Eat, Pray, Love (Myself)
December 26, 2018 7:51 AM   Subscribe

I was unceremoniously dumped just before the holidays by the person I thought I'd marry. After a decade of putting the needs of my partners first and my own needs second, I've vowed to spend 2019 getting to know myself better. In particular, I want to get past the mental hurtle that I can't do certain things (like travel, or buy my own house) without a partner. Please give me your best suggestions for group-based travel experiences, or otherwise living your best life while solo.

I've traveled quite a bit in the past, but it has always been with a partner or friends. My recent ex made a lot of promises about "traveling the world" together, and now that I'm single, I'm despairing not only about losing him but also losing the hopes and dreams that accompanied a life with him. I want to change that mindset and prove to myself that I can do these things on my own, and even enjoy it. I really want to go on an adventure -- ideally 2 weeks, group-based (I get really lonely and would like to share the experience with others), and culturally different (ie. not Canada, Western Europe or Australia). All suggestions and advice welcome. I'm trying to react to this significant breakup with optimism and hope, but it requires a huge flip in my mindset and I know it is not going to come easily.

If relevant, I'm straight, white, female, mid-30s, and was really hoping to be married/have children/own a home by now, and it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under me. I have no uncoupled friends left and most have children or are having children, and therefore do not have time to travel with me.
posted by tealcoffeecup to Human Relations (21 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am so sorry to hear about the breakup, but SO excited for you to travel alone. I know you said groups, but hear me out - traveling alone has become one of my greatest joys, and one of the things I regret not discovering until relatively late in life, too close to when I became a mom. The best part for me is the absolute freedom of it. Pick safe places of course. Places I've traveled alone: Costa Rica, Spain (oh my god, Majorca!), Italy, a few days in Rio and Lima (I found both very safe but understand they could make some people nervous). I'd pick a few sites I wanted to see (like to linger for a really long time in front of certain paintings? Great! There's no one else's time to have to be considerate of right now), and make it there in my leisurely time. Listen to audiobooks (Elena Ferrante took me to Italy, it worked SO well) as you walk, or just daydream. Bring another book for sitting at cafes and enjoying a coffee or a glass of wine. Learn to LOVE taking yourself to dinner. And just wander. This past summer I was again in Italy, but with my whole family, parents, brother, husband, baby, and I really missed being able to wander into little shops, smell the local soaps, examine the local olive oils, immerse in the local flavor, and not have to compromise with ANYONE about what the agenda was.

I know it may feel like after a few days you'll get tired of being with yourself, but it's actually a pretty wonderful experience to have that intimate self time. I know she's cheesy, but this Dear Alyne video popped up a few weeks ago for me, and it really captured the feel of how wonderful it is to travel on your own and be accountable only to your own wishes:

Good luck, I hope you enjoy every second of it. And that you meet a great partner soon.
posted by namesarehard at 8:07 AM on December 26, 2018 [33 favorites]

After a similar breakup, I went on a group tour/cruise of the Greek islands. My pro tip is that in retrospect, it doesn't matter in the least that I cried my way around the Cyclides. While I am confident I did, what I remember are the places I went and the things I saw, and very vaguely the people I was with on the tour.

FWIW I am married and still travel on my own. I went to Morocco last year and had such a nice time I'm going back next month.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:12 AM on December 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you don't want to travel all alone, you don't have to. My local Community Education program has several group trips each year. Generally you have to sign up like six months in advance and attend one or two planning meetings. Generally this is going to skew family and single women heavy and may not be exotic enough for you. Then there are companies like Rick Steves and National Geographic that have group trips. These are going to cost more, but will have more exotic options, too.
posted by soelo at 8:15 AM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I met one of my best friends on a women's culinary tour in Mexico. We've traveled a ton together since then, even though I was married when we met and I now have 2 little kids (she is/was single). A single friend of mine (late 30's) does group travel all the time and loves it - she just got back from two weeks in Australia.
posted by tealcake at 8:20 AM on December 26, 2018 [9 favorites]

It was here on the green that I got the recommendation for Slickrock which does small-group adventure/snorkeling trips to Belize. It was great, and easy to to do as a woman alone. If you're interested in that please message me directly, I have a couple caveats to mention.

Now, that said. I have travelled alone many places in the world, and ironically I was LESS lonely overall when I travelled alone, than when I went by myself on the group expedition. (Even though the other group members were nice and local staff flirted gallantly with me etc.) This is because when I went by myself I stayed in hostels, which are set up for people traveling alone, so there is always someone else (often several other solo travelers) to hang out and explore with. It's probably true that most of them are more 20's than 30's; but that's not such a gulf. Places like India and Thailand have accessible, social hostel economies for indie travelers.

Also: if you have money to throw at this, check your university's alumni publications. My alma maters sponsor absolutely fantastic sounding group trips, same type of thing that National Geographic does. I'd go in a heartbeat if I could afford it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:26 AM on December 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

tealcake, care to share the company name for the Mexico food tour?
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:30 AM on December 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I love hiking, and I have a friend who seems to go on the coolest adventures on solo trips. I asked her for tips since my partner, for a variety of reasons, doesn't travel and hates nature, and I'm not about to miss out on amazing experiences waiting on him. Here's what she told me:

'Often when I travel I book a group tour for part of the time, and the other half of my trip I do completely alone. I have found the group tours to be very rewarding, and always enjoyed the people I met. Whether or not you're interested in group tours, you'll probably still find these websites helpful. They are great just for getting ideas. You can read full itineraries, and then go ahead and plan the same trip yourself! '

Strength and courage - things will start looking up soon, and I really hope traveling fills your soul and gives you comfort.

On a related note that does not answer your question, I also wanted to send you here because the poem is amazing and seems relevant here:
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 8:32 AM on December 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

I traveled by myself in Thailand this summer and it was great -- like fingersandtoes suggests, I stayed in hostels and it was so easy to meet people (and I am on the far side of the "shy and anxious" spectrum). What was great about that was I could have people around whenever I wanted, but when I wanted to do my own thing I still could. Group tours can be nice, but it might be good to have the option of some alone time, too.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:35 AM on December 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I also love traveling alone, but sometimes don’t have bandwidth to figure out logistics and so forth, and for those trips I have been really happy with Intrepid travel. I’ve found them to be a good mix of ages and solo/family/couples, with everyone more interested in travel than partying (note though that I have only done the Original and Comfort tours, I think the Basic may skew a little younger). One thing I especially like about them is that they are not over-scheduled; there is a reasonable amount of free time to explore on your own or just relax.
posted by tinymojo at 8:54 AM on December 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

There are lots of travel companies that (in the U.K. at least) brand themselves as “adventure” holiday companies that are not exactly rap jumping down the Grand Canyon, but are just more interesting than your average package tour, and skew more towards a higher proportion of singles. I went to Cuba with Explore and the majority of the group were single women, maybe one or two men and one couple. It’s a good way to ease your way into lone travel if you’re not ready to totally go it alone. I’d previously travelled in Cuba on my own for a longer period, and they both had their own advantages - I felt more excited and adventurous alone, but was occasionally lonely and it was a bit stressful organising all the travel & accommodation for myself as I went. With the package holiday, it was lovely not having to think about any logistics, but it did also feel a bit more “cushioned” and distanced - I never had to ask any locals for help etc. On the organised trip, I skipped a couple of their organised excursions in favour of doing my own thing for half a day.

I can’t surf, but quite fancy going away with Surf With Amigas some day because their vibe and locations look cool. If there’s anything you either have as an existing hobby or fancy trying, hanging a holiday round it can be great - hiking, running, writing, meditating. It slightly increases your chances of finding the rest of the group are on your wavelength.

And my big tip, which I still need to work on myself - don’t be afraid, if you want to, to be extremely lazy. Stay in bed all morning occasionally etc. When I’m away on my own, I feel really guilty staying in my hotel room when there’s a whole city (or whatever) out there to explore. But travelling can be tiring, and especially so alone because you have to work everything out for yourself. So giving yourself permission to just close the curtains and stay put from time to time is important.
posted by penguin pie at 9:07 AM on December 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

Best answer: +1 for Intrepid! My tour was a good mix of ages and I liked most of the others on the trip (we're Facebook friends now). Tour companies typically offer an option to stay by yourself rather than with another person in the hotel rooms, for an extra fee - and I found that Intrepid's fees for this were much lower than other tour companies'. Having done a tour, I think I'd feel comfortable staying with another person next time, but for the first tour I wanted space to myself and it was a lot cheaper to get this with Intrepid than with the others I looked at.
posted by sunflower16 at 9:10 AM on December 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have a friend who goes on an Intrepid trip every year for her birthday, has done for years, has a fantastic time every time.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:17 AM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you like being active/biking, there are some really amazing guided bike tours. In most cases, you pick the region you want to visit and there is already a guided bike tour there. There is a lot of variety in the packages, so you can figure out your comfort level. You can do French wine country or Morocco. You can pick ones with support vans, or more self sufficient ones. Meals can be included and your lodging is planned ahead. If you like camping, some of them even have people who set up your camp site before you get there. There is a wide age range as well. I know people from from 20s-60s who have done this. Sometimes, they even plan really amazing adventures for you on your days off. I think bike touring is so nice because you get to see a place in detail but are still moving through and covering a lot of ground.

Also, someone else above suggested surf camps. My single female friend who is also in her 30s started doing those without ever having surfed before, and she swears by them.
posted by PorcupineQuills at 9:20 AM on December 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

I should also add that bike touring companies provide their own bikes, & also there is a wide array of options on the luxury range. Some of them can be really fancy.
posted by PorcupineQuills at 9:25 AM on December 26, 2018

Best answer: This may or may not be up your alley, but I went on an expedition with EarthWatch, where you join a scientific expedition somewhere in the world, do some scut work for the project, and learn a ton of stuff. I went on an archaeological dig on Hadrian's Wall and had a BLAST. During the day, we dug. In the evenings we could explore the town; on the weekend between the two weeks, they took us on a tour of nearby Durham. A lot of people stayed a few days before or after to tour London or elsewhere (I did not). They put you up in local accommodations with your trip-mates so you eat dinner with them and make friends.

There are some human-environment expeditions (archaeology, folk music, etc.) but most are wildlife and natural-environment related ... one of my brothers counted tree frogs in a rainforest and did various habitat observation things on the trip he took.

If your idea of a good time is learning fascinating new things, EarthWatch is awesome, best trip I ever took. And easy to go alone because you're with a group who are all also interested in that thing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:28 AM on December 26, 2018 [10 favorites]

There are group tours for just about any interest out there. But there is a spectrum. On the one end are small groups (<12) with dedicated guide exploring more or less interesting places with a degree of flexibility. On the other end are coach trips where you rock up at tourist hotspots and you and your 50 travel companions are told to get off and to explore for an hr...So if you’re new to the world of group travel work out where on the spectrum you would like to be and filter accordingly. I have been on several small group trips. It was never a problem if anybody wanted to sit out an activity or wanted to go off for a few hrs to do their own thing.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:36 AM on December 26, 2018

I want to cheer for you because being single in a pairs world is hard but can be tremendous at the same time! Sounds like you have a super attitude. +1 for Intrepid, only one trip so far but I'd do it again. You can also tack on a few days before or after the trip for some solo travel in a neat place, e.g. I'm looking at a couple trips that start or finish in Venice and I would plan a few extra days there to just go around on my own. That gets you some of the benefits of both. I've done plenty of solo travel and mostly enjoyed it but every extended trip has had some down time. I'll hit a great hostel where I click with people and have great social experiences and move on to the next place and just not. I do love not having to justify my decisions to ANYBODY. Want to nap in a hammock instead of going to a museum that day? Nap in the hammock. That applies to regular life as well as travel! The world is your oyster. YOU are your oyster.
posted by HaveYouTriedRebooting at 9:38 AM on December 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

When I travel alone I stay in hostels and that tends to mean I meet people who actively want to meet new people and explore together. I’ve met some lovely people this way.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:40 AM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Breakups are hurtful no matter who does them and when, although holiday breakups are especially painful.

Be sure to take time to grieve what you thought would be.

To the "living your best life while solo" point : now is the time to explore potential interests at home. Musical instruments, photography, woodworking, handicraft, cooking, film clubs, learning another language in preparation for travel... Depending on where you live there is probably a small universe of options. is as always a good resource.

Life with a partner often means you have to say no to many roads you might otherwise have traveled. Having kids really forecloses your options. You may come to see this time as a bounty of opportunity and a gamechanger. I wish you well in your exploration.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 10:11 AM on December 26, 2018 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Some of my fondest memories are of traveling in the US and elsewhere with amateur music ensembles. I don't know if you are keen on church, but many church choirs will take domestic or international trips regularly and you might find that the combination of travel and group music-making is quite satisfying.
posted by pingzing at 6:21 PM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

My Pro tip would be to go somewhere and take a language class. They're generally filled with other people that are travelling or new to the area, looking to meet other people and go on adventures.
posted by xammerboy at 9:34 PM on December 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

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