USD comes out to about $83 a day for two months. Not bad. With a little planning, you can travel anywhere on the world on this budget.

The most expensive places are going to be in Western Europe, but this is going to also be the easiest place to travel in terms of fish-out-of-water experiences. Pretty much everyone speaks English and it's safe. I've traveled in Western Europe during peak seasons (March-October) for less than $83 a day and had a great time. Drank all the beer I wanted to, met a ton of people, ate a lot of great food, and saw tons of cool stuff. But I also stayed in beds in hostel dorms, so if that's not your thing you might want to think about going somewhere less expensive, or shortening your trip.

I would start with this: ask yourself, "Where do I want to go?" Then go there. Make it happen. It's really not that hard -- the hardest part is deciding to do it. Everything really falls into place later, and anything that doesn't can easily be chalked up as a part of the adventure of travel.
posted by nitsuj at 12:58 PM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Plane ticket with open-ended return date, to country with a favorable exchange rate?

Make a plan, any plan, and make a commitment to yourself to move forward with it, even though it's scary?

Alaskan ferry sounds like a good plan! You actually have more than 5 k, since your paychecks will presumably continue to be direct deposited into your checking account.

Hostels instead of hotels?
posted by quinoa at 12:59 PM on September 23, 2008

Oh, my dear -- personally I would consider two months of solo travel to be an absolute BOON.

There are a crap-ton of books devoted to solo travel -- some of them are also further targeted to solo travel for women. One you may want to check out is Fly Solo -- it's marketed expressly to women has a lot of ideas for destinations, but also does a good job of specifiying what kind of crowd you'd find there. there's also 100 Places Every Woman Traveler Should Go, which I actually prefer to the first title; it's a bit more focused on the destination.

Then there's the Rough Guide's Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth, which is nothing but cool ideas for things to try in every corner of the world -- everything from electronic music festivals in Germany to posing for an art class in Florence to a zen holiday in Japan that involves a naked guy...I've been reading it over and over and making my Life List recently.

I actually prefer the rough guide book to the first titles, but it seems you've not done much solo travel before so you may want to start with the first two.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:59 PM on September 23, 2008 [7 favorites]

Driving cross country and back could fill that amount of time comfortably.
posted by electroboy at 1:07 PM on September 23, 2008

Tahiti and Easter Island. Completely life-altering solo travel experiences for me. If I had the money and time to do it again, I would in a second.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:10 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

And/or Surf Divas.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:12 PM on September 23, 2008

Lonely Planet's Thorntree forum is jammed with recent helpful advice. Mostly nice people, too, the last time I hung out there.

I've traveled alone (I'm a woman), and I never ended up being alone very much - and I don't mean that in a creepy way. It's easy and fun to find people to hang out with for a day or week or longer.
posted by rtha at 1:15 PM on September 23, 2008

Three suggestions:

1.) Spend some time hiking our national parks. If you backpack, you'll get peace and solitude and get to see some spectacular sights few people see. Your major costs will be camping gear and getting from one park to the next.

2.) Backpack around a NZ/Australia. Both are great countries for backpackers with lots of hostels, no language barrier and sights few Americans get to see. By staying in hostels, you'll quickly meet other travelers and will almost certainly find other people to travel with very quickly. Both countries are also not overly crowded outside their major cities. This route will have the cost of getting there and back (could be $1000+), plus the in-country travel costs.

3.) Trekking in Nepal. Nepal has a good tourist infrastructure, is fairly safe now, and dirt cheap for the traveler. It is also stunningly beautiful (it's the only country that the CIA World Factbook lists "scenic beauty" as a major natural resource) and has a rich, exotic culture. There are parts of Nepal well off the beaten path, although if you get lonely for Western companionship, you can find backpackers to travel with in Kathmandu. This option will stretch your travel dollar the farthest.
posted by justkevin at 1:17 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Want to try a different country? Want Museums and Culture but not crowds? Keep on driving when you get to Seattle, cross the border into a place called Canada. You'll find Vancouver near the border and all kinds of options from there. I would recommend a ferry to Vancouver Island and then an exploration of the Gulf Islands (more ferries, smaller). Do it either before July or after August you'll pretty much have it all to yourself. Keep on angling north and you might even find yourself in Alaska.
posted by philip-random at 1:21 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well for $5000 traveling out side of US might be hard since air fare alone would cost around $1500 to Europe and Asia. But since 'nitsuj' has traveled western europe with less than $83 per day you can get more advice from him/her about it.

Asia is cheap once you get there, with $2 meals and $10 hotel rooms and it could be a great experiance if you are adventurers type. You could travel to rural villages, ruins, etc... off the beaten path.

Anyway if you are traveling alone Couchsurfing is a great way to meet new people and also spend less on accommodation.
posted by WizKid at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2008

One month is good for a road trip in Canada and US.
posted by WizKid at 1:31 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, I have been so stuck on the worry/fear of traveling alone that I did not realize how many options were out there in my price range. Some of the ideas surrounding the more remote parts of Asia sound really intriguing. I can really picture myself enjoying that kind of travel as opposed to some of the more westernized countries. Besides working on the idea that I am alone, I think that investing in some travel books and putting more effort into growing my sabbatical fund are in order. Thank you everyone for so many ideas!
posted by Jenny is Crafty at 1:58 PM on September 23, 2008

I'm currently enamoured of the Philippines. I can also vouch for Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
posted by dawdle at 2:02 PM on September 23, 2008

Let me second justkevin's suggestion about hiking. Gearing up can be done cheaply, if you don't mind heavier gear. With $5,000, though, you could easily dedicate $500-750 to purchase some really nice lightweight stuff. My principles (pack, shelter, raingear, sleeping bag, and stove) cost $650 or so and weigh in at around 10.5 lbs.. Either way, you would be left with a good portion of your money for travel expenses and food (which, if you are hiking, can be cheap).
You can easily carry enough food with you for a week at a time, allowing you to get far from the beaten path and save on room expenses. Of course, you will need to prepare in advance for procuring water, as it is difficult to carry much more than a day's worth with you at any time, but pouring over maps and speaking with rangers can help.
The one thing I would caution against is going too far backcountry alone if you aren't an experienced hiker. Things can get hairy in a hurry, and it is good to have people around when that happens. However, if you restrict yourself to relatively well-hiked trails of medium to easy difficulty, you will probably be fine.
posted by Tullius at 2:10 PM on September 23, 2008

I went to Paris for five days and stayed for eighteen; my travel buddy left after day five. I moved my stuff into a tacky little hotel, took a nap. I awoke, scratched myself, stepped out into the late afternoon, across the street to one of those amazing corner grocery stores, filled my pack with fresh food, turned left, smiled at a young gal coming out of some building, turns out it was an art school.

She became my buddy, my travel guide, part time companion, told me where to go and when and why. She knew all the museums and all of everything else, too, she was a walking guide book. No, this isn't hollywood, we didn't become lovers, flower petals falling from the sky; she was sortof a dork, I definitely am a dork. But we had a hoot together, just a lot of fun.

I loved Paris, met lots of great people, had a great time -- went to a Thanksgiving service at The American Cathedral -- to Parisians it was just Thursday -- and then from there out to a park with some other Americans, Thanksgiving feast out of our backpacks; cheeses, bread, fresh fruits, etc and etc someone had a bottle of wine. Fun.

The point? Go. Trust life.

Marcus Aurelius:
Love nothing but that which comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny. For what could more aptly fit your needs?

Decide what you want to do and do it. Rock and roll, Ma'am -- go forth and live. Leave room for your life to improvise, to take you where it will. I was lonely some, sure. But I'm lonely some here in Austin, too, but without Musée Picasso, without The Metro.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:12 PM on September 23, 2008 [4 favorites]

If you're liking the Asia idea, Matt (of Where the hell is Matt? fame) has a lot of interesting travel advice scattered about his website and in the videos at the bottom of his about page. Watching those videos made me want to travel.
posted by systematic at 3:40 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Traveling overseas is much more doable than you know. The International Youth Hostels are a safe, structured way to begin. You'll meet people at dinner, go to a pub, and at breakfast a group of them will be going to Some Interesting Destination not far away, and will invite you. You'll find that there are lost of hostels/pensiones, and will feel more confident about navigating another country. Even if you only speak English, you can learn your way around most places if you're even a little intrepid.

I suggest you consider your interests, and begin with a theme. Perhaps you'd really like to learn more about traditional handcrafts in Turkey. Or organic farms in Wales. Hiking in the Lake District of England. Visit World Heritage Sites. Give your trip a starting point, even if it's kind of random. You can always diverge from it later.

Or, go to Guatemala and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity or Safe Passage. Volunteering in interesting places is a great way to travel, make the world a bit better, and meet people in a structured, safe way.

You will have a blast.
posted by theora55 at 4:50 PM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Your money will go quite far in Southeast Asia, and it's very easy to meet people.

New Zealand is amazing, but a little pricier. Great if you are into hiking, as there are quite a few multi-day hikes you can do.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:46 PM on September 23, 2008

I'm going to say Thailand. It's easy to travel and there are many different places to visit – you’ve got beaches, hiking, elephant orphanages to volunteer at and Thai cooking classes to take. The tourist infrastructure is developed enough that you shouldn't have trouble as a less experienced traveler. And if you feel adventurous Cambodia (Ankor Wat), Laos and Vietnam are just around the corner. Your funds should be more than sufficient for a comfortable two month trip in these areas, especially if you can save up a bit more for the flight before you go. I have a travel blog on-line from some of my travels there a few years back, contact me if you are interested in the link.
posted by Cuke at 7:04 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! SO many great ideas and links and things to think about. I am am triple bookmarking this post so that I can keep coming back and re-reading everything. Its a big world out there and so much to do! I am still thinking that Asia would be wonderful, and with so much to pick from I may need a few more sabbaticals to see it all (and perhaps, one day, someone special to take with me too)...
posted by Jenny is Crafty at 7:57 PM on September 23, 2008

Just wanted to say: traveling alone is absoutely glorious. Don't knock it until you've tried it - you get to put yourself, your rhythms, and your interests first. You're open to meeting people and changing your plan. It's precious. Don't waste it! I'm envious...make the most of the opportunity. Such a thing is rare enough in life.
posted by Miko at 9:29 PM on September 23, 2008

I'd spend a month traveling, but also a month just you know, being you; do some reading, cook some new food, take it easy and get in touch with who you are, your rhythms, natural dialogue, dreams and soul—I think we can become too busy, and in the day to day exigencies of life we lose touch. Resist the urge to fill every moment with doing something.
posted by oxford blue at 8:09 AM on September 24, 2008

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