Holidaying alone - how do you do it awesomely?
January 11, 2013 5:34 AM   Subscribe

I've got my week in the Canaries booked, and I'm going with only books, music, and pen/paper for company. Have you holidayed alone, and what made it extra awesome?


- I've got a small budget to spend on activities such as snorkelling etc but not a huge amount
- I'll be hiring a bike to get around, no car
- I'm female and in my late 20s, reasonably sane and safe
- I'd like to socialise a bit, but I'm also perfectly happy in my own company

Thanks in advance for any suggestions :)
posted by greenish to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Oooh, room service. I like dining alone, but nothing makes me feel better than having a long luxurious meal on the balcony.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:37 AM on January 11, 2013

Have you holidayed alone, and what made it extra awesome?

Not having to consult anyone for a change of plans. Have at least a day with nothing to do, and just see what pops up.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:46 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

Take a camera!
posted by mdonley at 5:46 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I took a two-week trip on my own, it really helped me to keep a blog and post pictures to it (and link it to my Facebook account). Being able to share my trip with friends and family helped me feel more connected. I brought a small netbook with me, but a smartphone would work as well. Have fun! I love traveling solo.
posted by payoto at 5:50 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Writing postcards (or travel journal, whatever) at the bar can be a good way to keep yourself occupied while not closing you off from other people like reading a book can.
posted by mskyle at 5:51 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

When I was in a span of non-dating for a while, I decided that I needed a vacation (hadn't had one in years), so I decided that what I was going to do on my vacation was the ultimate non-activity: fishing. I found a spot, bought some gear, and spent a week fishing, reading, and not much else. What I like about fishing, is that you can choose your activity level from none to moderate.
posted by plinth at 5:51 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think it's different for everyone, but when I spend weekends or holidays by myself, I love to savor every moment of waking up, getting ready, taking my time with my hair/outfit, listening to fantastic, soothing music, eating delicious food, wearing my best clothes, smelling amazing candles--focusing on what makes me feel good. I can't do that everyday. I can rarely, if ever, do that.

It's hard to do that when you're with a group of people and you have to abide by their time, their wants, and compromise. On my solo trips, I don't compromise. I do exactly what I want to do and enjoy all the small stuff. That's what makes it special.

Oh, and if you ever beat yourself up for making little mistakes, like waking up too late or spending a little too much money or making social gaffes, take this as an opportunity to stop. When I spend quality time alone, I treat myself with an indulgent amount of kindness. I don't tell myself I'm silly or scold myself. I just relax and love myself.

Have fun!
posted by rhythm_queen at 5:55 AM on January 11, 2013 [10 favorites]

Kind of from the opposite side, something I noticed about myself and traveling alon that I didn't like, and a caution against it. When I was younger and doing a lot of traveling, I found that, n my own, when I was going from point A to point B, I put my head down and was too focused on getting there. When traveling with others, I was constantly looking at what others pointed out to me, and in turn keeping an eye out fo things others would be interested in.

Now, when doing something on my own, realize I need to make a conscious effort to slow down and look around from time to time, and enjoy the fact that I don't really have a reason to be in a hurry. Stroll, don't march, meander, don't find the shortest route.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:58 AM on January 11, 2013

Best answer: I'm also a woman, in my 40's, and most of my travel has been solo to the point that I even prefer it. (In fact, the Canaries is one place I've thought of going as well!)

One thing can take care of both your budget and with socializing - staying in a youth hostel. You don't necessarily need to be a member of the international hosteling organization to stay in one, and you don't need to be a "youth" even (I stayed in one last year, and there were 3 other women my age or older just in my room - one was a grandmother in her 60's!). There are also other hostels not part of the IYH system that work similarly (in the sense that you don't have to be a member to stay there). You'll typically be in a room with a few other people, but that helps with the socializing, and can also help with travel tips (I often spontaneously change travel plans if I get back to my room and the Dutch girl is raving about some awesome thing she'd just done that day and insisting everyone else check it out or whatever). There's often a kitchen on hand for you to use, which also helps with socializing (if there are four or five of you all cooking in the same room, invariably someone needs to borrow pepper from someone else, and then that breaks the ice and you all start getting into, "ooh, what are YOU making" or "hey, where'd you find an avocado in town" conversations).

I find that having a "local spot" for breakfast can help you out too; a little coffee shop that you find near the hostel (or sometimes there's such a spot IN the hostel) where you can look over your plans for what you're going to do that day while you're having coffee or Fruit Loops or whatever. It's a gentle way to ease into the day. Or maybe it's not breakfast - the last time I was in New Orleans I became a pseudo-regular at this old-school "Internet Cafe", which was just a storefront with about 10 computer setups and a Mr. Coffee machine in the corner. The guy who ran the place was my favorite kind of zany, and I ended up shooting the shit with him for a few minutes every time I stopped in.

That brings up another good point - if you're alone, that kind of pushes you to strike up conversations with strangers, and that's always fun. Locals also have the best advice for places to eat and things to do. And if you're female, you may want to make a cop be one of the locals you talk to; they definitely know the area and are probably also on a bit of a budget themselves (I don't think cops ANYWHERE get paid exorbitantly), and they may spontaneously offer safety tips as well once they figure out you're a woman all on your own. (That happened to me in New Orleans as well; I stopped a cop to ask for a restaurant recommendation, and we ended up in this fantastic conversation where he gave me his cell phone number to call if I ran into danger, and then he gave me a map and some official New Orleans Police Department mardi gras beads!)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:11 AM on January 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

I think holidaying alone is mostly about attitude. If you don't really want to socialise much, and don't put out effort, you can't sit there and sulk when no one talks to you. If you do want to socialise, you need to be proactive - go hang out in the lobby bar, etc. But mostly: be happy with your choices, or change them. Don't get pissy because you got what you wanted.
posted by Kololo at 7:20 AM on January 11, 2013

Best answer: If you're only there for a week, I'd recommend going on a good all day tour -- snorkeling, whatever, on day one or two. One, you'll see the island, and two, spending all day with a small group of people is a pretty good way to make some friends for the rest of your stay.
posted by empath at 8:01 AM on January 11, 2013

Seconding staying in hostels. This takes care of socialization, since if I want to be with people, I just hang out in the common areas. There is the possibility of ad hoc group trips or activities. It also is a safety thing. If I don't come back one night, the women in my room will notice.
posted by QIbHom at 9:44 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I travel alone quite a bit, and love it. One thing that I do is to do some research in advance and see what there is to do and see in the area that I might likeā€”but I don't make a detailed schedule in advance. My research essentially amounts to a list of "things I might like to do," and nothing more. I don't actually pick what I'm going to do on a given day until I get up in the morning and say to myself, "what do I feel like doing today?" And then I have my list of Things I Might Like To Do if I want some ideas and see if anything there catches my fancy, or I can ignore my list completely if I heard about something else that's not on my list, or if I don't feel like doing much of anything. I do try to put a mix of "indoor" and "outdoor" activities on my list of Things I Might Like To Do, so that I have some options regardless of the weather.

I occasionally make exceptions to my "don't decide until that day what I want to do" policy for things I really want to do and for which reservations must be made or tickets must be bought in advance, but that's fairly rare, for me.

You might think of my style of solo travel as "advance research but not advance planning." But that's not to say it's objectively better than the person who wants to just go and see what's there when they get there, or the person who likes to have every day planned out in advance. It's what works for me. Maybe that style works for you too; maybe not. But with solo travel, you can choose how much or little advance thought works for you, and not have to worry about travelling companions who might have a different preferred style.

I'd like to socialise a bit, but I'm also perfectly happy in my own company

If you're going to go the route of listing Things You Might Like To Do in advance, have a mix of group and solo activities, so you have options based on whether you feel like socializing or not at any given time.

Don't feel like you have to be doing anything at all, either. On my longer solo trips, I've found that every once in a while I just want to hole up in my room all day and read or surf the web or whatever. And the first few times I did this I felt vaguely guilty that I wasn't going out and seeing things or doing stuff in the area that I might never have the chance to do again, especially if the weather was nice. But after a few times of this I said to myself, "dammit, this is MY vacation, and if I just want to sit in my room and read all day rather than going out and 'doing' things, THAT'S OK TOO." And I haven't felt bad about doing that since, on those days where that's what I decided to do.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:33 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I did this early last year. What made it awesome for me was long walks up large hills and talking to all the people on the way. I met some fantastic people that way.

Further to DevilsAdvocate's comment about not having an itinerary, in a way that's right but let's expand on that a bit. Find out the things that you might like to do in a day - for me it was long hikes with scenery, and visiting places of historical interest. Make a list of those things. Then, each day when you get up in the morning, look at the list and you can say "today I want to do THAT one!" or "Today's my chilling out day".

Decide based on what you feel like when you get up, you won't regret it.
posted by fearnothing at 11:47 AM on January 11, 2013

Or maybe I should make sure my brain doesn't bank out halfway through reading his answer and realise that's exactly what he said already. D'oh.
posted by fearnothing at 11:49 AM on January 11, 2013

i have always tried to schedule some things ahead, when alone vacations present themselves (usually because I have some bookending time before or after a conference that work is financing -- sometimes a whole week...) You will see from my recent 'anxious' question that I get anxious about vacations whether with my husband or solo, and planning things helps to quell it.

Others have suggested tours - if you're trying to decide between them, look at those which will induce socializing with others (or ask the tour operators). You could look for tours where others are also singletons, because people in groups will be less likely to reach out. guidebooks like the lonely planet and rick steeves (including the websites) might be helpful in this regard. i have had luck checking out the quirky things lonely planet describes.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 3:26 PM on January 11, 2013

Best answer: I have travelled alone extensively.

Vary your activities. Change it up every few hours - read for a while, then go for a walk, get something to eat, go to the beach, read some more, etc.

Talk to people. Make friends and even if they aren't doing something that you find interesting, go along. Some of my best experiences happened that way.

Write a blog or a journal. It's a good time for some creativity to shake out.

Don't spend much time communicating with people back home - that's what always messes me up. Makes me lonely, homesick, whatever.

posted by guster4lovers at 3:51 PM on January 11, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone - I've marked as best the ones which I will definitely use but they're all really great suggestions!
posted by greenish at 4:12 AM on January 15, 2013

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