An Unromantic Vacation
August 16, 2011 8:21 AM   Subscribe

I need to go on vacation at some point - I've gotten into the habit of working near-full years without much vacation. I've got time and funds, but neither a significant other nor many vacation-time-having friends.

So, I'm in DC, but can go wherever. Limited language ability, but enough courage to go places. I've got a trip to Denver planned that I'll extend to see a friend for a bit, though a med-school friend, so that can't be super-long.

Basically, what do people do in this situation? There must be a bunch of other mid-20s single people with vacation time, right? Is there an answer? Traveling alone? Visiting infinite friends? I could... go to Austin after Denver, and then various other places?

Basically, what is an unromantic vacation?
posted by tmcw to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
You're still in the hostel years, so go hit some up. When I did went to Europe a few years ago, plenty of people I ended up hanging out with were there on their own and just made friends as they hung around.
posted by griphus at 8:27 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

For me, hoping in the car, taking the circle tour.
You know you start and finish at home at let whims take you where they will.
You have a set amount of time.
Drive to Austin or Denver, see stuff along the way.
Turn back halfway through your allotted time.
Take a different route home.

I would hike and backpack along the way.
You do the stuff you like to do.
Weird little water parks or amusement parks?
Have long lunches in rural cafes until old men get tired of telling you about the corn harvest?
Dance in watering holes where everyone speaks a different language than you?

Drive and make your own fun.
And Hostels are a great way to meet people, so . . . yeah.
posted by Seamus at 8:30 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Drive around out West. Take pictures. There's a hell of a lot of awesome scenery out there. Even if you're not much for hiking, just take a book and veg out at the Grand Canyon. Watch the light change through the day. Contemplate life while laid out on a blanket at 12,000 feet.
posted by notsnot at 8:31 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

What are you interested in?

When I was in your shoes - I did a trip with one of the Overland operators. You basically get a space in a converted truck, a bed in a tent, and the only rules are you have to be there when the bus leaves or tell the drivers when you are going to meet back up with them. Met some interesting people, some absolute freaks I'd never want to see again, but all in all a good time. It was also a pretty cheap way to see some very remote places.
posted by JPD at 8:34 AM on August 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Join Couchsurfing and the ThornTree Travel forums. Pick a place, either randomly or through a more deliberate search (this site also has tons of specific recommendations for different locations around the world and things to do there, do some poking around).

Go to one or many of your locations and look up Couchsurfers who live there, and see if you can find fellow travelers via ThornTree. Etc. If you're the sort of person that this sounds like fun to, it will be.
posted by dubitable at 8:37 AM on August 16, 2011

New Zealand, starting in December or January. Stay in backpackers and DOC huts on hikes. Make wonderful friends you end up traveling around the country with. Have adventures!

posted by jbenben at 8:45 AM on August 16, 2011

Well you can go to conventions, activities and then just start talking with people (such as DragonCon in Atlanta).

You can join a "singles" vacation or adventure vacation organized trip. For example "Call of the Wild" are women only trips.
posted by stormpooper at 8:59 AM on August 16, 2011

I've been to Europe on my own a couple of times - I've met some interesting people just talking to the guy next to me at a bar, or in hostels, and also spent a lot of quality time sitting in a cafe with a book. In March I went to PAX East and shared a hotel room with some random individuals from the Penny Arcade forums, who all turned out to be great people - I would expect that this kind of hotel-sharing is common to most conventions, and since you all have that shared interest, it works pretty well in my experience.
posted by jacalata at 9:09 AM on August 16, 2011

(some background - I'm a guy, and not looking to meet someone and whatnot. Had relationships recently and I'm not dying of loneliness, just doing the single thing for a bit)
posted by tmcw at 9:09 AM on August 16, 2011

I think you'll find most rugged trips geared towards singles are made up of a lot of men just out of relationships.
posted by JPD at 9:18 AM on August 16, 2011

I love traveling alone, people are super-nice if you're the least bit approachable.

But OMG OMG OMG OMG, came in to say, go on an Earthwatch expedition. The last "big" vacation I took was an archaeological dig with Earthwatch. You go somewhere for a week or two and you work your butt off, physically, at something fascinating and unfamiliar. It was the most relaxing two weeks ever. We were intellectually engaged and physically exhausted, so I slept like a log; we had virtually no internet access, so I actually got a break from my life; I met a ton of interesting people and had those people to pal around with on the weekend break ... it was the best thing ever.

My group tended towards people in their 50s and older, but there was a college student and other young people, too. But we went in September when school was in session, which probably made a difference. Memail me if you want more specifics.

Seriously the best thing ever.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:20 AM on August 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

(Oh, all your food, accommodations, etc., are taken care of. You just GO and DO and follow instructions, which is also pretty relaxing.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:21 AM on August 16, 2011

A few years ago I went to London by myself for work but extended the trip for a few days. London was a pretty awesome destination even by myself. Plus the language thing means you can chat with locals and not feel quite so alone.

Another option: if you've got a few dollars to spare and a friend with time but limited funds, offer to spring for a plane ticket for a trip you all take together. A friend offered me a similar deal when I was in college and he had a few more funds, and we had a great trip.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:40 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have [the opportunity] to travel for work, and the destination is appealing, it's a great excuse for a little vacation. Go out a few days early or stay a few days late.

Even as an Old Married Lady, I've found it very relaxing to extend my time at conferences. (Absence of the hubby is minus... mostly. ;) ) Work pays for the transportation and hotel during the conference, but I pay for a couple of extra days at the conference location out of pocket. Usually I need a vacation after a conference anyway; they're fun but exhausting.
posted by BrashTech at 9:49 AM on August 16, 2011

Go investigate something that interests you - the Grand Canyon, Eiffel Tower, etc. Start a bucket list. Decide to visit every National Park. Climb all the highest peaks on the East Coast/West Coast. Walk the Appalachian Trail one piece at a time. Or, make a list of all the great places near home that you've never seen, and start seeing them; I did this one summer and it was really fun. I suspect that if you haven't taken vacations, you also work too much, and you might really benefit from having a few hobbies to give you some work-life balance.
posted by theora55 at 9:52 AM on August 16, 2011

Hey, I am in the exact same situation as you except I am female and in a different major East Coast city. If you are interested in a travel buddy, hit me up on MeMail. I am trying to plan some trips for this fall and winter.

I have followed a lot of the suggestions others have posted here at one time or another -- visiting friends, going on tours, meeting people on the way, hanging out alone -- it's all good!
posted by unannihilated at 9:52 AM on August 16, 2011

Check out GAP Adventures. They have tons of interesting trips, some of which are for the under-30 crowd only. You can easily go by yourself and have fun. I did!
posted by cabingirl at 10:24 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know how much time you have or what your funds are, but you will possibly not have a lot of either for this sort of thing later in life, so I say go somewhere on the other side of the world, like New Zealand or Senegal or India or something. Grab a guidebook, peruse the net, and see some of the world's coolest stuff.
posted by mdonley at 10:25 AM on August 16, 2011

I love traveling alone, and it's completely normal and doable, especially if you're in your 20s. Don't even think twice about it.

If I were you, starting out from Denver, here's what I'd do. I'd rent a car and drive around the west, though the mountains and deserts and whatnot. As others have said, there's some great scenery out there. Pick a few places you want to see and just meander around. Stay in roadside motels and, where possible, hostels. Bring a good book, preferably more than one, preferably about the region you are visiting. Do not check your email or Facebook the entire time. Don't even worry too much about meeting people. Just zone out. It's incredibly relaxing.

The solo backpacker trip through Europe is also awesome, but if I were going to be out west, anyway, I'd stay around there rather than get on another plane and go to Europe. Do this next time you have enough time off, it's a very different experience.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:25 AM on August 16, 2011

I have traveled alone quite a bit and love it. No compromising on itinerary, no worrying about whether the rest of the group will be interested in the things you've chosen to do. You can waste as much or as little time eating meals as you want (I like to eat, but I'd rather not sit at a restaurant for 3 hours while on vacation unless the meal itself was the tourist attraction). Frankly, traveling alone is severely underrated.

Australia/New Zealand are a great place to go if you are a first time international traveler -- no language barrier and it feels familiar. Plus you can bounce from city to city easily on planes/trains/etc. Long flight from where you are, but worth it.

But if you're dead set on the Denver thing then I agree with a few of the other suggestions about getting a car and driving around the West.
posted by thorny at 10:42 AM on August 16, 2011

I pick an event I want to attend -- a music festival, a con, a concert, a crafting workshop, something, anything that gives me a date and a location -- and then plan my trip around that.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:44 AM on August 16, 2011

I've taken a package holiday to the Caribbean alone and enjoyed it. Some people say, 'how can you do that? you need to go with someone!' But I enjoyed the feeling of being close to the sea, spent a lot of time reading and swimming, liked watching the clouds and swaying palm trees, took naps with the curtain fluttering in the sea breeze. I think it was important that it wast to a very quiet-feeling destination, where people's aim was just to relax and where I did the same. I met a couple people who I enjoyed chatting with over drinks before or after dinner each day and didn't find it too hard to find minimal dose of social contact even without making an effort. The only time I felt at all lonely was at night, when I'd get back to my room to go to sleep and find myself feeling uneasy to be alone. Overall, it was a very good experience.
posted by Paquda at 10:45 AM on August 16, 2011

Only one more week in the 2011 season, but you might, still, get in some time at the Chautauqua Institution, or plan a visit for next summer. You could also devote a week or two to rafting the Grand Canyon. Or, if you're easy going, and get along with people, book yourself a Windjammer cruise, or a week on a French canal boat. You could book into a hotel in Chattanooga, and learn to paraglide off Lookout Mountain. Learn to SCUBA dive, or learn some other skill that you've been meaning to learn.
posted by paulsc at 11:08 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could take a trip with a group, like GAP Adventures already mentioned. I did a tour in Egypt with Imaginative Traveller. I met a bunch of really nice Australians and Canadians on the trip and had a great time. Most of us were in our mid-20s. It was nice because they took care of arranging tours and day trips, but you could opt out of them if you wanted to.
posted by apricot at 11:10 AM on August 16, 2011

There are plenty of travel tours from the old-folks kind to the adventurer kind. You can pick the traditional tour of Parisian landmarks or a tour that will take you safely through the favelas of Rio.

If you are inexperienced at traveling go on a tour otherwise buy a plane ticket to Amsterdam and play it all by ear.
posted by JJ86 at 11:40 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had a lot of fun traveling to Europe alone. Not as a backpacker, either; I bring a bag and stay in hotels, just like I do when I go with my wife. I like to go to a city like Amsterdam or London for four days or so, plan a day trip ... sometimes it's a little lonely, but a good kind of lonely. I find Amsterdam especially good for this, and suspect Prague would be too.
posted by troywestfield at 6:15 AM on August 17, 2011

Another solo (female) traveler here. I've traveled a bunch of different ways. A short list:

Solo road trip is great - stop when I want, listen to audiobooks and look out the window at new scenes all day. I usually plan road trips to include a few days staying with friends in an interesting place along the way. It's been a good chance to reconnect with cousins I hadn't seen since I was fairly young.

Solo "go to a place I've always wanted to see" can be well worth it, perhaps requires the most thought and/or planning. My favorite of these was a hiking trip in Scotland.

Solo "pick a city and stay for a week" is perhaps the easiest to arrange - I especially love London for this. So much to do, easy to get around.

Pay part of a friend's way to come along for company. I've covered part of my sister's way so she could afford to come with me on shorter trips. Mixed results traveling this way. I'm rather used to being on my own, makes planning the day a bit trickier as we have to decide on things together.

Find another solo traveler and plan something together. I went on a South African road trip with my aunt a few years ago, and visited India and Sri Lanka with another aunt and uncle some years before that.

Personally, I tend to stay fairly solo when I'm traveling alone. On those trips, I'll chat with strangers occasionally, but my main intent is to be on my own, following my own interests. While I enjoy company in travel sometimes, there's nothing better than being free to get completely lost in something that interests me for as long as I want, and not have to worry about someone else getting bored or hungry.
posted by dorey_oh at 9:04 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

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