Une is the loneliest number

September 20, 2010 in Philosophy,Travel

Growing up as an only child, I quickly learned how to amuse myself. But even as I’ve grown older, I’ve always loved my alone time: to get lost in a book, to see whatever movie I want, to just be. No matter whether I’m in a relationship or living with my best friends, I still like doing things on my own.

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This has translated to being just fine traveling alone. I became a pro at cross-country flights before I hit double digits: visiting my grandparents in Florida for the summer meant a Lunchable, new batteries for my Discman and uninterrupted hours to read. When I couldn’t convince any friends to take a post-grad backpacking trip around Europe last summer, I went by myself—and while it had its ups and downs, I’m so thrilled that I went instead of waiting for someone to join. I quit my job to move to France without knowing a soul—and I’d like to think that it’s worked out for the better.

But as I gear up for one last trip before leaving France, I’m suddenly feeling lonely, instead of just alone. My grand plan was to quit my job a month before my flight back to the States and travel around France. I wanted to see more than just the Cote d’Azur and Paris, to experience the real France outside of its most touristed spots.

The problem is, so much of France is better with someone. Try to picture bike-riding through the vineyards of Cote d’Or and tasting the world’s best wines by yourself. Or slurping back oysters and sipping champagne at a table for one. A stroll around Lac Annecy, wandering through Paris by night, a gastronomic experience in Lyon…all toute seule. France is one of the world’s most romantic countries, and thus, most of its destinations are better à deux. Even having a girlfriend to roll eyes with when you see an saliva-swapping French couple is better than nothing.

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Plus, I’ve already hit the main tourist destinations in France—and there are only so many churches, castles and musées des beaux-arts that I can take. Thus, traveling to lesser-known places in France will focus on eating and wandering: two things that are fine by yourself, but almost always better when you have someone to chat with.

The cost of traveling by my lonesome is also adding up. I’d love to graduate out of backpacker dorms, but it’s really all I can afford. Bed and breakfasts, private hostel rooms or classy hotel rooms would all be affordable to share—but impossible by myself. Many of the destinations I’d love to visit aren’t easily accessible by train, but the cost of renting a car just isn’t financially (or environmentally) responsible as a single.

I still haven’t set an itinerary. Other than meeting a friend in Amsterdam and visiting a friend at Oxford, I’m still wavering about if I really want to do this. Will it end up being a delightful and unforgettable experience, or will I end up feeding my sorrows with dark chocolate and red wine? Will I even get up the guts to book travel and accommodation?

Any tips to tackle couple-friendly destinations on your lonesome?

  • Timothy

    “Dare to live the life you’ve dreamed for yourself. Move forward and make your dreams come true.”

  • Marisa

    Hi Christine,
    I’m reading your blog since before summer and I love it. I like to find blogs written by people who is alone (but no lonely!), it makes me feel that I’m not the only one and that life can be enjoyed as much as everybody else does (even more!). I love travelling but I always have the same problem, somebody with whom I can share the great experience of travelling. I did once, I travelled to Rome alone and I have to say that the last days I felt a little bit lonely, but at the same time I enjoyed a lot. Maybe we need to get used to it! Who knows, maybe you should go and experience it…
    Meanwhile watch this video, it’s inspiring!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs&feature=player_embedded

  • Christine, I completely get it. I too came here knowing no one and although I cherish my alone time and am proud of myself to have done it (and continue to) traveling is tough alone. You miss the shared moments and the laughter. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of visitors to share the little voyages with but now they’ve gone to their caves for the winter. A friend suggested couchsurfers.com. Have you heard of it? Check it out. It may help. The car thing is definitely a problem though. I don’t have one either and it really locks me up. Good luck with your last month. You have a place to stay in Aix en Provence…and someone to slurp oysters with!

  • I can understand your desire to travel with someone, but don’t let it hold you back from something you want to do. Staying in hostels you’ll meet other travelers that maybe want to go to the same places as you. Go to your first destination and ask around the hostels as you meet people. I bet you’ll find someone to share it with, and if not… go have the adventure yourself.

  • Traveling solo doesn’t always mean traveling alone. I would say most of my travels in Central America have been with someone I’ve met. It’s different but can be so much more fun in so many ways.

    Embrace it and I promise you’ll have a great time.

  • That’s truly my fear of traveling solo – being lonely. Having only “my” memories, not “ours.” Unless there is someone in particular that you would like to spend these moments with, I say do it now. Do it while you’re there and then maybe one day you’ll get to do it again with someone else! First time reader & can’t wait to see more!

  • Derran

    I often jump in my car, catch a ferry over the English channel and drive around europe for a week. And I can relate to everything you just wrote.

  • Candice

    Being alone is a scary thought. So much that I’ve been indecisive about where to go, the imminent danger lurking, the loneliness feeling en route, language barrier, etc. For several months I still yet to put down a plan. Maybe I should start small and travel in U.S first working up the courage to do international adventure. That is what I probably end up doing. Reading your posts really encourages me more. Thanks.. :). Happy traveling!!

  • You should join Couchsurfing!!!!!! You would make a lot of awesome friends from there! I always prefer traveling solo, but I know that when you’re in romantic places it can definitely feel lonely. What a gorgeous pic of you!

  • I see your friend GlobalButterfly beat me to the couch. I was going to recommend you join Couchsurfing, and spend a month hopping from couch to couch. Not only will you make a lot of friends that way, you’ll save a lot of money, too. And even if you don’t spend the night at a Couchsurfer’s place, many are up for meeting to have a coffee, food, or a chat. I’ve only ever heard great things about it. I say go for it! Two coworkers did it in Japan for two weeks, and ended up at some swanky architect’s home – each with their own private room and bed!

    On getting from point A to point B, have you heard of Covoiturage? I learned about it this spring when I got stuck in Paris, per the volcano. Anyway, could be of some use to you.

    http://www.covoiturage.fr/

    I also love traveling alone, but hear you on the bouts of loneliness. Try living in Venice by yourself for two months. I did! And you know, while it had its lonely low points, it was totally worth it. I’d do it again, and for longer, in a heartbeat. I met wonderful people who have remained friends and who knows – if I’d stayed longer, I might even have met my match and suddenly been in Venice as one half of a happy couple.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve seen very little of France, mainly Paris – yet I walked away less than enthused.

    I was traveling Europe on an Interrail pass and stopped over in Paris backpacking with a good mate. I knew Paris would be great for certain travelers, namely couples – I imagine much is true throughout France. It just wasn’t a city that excited me as a backpacker – and I suspect the same to be true as a solo-traveler.

    As Andi said, I think Couchsurfing would be a great way to meet locals and not feel so solo in your travels. Also while you may be hoping to escape hostel dorms, I can’t think of a better place to meet other solo travelers who might be keen to join you on your travels.

    Really though my advice on solo-travel is based on, well – basically no experience. My first stint overseas was done with a good mate and my travels around New Zealand have been with my now ex-girlfriend. I’m not sure when I’ll be moving on, yet my foray into the world of solo-travel is definitely one I have mixed emotions about. I’m excited to go at it on my own, yet also feel much of travel is best shared with good friends.

    Maybe you we can go halfers on a ticket and I’ll meet you in France. :)

  • Anonymous

    You may be lonely touring France, Christine, but I still think you should take the opportunity while you can. You never know when it will come round again. If you’re that worried, do as others have suggested and try meeting up with some couchsurfers. Or check with other travel tweeps on Twitter to see if anyone will be there when you are. Have you tried Globetrooper yet? You might be able to find someone there who will be in France when you are ready to do your touring.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve definitely done plenty of traveling by myself, but there’s something about romantic France that makes it harder to tackle alone! It’s great to know that I’m not the only one who has some trepidation. Best of luck with all your solo travels! And I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog :)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! I actually have family friends in St. Remy who I’ll be staying with when I go to Provence, but thanks for the offer. I’ve heard about couch surfing, but I’m a bit hesitant as a single female–many of the people offering couches are young guys, which just weirds me out. I’ve been able to find some cool B&Bs and hostels with a bit more research, so I’m getting excited!

  • Anonymous

    That’s just the encouragement I needed to hear! I guess I’m a bit more worried since I’m not traveling in high season–I just hope there are other people on the road in October to places that are much more popular in summer!

  • Anonymous

    That definitely happened to me when I traveled through Europe solo last year. I guess I’m just a bit more nervous since I’ll be traveling during low season in France. Oh well, at the very least, I’ll be able to get some much-needed relaxation and writing time :)

  • Anonymous

    I just wish I had a car–it would make exploring so much easier!

  • Anonymous

    Glad you enjoyed it! All this encouragement has been great–I’m definitely going to go, now it’s just a matter of taking the plunge and booking things :)

  • Anonymous

    Glad I can help! I think it’s just a matter of actually booking things. I’m going to book accommodation tonight, and then I’m sure I’ll be much more excited!

  • Anonymous

    I definitely think I’m going to use Couchsurfing to meet up with people and practice my French. Great idea, merci!

  • Anonymous

    I think I’m going to use Couchsurfing to meet people, but not stay with them. I’m a bit hesitant as a solo female traveler, especially since all of the ones offering accommodation where I’m going are young, single men! A bit too weird for me. I’ll definitely check out Covoiturage–I was just chatting about that concept yesterday with my host mom, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it for this trip!

  • Don’t worry about high or low season… there are always travelers around. Many backpackers go to places in low season simply because the prices are more affordable! There will be plenty of people on the road… just quit worrying and go out there and have your adventure! :)

  • Ah. Yeah. If the only couches available where you’re going are those of young, single men, I wouldn’t surf either. Too awkward! You might fall in love. Or you might be brutalized! Merci, but non merci. Though, to be less Law & Order, it does seem like Couchsurfing.com has a good rating system so you can generally determine if someone is safe and sane to stay with. Even still, I wouldn’t be game to shack up on some random guy’s couch – even for one night – either.

  • Anonymous

    Good point about budget travelers traveling in the off-season! I didn’t think about that!

  • angela

    I’ve just spent hours reading your blog … I love it!! :) thank you for sharing your experiences :) I hope that whatever you decide turns out great…
    and I’ll make sure to continue reading… bon courage!! passe une bonne journee :)

    Anđela (from Croatia)

  • Anonymous

    Merci beaucoup! I’m so glad that you enjoy it–that means a lot to me!

  • Lindsey B

    I think you should just go, stick with your plan, that way you won’t have any regrets. You’ve come this car doing everything on your own, so finish the trip off by traveling.

  • Anonymous

    Very good points! It’s getting to be crunch time–so I’ll be making my decision soon!

  • Anonymous

    Very good points! It’s getting to be crunch time–so I’ll be making my decision soon!

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  • I commend you for being so brave as to do all that you’ve accomplished on your own! Have you tried finding a travel partner on some social networking sites? Couch Surfing and Hospitality Club are great ways to meet people to travel with. =)

  • Anonymous

    I actually took everyone’s advice and am now staying with Couchsurfers in Lyon–and I ended up traveling and staying with friends for most of the trip. It’s awesome for meeting new people–although I do confess that I kind of like having nothing to worry about other than my own fun and safety! It’s a lot of work and compromise to travel with others! (Spoken as a true only child…)

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