What's worse, traveling alone or lying around on a couch?
November 27, 2006 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Should I go on vacation? It's use it or lose it time for my vacation hours at work. None of my friends/family are able or willing to join me on vacation, and I don't know what to do.

I'm not sure that I would enjoy going on a trip by myself. I'm not goo at meeting new people (I'm not an introvert but I am tremendously shy to the point of social phobia). On the other hand I don't have any unfinished projects around the house, and staying at home isn't that appealing. Does the great hive mind have any advice or experience? Also for those who have vacationed by themselves any suggestions on where a mid 20's male might enjoy himself?
posted by nulledge to Travel & Transportation (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Why does taking vacation mean you have to travel anywhere? Why can't you use the time off to relax at home or take care of any personal projects you might have?
posted by MegoSteve at 10:03 AM on November 27, 2006

I don't like to travel alone either but when I've been in your situation in the past I've:

1) Gone off to visit friends in distant places in the world.
2) Gone off to a remote cabin/hotsprings with lots of books and no Internet access where I write, read, think, sit in saunas, get massages.
3) Stay in town. Sleep in. Meet working friends for lunch. Get aforementioned massages in the afternoon. Read in cafes or parks.
posted by vacapinta at 10:06 AM on November 27, 2006

Go for it. I've met some wonderful people while travelling by myself. See it as an opportunity overcome your introversion. A packaged tour might relieve some of your anxiety.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:09 AM on November 27, 2006

I go on road trips at least once a year by myself, and have great envy for the position you find yourself in.

Depending on where you live, and what you like, a drive around south can be rather nice this time of year - esp the desert southwest, which is ugly hot in the summer. I personally am able (and willing - easier to get up for sunrise) to sleep in the car, but this being the offseason (not yet ski-bum season) may afford you some great hotel rates.

As for social phobias, I only wind up talking to the people I choose to talk to, with the exception of a few gas-station attendants and park-entrance rangers.
posted by notsnot at 10:10 AM on November 27, 2006

Odd as it may sound, Las Vegas is actually a great place to vacation alone. Because there are so many conventions, there are tons of people by themselves, so the restaurants etc. are used to it. You can stay somewhere glam for cheap, and get spa services, room service, etc. This time of year it's not crazy hot, either, so you can walk around a bit and see the freaky sights.
posted by miss tea at 10:11 AM on November 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Definitely don't lose your vacation time! That would be like taking your paycheck and throwing it in the trash.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:11 AM on November 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yes you should absolutely take the vacation time. You earned it and don't want your boss to think you're someone who doesn't use their time off.

vacapinta's suggestions are all good, here are some more:
* Take a trip where you learn to ski/write fiction/speak french/etc.
* Help a family member with an unfinished project they may have - maybe your grandmother's house needs painting, or your brother could do with some help in the garden or something
* Do Christmas shopping.
* Take one of those accelerated one-week long professional courses universities always have.
* Take in some tourist attractions at home that you probably haven't seen since you were a kid.
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:14 AM on November 27, 2006

Why does taking vacation mean you have to travel anywhere? Why can't you use the time off to relax at home or take care of any personal projects you might have?

Because I haven't left Florida since 2000, and I've only take 3 trips out of town since then as well. I really want to get away, but I want to enjoy myself.
posted by nulledge at 10:15 AM on November 27, 2006

Facing the same question a few years ago I spent a week in Paris on my own. It was great. I didn't meet new people -- I didn't want to meet new people, as an introvert -- and that was just fine.
posted by waldo at 10:16 AM on November 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Couch very much loses out to travelling alone.

How about visiting some museums? It's a solitary activity, even when you're with someone, usually. You can leisurely spend as much time as you want, unpressured by having to care for your companions.

On long business trips in the past, I have often taken an extra day to visit Civil War battlefields, and believe me, no one wants to do that with you! Perfect type of thing to do with extra alone time.

Consider the forced solitude a feature, not a problem! You've earned your time off and can allow yourself the luxury of how you consume it.
posted by FauxScot at 10:17 AM on November 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

Take your vacation! If you haven't taken it, chances are that you need the break, no matter how the break is spent.

Personally, I'm quite happy puttering around the house when I have a vacation with no plans. When I get shack-wacky, I like to take the opportunity to go out and see things in my city I wouldn't normally take the time to see. Just having the rest and opportunity to do whatever you want to do will feel really good.

Since you don't think you'd enjoy hanging around your house/town, I'd go with any of the other suggestions here. My husband went to Vegas alone, and he enjoyed himself. If you are into sports, you can sit and bet on sports all day. (He learned a lot about horse racing that way, which is a nice way to gamble and not feel obligated to spend a whole lot of money at once.)

Good luck!
posted by melissa at 10:24 AM on November 27, 2006

I love travelling by myself. You don't have to be good at meeting new people, if you don't want to be. Yes, I know some people who travel by themselves love to strike up random conversations with the people they meet. I don't. I mostly stick to the basics of necessary interaction, and I'm just fine with that. (I assume your social phobia isn't so extreme that you can't order a meal in a restaurant, for example. If it is, maybe you should be seeking help for that.) Meeting random strangers may be a motivation for some people to travel alone, but it's not the only reason to do so, and I enjoy travelling alone while mostly avoiding meeting random strangers.

As for what to do, that depends a lot on what kind of person you are. I love to get out into nature when I travel alone--walking along lakeshores, walking in the forest, etc. Check out some state parks (if you're in the US; provincial parks in Canada are good; dunno about other countries)--there's probably dozens in your state. National parks may get all the media attention, but a lot of state parks are great for just wandering along the trails. But that's what I (mid-30s male) like. YMMV.

If you don't want to go far, maybe you could take a vacation in your own city. Sleep at home, but during the day, get out and do the sorts of things that are available that tourists in your area do, but locals rarely seem to get around to. If you're in a halfway-decent sized city, surely there are museums nearby which you've either never been to, or haven't been to in far too long.

The best part of travelling alone is that I don't have to worry about anyone else's needs or desires. I go when I want to, stop when I want to, eat when I want to, and stay at a site for as long or as little as I want to. Much as I love my family and enjoy spending time with them, a solo vacation is infinitely more relaxing for me, for that reason.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:27 AM on November 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

People who take vacations live longer.

If you want to travel, get into a tour of some kind. Often really well informed people can make the boring quite interesting.

If you don't want to travel, then eat out locally, visit places you never got around to seeing... and visit someone with small children.
posted by ewkpates at 10:29 AM on November 27, 2006

Traveling by yourself can be a great experience, if you go into it with the right attitude. If you approach it as second-best because no one else could travel with you, you're less likely to have a good time. But if you see it as an opportunity to enjoy your own company, see some new sights, try new activities, and (possibly) meet new people, then you're almost assured of a good time.

As far as suggestions, it would help to know how much vacation time you have, what your budget is, if you are interested in traveling abroad or staying domestic, and what some of your interests are.
posted by scody at 10:29 AM on November 27, 2006

As far as suggestions, it would help to know how much vacation time you have, what your budget is, if you are interested in traveling abroad or staying domestic, and what some of your interests are.

I need to take a minimum of 1 week, but I have up to 4 weeks to use. I don't have a large budget to work with, around $750. International travel is appealing, but the budget may limit that.

Interests: Sociology, Politics, Baseball, Literature.

Vacations/Destinations that do interest me but aren't happening right now; SXSW festival, Cannes, Sundance, Pitchfork, Coachella, MLB Spring Training Road Trip.

Thanks so much for the advice so far everyone.

DevilsAdvocate, I really do love camping and as a teenager/kid I've hit most every state park, and every major national park up the eastern seaboard, and a couple in Ontario. And I would jump at the prospect of going camping, but I did learned long ago that camping by myself isn't for me. Too much time alone with my thoughts never ends well.
posted by nulledge at 10:52 AM on November 27, 2006

Baseball, Literature

Easy. Cooperstown, NY.

Probably not a week's worth of stuff there, but maybe a few days in NYC before/after if you have friends to crash with (budget precludes a hotel stay in NYC).
posted by Rock Steady at 11:00 AM on November 27, 2006

There should never, ever be any question as to whether one should take vacation time.
Take it.
And, if you really don't want to travel, just do all the things you never get to do...go to a movie in the daytime on a weekday. Read a stack of books while entrenched at a fave coffee shop for a day. Go to those local museums you never get to.
You get the idea.
But never, never, never debate whether to take your vacation time.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:05 AM on November 27, 2006

Work on some kind of voluntary project in a location that interests you?

It might involve some interaction with others but not necessarily too much (assisting with forestry/conservation in a favourite national/state park?), and if it did, it could be ruled by the work in hand, rather than having to do the getting-to-know-random-strangers routine, which I imagine you dread. You would be busy enough to not have to listen to your own thoughts bouncing off the walls, learn a few new skills, and be absorbed enough in something new to forget work for a while.
posted by penguin pie at 11:14 AM on November 27, 2006

I'm not sure that I would enjoy going on a trip by myself. I'm not goo at meeting new people (I'm not an introvert but I am tremendously shy to the point of social phobia).

You can certainly travel without having to act "sociable" and make friends. With your interests [Sociology, Politics, Baseball, Literature] you might have a great time in DC. Go to the many museums. Get a pass to visit the gallery of the House or Senate. Go to The Library (you know the one I mean). Incidentally, DC is also beautiful this month because of the holiday decorations and events. All of these things are great to do on your own.

Personally, when I was in my early and mid 20s I really enjoyed wandering by myself in cities like San Francisco, DC, New York, Baltimore. Wish I could go back and do that some more.
posted by Robert Angelo at 12:27 PM on November 27, 2006

Robert, I've lived in DC on two seperate non-consecutive occasions. But tell me more about San Francisco.

waldo did you do anything different in Paris because you were traveling alone?
posted by nulledge at 12:33 PM on November 27, 2006

Two suggestions:

1) Hostels over hotels. Hotels when you're travelling alone are too expensive and too isolating. It's very easy to not meet anyone when you're staying in a hotel unless you make an effort, which you sound like you won't tend to do given what you've written. Hostels actually take effort to not meet anyone, and people are much friendlier in general. There are lots of hostels in the US and Canada that no one even knows about. You could start somewhere and wander around as you choose.

2) Look into SunTrek or TrekAmerica. Half tour / half camping trip and really cheap. Mostly young singles, so it would be perfect for you -- if it wasn't the winter. Their primetime is summer, so the options are very limited.
posted by smackfu at 12:53 PM on November 27, 2006

Roadtrips are great, you could fly somewhere warm and rent a car and explore. Bring music.
or go to the beach if you want to relax.
I am not a social person, by nature, yet roadtrips or trips where I have a specific goal seem to work out well.
Vacations don't have to be about meeting people. They can just be travel or relaxing or research or adventure.
Go to Manhattan. There is a lot to see and everyone is busy, so you won't have to deal with them so much.
posted by henryis at 12:54 PM on November 27, 2006

Because I haven't left Florida since 2000, and I've only take 3 trips out of town since then as well. I really want to get away, but I want to enjoy myself.

Try and find someplace that has things that genuinely interest you, whether you meet other people or not. For example, if you like museums, maybe travel somewhere with some great museums to check out. That's the kind of thing that you can really take your time and enjoy and appreciate by yourself. Get a travel guide to the area you want to check out, and do some sightseeing. You don't have to have company to enjoy a trip elsewhere. Heck, half the time when I am traveling with people, I spend a few hours by myself wandering around and then meet up with them at mealtime!

(And you can enjoy meals by yourself too. Don't feel weird about that. I used to until I noticed lots of people sitting by themselves enjoying a book along with a tasty meal.)
posted by tastybrains at 1:08 PM on November 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you like the idea of backpacking (anywhere - in the states, in europe, in south america), then don't let going alone stop you! Hostels are practically designed for solo travellers, and they are full of people traveling by themselves who are interested in meeting other people. (I went backpacking alone for 6 months and spent a cumulative total of 4 days on my own.)

Or pick somewhere that has a lot to do - you won't even notice being alone because you'll be busy! I recently went to NYC for a long weekend by myself, spending all day looking in museums or wandering around sightseeing kept me occupied and I had great time with myself!

Or, why not sign up for some kind of group trip? There's lots of those around for people in their 20s.
posted by Kololo at 1:13 PM on November 27, 2006

Oh, you're in Florida. Head down to the keys for some snorkeling. There are many places that will take you on day trips. Snorkeling in Bahia Honda is amazing and you can do it from shore.

Or take an interest in collecting aquatic animals. With a fishing license, you can collect x number of ornamental fish per day. Even if you release them, its FASCINATING checking out the local wildlife.

Whatever you do, use the time. Heck, make a project if you don't have any. If you let it go to waste though, you'll regret it.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:26 PM on November 27, 2006

If I were in your shoes, I'd get one of Club Med's last minute deals (or something similar) and lounge around drinking umbrella drinks and reading mindless page turners.
posted by GarageWine at 1:33 PM on November 27, 2006

Robert, I've lived in DC on two seperate non-consecutive occasions. But tell me more about San Francisco.

So many Mefites live there that I'm sure they can give you better advice than I can about what to do and where to go. What I did, when I was there at age 22, was to buy a Muni pass good for the length of my stay. That allowed me to ride almost wherever I wanted to go in the City. However, as often as not I would ride --half-- the way and get out and --walk-- the rest of the way, allowing me to take in architecture, scenery, street scenes, etc. Essentially, I did the best I could to explore and allow things to happen.

Great museums there, of course, and the Civic Center buildings were exquisite. Part of the time I went visiting places I'd seen in movies -- the Palace of the Legion of Honor [what was that in?], the Hyatt from High Anxiety, and so on. And of course, the City has been the inspiration for so many books [you mentioned Literature]. For your interest in Sociology, what place in America has such an image (fairly or not) of being a springboard for social change -- from the Gold Rush days on.

I'm sure you can find much to interest you there. :-)
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:02 PM on November 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

How about a cruise? Sometimes they offer cruises that have themes you may be interested in and we found while eating meals you had the option of sitting with other people during dinner if you wanted.
posted by Gooney at 3:16 PM on November 27, 2006

As Robert points out, San Francisco is a walking city. Just find a cheap flight, find some place to stay (like Elements) and walk around!

There are plenty of previous ask.mefi questions on things to see and do here. And the city is packed with other single people. You could also get a metafilter meetup together while you're here.
posted by vacapinta at 3:21 PM on November 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm in the same situation and I took off every Friday for the rest of the year. If you still have more days, take Mondays off too. There's nowhere far away that I'm yearning to visit and I don't want to blow a bunch of money just for the hell of it. However, I can think of plenty of day trips I could take on a weekday. I hate dealing with crowds and will usually skip an event that I know is going to be wall-to-wall people. I use days like this to go to a museum, new blockbuster movie, shopping - anywhere that's really crowded on the weekends.
posted by bda1972 at 11:11 PM on November 27, 2006

Outward Bound
These may not appeal to you but I've always found it easier to interact with people when I have specific "tasks" to do.
posted by BoscosMom at 1:03 AM on November 28, 2006

If I were in your shoes I'd be looking at finding a group going to New Orleans or other hurricane damaged areas to do cleanup/building work. Or just anything on Idealist. Or volunteering for the National Park Service. Or more generically, something at the Freedom Corps.
posted by phearlez at 2:28 PM on November 28, 2006

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