6 Things I Can’t Do Because I Travel Solo

Traveling solo is stellar. You go at your own pace; you do exactly what you want to do; you eat and sleep when your body needs to without negotiating with another’s biological needs and travel priorities. But of course there are things that I can’t do–I’m just one person (try as I might to do the work of many). And you know what? I don’t care. It doesn’t slow me down a bit. In fact, it would slow me down, which is why I don’t do these 6 things.

I’m traveling across the United States, living in an RV. This isn’t like backpacking through Europe in my twenties, where I made friends at every hostel and border crossing. Sure, every day I meet folks at a campground, but our relationship ends the minute either they or I drive away. The chances of us going in the same direction–or even at the same pace–are slim to none. Admittedly, I don’t know anything about RTW (round the world) travel as an adult, but in my (ignorant?) imagination, it’s similar to my backpacking memories and finding buddies is rather easy. You may keep the bag with the computer and passport on your body at all times, but you can divvy up the tasks of train schedules and lodging.

I’ve got no one to divvy with. So this one-woman-show has learned to adjust expectations–of myself and experiences–and to simply do what needs to get done.

6 Things I Can’t Do Because I Travel Solo

  1. Hike wherever and wherever I want. It’s simply not prudent to go trekking on an empty trail. For miles and miles. By myself. So I stick with the easier and shorter trails, which are by nature (pun) more populated. I’ll also put a sign in the car window that I’m a solo hiker and if I’m not back by sundown to call my family, their numbers provided. I may not get the sense of accomplishment from a many-mile hike, but I absolutely get to enjoy the beauty. And lately I find myself more interested in photography than trekking, and for me, they’re mutually exclusive–it’s hard to make distance when you stop every few feet to admire, frame, adjust camera settings. Win:Win–artistry and activity.
  2. Save on Gas Prices. Apps help you find the cheapest gas within a five-mile radius. To take advantage of this tool, I would have to stop driving to look it up, figure out which direction I’m going in relation to where the gas is, and then get there to save a fraction of a penny. My gut told me it’s not worth it. Since I’m truly not good at math, I called my brother who is, and he ran the numbers, determining that I could save maybe $100 over the course of the year–not worth my time or hassle or safety of finding a place to pull over my rig. If I had a travel partner, s/he could research while driving and then we could put that $100 to good use. But time IS money; and so is sanity. Done and done.
  3. Drive Until I’m Tired. Since I don’t have the buddy mentioned in #2, there’s no one to look up campgrounds while driving–I have to make a reservation in advance, based on estimated drive time. It’s kinda like “Name That Tune”–I can drive that route in four hours, George DeWitt. Towing an RV is exponentially more tiring than regular driving. Contending with the wind, fighting pressure when 18 wheelers pass, the weight of an extra 5,000 pounds becomes physical in the steering wheel. So I can only drive for a few hours at a time. If I were traveling with a pal, we could wing it and find a campground on the way when tired started to hit–maybe sooner, maybe later. But by traveling solo, I commit to a destination–despite energy highs and lows. If energy wanes, I stretch, get protein, go for a walk, open the window. And if it’s really bad, pull over and find a place closer to where I am and incur cancellation fees. When facing exhaustion behind the wheel, I’d much rather incur a nominal cancelation fee than an accident.
  4. Do It All On My Own. I’m dependent on the kindness of strangers. Try as I might, I cannot hitch my SUV and trailer by myself. I’ve put tape on each, placed perfectly for a theoretical match. But I’ll be damned if I can actually back up to make the connection happen. So off I go, looking for folks who are out and about to help. I also can’t back up by myself. Oh hell no. Men offer to do it for me, but I need to learn, so I let them spot me. Progress has been made: I’m no longer embarrassed by my complete ineptitude. It is what it is.
  5. Set Up Camp Quickly. I look with envy at the couples who set up and pack up at the campground. While one is contending with the hitch, the other is managing the water and electricity connections. It takes them half the time it takes me. But chances are good I have half the bickering that they do.
  6. Multi-Task. I can’t cook and plan a trip at the same time. Trust me, I’ve tried. I can’t run errands and edit photos simultaneously–surprising as that sounds. So things take longer (see #5). It also means everything gets my full attention. It likely would if someone were sharing chores with me, so that’s not really a bonus. It’s just the way things are. Sure, help would be nice, but so would a personal masseur. I’m already living an incredible unreality of full-time travel; I can contend with chores and creativity fighting for their time in the day.

In truth, handling life and obstacles while traveling solo is just the same as handling them solo “at home.” I find people to help; I Google for answers; I have a glass of fruity vodka; I move on.

The difference? I’m traveling!

***

How do you change when solo vs with others?

7 Responses

12.20.12

You have a practical attitude. And hey, not everyone in the world is part of a couple. Knowing how to do as much as you can on your own, like backing up that trailer, is most important. Then you can get other people to help when necessary. Such as when you can’t fasten the catch on the bracelet on your right hand because you’re right handed. (My, that’s lame compared to what you do.) Carry on, girl!

Jeannine. Oh, I can’t put on a bracelet either. Can barely open a bottle of wine. Hang a level shelf? Forget it! It takes a village for more than just to raise a child.

12.20.12

Another outstanding post. Perspective, attitude, solutions, more perspective. I respect and admire your many accomplishments in the details of this adventure.

Stacy. Even Wonder Woman needed her bracelets and invisible airplane… 🙂

12.20.12

I think it is unconscionable not to have someone to bicker with! Think of aall your opinions that go unchallenged.

Dick. Nice use of unconscionable. Thanks for the laugh. And touché.

Traveling alone, I tend to spend more time in museums that interest me because I read everything—even if it’s in a language that is only remotely connected to a language I actually know. (I.e.: I speak Spanish, so that’s close enough to other Romance languages for me to get the gist of what I’m reading—albeit slowly). When traveling with my husband, we split up in museums and arrange a time to meet (to lessen that bickering thing to which you alluded).

I admire your willingness to go it alone rather than not go at all.
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