When your work revolves around travel, you establish some personal preferences, on-the-road routines, and strong opinions. In our Travel Showdown series, we’re facing off over some of travel’s most divisive topics – from packing methods to room service. This month, two Virtuoso Life editors on the pros and cons of traveling solo. And while we know travel looks different right now – and you may not be ready to explore just yet – we hope you’ll allow us to indulge ourselves for a moment here. We can’t wait to travel again, and just writing about it makes us happy.
My version of self-care? Flying halfway across the world for the weekend, just to witness an off-the-wall cultural phenomenon that piques my interest. When you’re a solo traveler, you nab the ticket and go. Case in point: Il Palio, Siena, Italy, in the summer in 2017 – one of the best experiences of my life. While it can be comforting to travel with a group, setting off totally unencumbered by companions’ considerations is a rare treat. No stressing about the “lightweight” stroller in the trunk of the rental car, or your friend’s previously unknown and extreme bear phobia (what?), or your parents’ hard pass on any accommodations that don’t offer extra-cushy, self-cooling Tempur-Pedic beds.
Give me some adventure, that jolt of adrenaline that comes with stepping off a plane into a sea of new faces, and the buzz of a foreign language. Traveling alone, I’ve gained entry to a tight-knit community of free divers on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and danced the lindy hop with Russian millennials at the Golitsyn Loft in Saint Petersburg. The excitement and genuine warmth I felt there – they were ecstatic to meet an American peer and proud to show me their cosmopolitan city – will stay with me for a long time.
In these and other solo trips I’ve found kindness from strangers, friendships in new acquaintances, and the thrill of self-satisfaction after finding my way back to my hotel all by myself. And yes, I recommend stopping along the way at every café or boutique that tickles your fancy – just because.
– Samantha Falewée, assistant editor
All Together Now
The truth – and I’m going out on a pretty wobbly limb here as a travel-magazine editor – is that no one loves hearing about your vacation for more than a few minutes. Not the best parts anyway. That amazing afternoon you spent with Paolo and his nonna learning to make pasta in the tiny Tuscan village? Life-changing, yes, but not that captivating in the retelling. Ditto the hot-air balloon ride over the Masai Mara at dawn. If the nonna burned the ragu or the balloon got snagged on a baobab, maybe. But those sublime, silly, and transcendent moments of a trip live on best in our memories – so all the better to share them with someone.
In my line of work, I’ve taken many, many solo trips – and met wonderful people and had moving experiences along the way. But to check into a spectacular hotel room alone, sit down to a four-course dinner for one, wake up on my own in Stockholm and catch a perfect pink sunrise through a jet-lagged haze is to feel the pang of missing my people.
Who else but my crew of college friends recalls our 1995 hotel room in Avignon with (I am not kidding) carpeted pink walls? Only my husband and I remember the Wes Anderson-esque bustle at our honeymoon hotel in Lisbon. The friend who spent a week in French Polynesia with me knows the same thrill of zipping across the endless blue on jet skis. And my sisters and I have piney summer days spent floating on an Oregon lake tucked away in our collective good-times files. The adventures we have together bind us to each other. They live on in our inside jokes, shorthand lingo, and the stories we share.
Right now, especially, striking out for some new land with a few of the people I love the most sounds like a five-star indulgence.
– Marika Cain, managing editor
Top Photo: Getty Images