I’ve been both divorced and widowed, was a single mom, and then lived alone many of my adult years. And I embraced solo life long before it was considered cool: talked about it on panels, founded and edited a website called sololady.com, and wrote a book called Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips.
The zenith of my singledom probably came in 2009 when I posted “Why I’m Alone,” a Huffington Post piece that went viral — picked up by Jezebel, CNN and other sites, generating hundreds of comments and even a parody on Fark.
But surprise! The very week that the blog extolling my happy single life appeared, I met the man who would become my third husband.
I did feel a bit like a betrayer, so proud of singledom while secretly falling in love. And when my beau wanted to marry me, I struggled mightily, afraid to give up my hard-won solo identity.
I adapted to marriage mostly because my husband understands my need for occasional solitude. It wouldn’t have worked otherwise, and he knows it.
But I missed traveling solo. As wonderful as it is to share sunsets, coconut drinks with two straws and all those romanticized scenarios, there are times I simply seek walking for hours on a quiet beach, waves lapping at my feet, and no place to have to be at no particular time. Or taking off at the last minute with no plans and no one to worry about but myself.
While traveling on my own I had to be totally open to experience: meeting others, putting myself in challenges I figured out alone, dealing with the unexpected in clever ways.
When I finished my latest book, Travel Tales I Couldn’t Put in the Guidebooks, a collection of travel tales about the most interesting people places and things I’ve discovered traveling to over 100 countries, I wasn’t surprised to note that almost all of the best tales occurred while I was single.
And looking at the tales in my book I can see that even when I traveled with a group or with children, or husbands or lovers, I may not have always been a solo traveler, but I remained an independent traveler: open, alert, curious, and ready for anything.
Those of us in relationships may have to fight a bit harder to retain the spirit of independence that comes naturally to a solo traveler. We may have to compromise a bit more. But the spirit can remain.
And one way is to continue traveling alone once and awhile, even if it’s only for a weekend. At a minimum, when traveling with others you can still find time to break away on your own for an afternoon or even an hour or two. You can go to the beach when your travel partner would rather go to a museum, and then reunite with fresh and interesting tales to tell each other.
Just agree ahead so that you both understand it’s okay to split and do what you want, then come back together and share your adventures.
Something as simple as this may be a compromise, but it can satisfy your need for solitude. Remember, being solo may come and go, but the spirit of independence, even in a small form, can remain forever.