Category Archives: Solo Travel

My Travel Cost Guidelines

Today I have a new problem–it is called ‘indecision’.  Yes, I know, it seems clear that I’ve been struggling with this issue for years now.  Case and point–my lack of a summer vacation plan.  But today, said indecision reached a new level.

I found a fare sale for flights to Phoenix.  I really want to go to the Grand Canyon, and Phoenix is where you fly into to do so.  I got all the way to the point where you click ‘buy now’, and then I closed the window.  Why?  I’m thinking the answer is either ‘fear’ or ‘indecision’.

Something must be done.

Next year, I’m going to travel.  I’m taking an entire year off from work to travel.  I’m traveling next year, damn it.  And my main travel plan is ‘go places where I can afford to go’.  Clearly, a $117 round-trip flight to near the Grand Canyon fits into those parameters.  But there are other things to take into account–for example, how much is a rental car going to cost?  ($600 for two weeks)  How much will lodging cost?  (at least $700 for two weeks, if I’m very lucky and very cheap)  Total cost for said trip–$1417.

Is it worth $1417 to be in Phoenix and the surrounding area–namely Sedona and afore mentioned Grand Canyon–for two weeks?  Yes.  Yes it is.  Clearly I should have booked it.

Did I mention that something must be done?  Well, I’m going to do something.  I’m going to come up with my own travel cost guidelines.  Observe (and note that I’m coming up with this as I type it)…

A good airfare is…

1.  Less than $150 if in my own time zone.

2.  Less than $200 if at least two time zones away.

3.  Less than $250 if coast to coast.

4.  Less than $500 if international AND outside of my time zone.

5.  Less than $250 if international AND inside my time zone.

But, as I stated above, a good airfare does not a good decision make.  The trip also has to be worth the extra costs–lodging, car rental or other transportation…the list goes on.  Thus, I need to come up with some places that I need to go.  I made a ‘dream travel list‘ back in December, but those were dream trips.  I need to think about what I want to do that is within reach, that I’d be willing to do alone, and that are examples of great family destinations–as my main goal is writing about how to make said destinations educational.

I will travel to the following places if they fall within the airfare cost guidelines…

-anywhere in Europe, particularly England and Iceland.  And…Paris.  Because I need to go back.

-Cancun

-Hawaii

-Anywhere drive-ably close to a national park

-Orlando

-San Francisco

-Seattle

-Chicago

-Costa Rica

-Peru

-Vancouver

-Anywhere with a major cruise port

-Vegas (because I’ll need a break from making things educational)

I’m open to other suggestions–though I feel as though number four really allows for lots of destinations…like, oh, I don’t know…Phoenix!

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Solo But Not Single

The other day, whilst Googling ‘Disney Solo’, I stumbled upon this great blog–Solo Friendly.  I decided that the author of this blog is one of my kindred spirits, as we have very similar travel preferences (and she openly admitted to not loving Paris, at least occasionally).  One of her posts was about traveling solo even when you don’t have to, which really struck a chord with me, as that’s exactly what I’ll be doing for the greater part of 14 months, starting in June of this year.

Ah June.  Is it really only February?

But really, I do ‘have to’ travel solo, even though I am married.  My husband and I like our life (and our home) enough to not sell everything and hit the road.  Plus, he has a great job that he enjoys (most of the time).  So, technically, I do ‘have to’ travel alone–he can’t come with me.  Thus, I exist in this strange middle ground–not single, but still traveling solo.

I find that this is really the best of both worlds.  In a post that I wrote on my iPhone from a hotel room in Bennington, Vermont over 18 months ago, I discussed the freedom that often comes from being in a good relationship.  Is it the complete freedom of having no restrictions, no deadlines, no responsibilities?  Of course not.  But it is the freedom of knowing that even when you fall (or your car breaks down or your plane is delayed), someone will be there to help you get back up again (or drive you home from the airport at an ungodly hour.)

Ultimately, when I tell someone my plans of leaving my job for a year to travel and write, that person asks some variation of the question ‘how does your husband feel about this?’  This question is often accompanied by a doubtful look, which is both fair and understandable.  I would ask anyone else the same question.  After all, who does this?  Who leaves a job to travel by themselves even when they have a home and a husband and two very cute, very fluffy dogs?

The answer?  I do.

My response to said understandable and fair concern is this–my husband is very, very, very supportive.  And I don’t repeat the same word three times without just cause.  It would literally be impossible for him to be more supportive.  In fact, when I’m having my doubts (who DOES this?!?) he reminds me exactly why I’m doing this.  And that, dear reader, is the best Valentines Day gift anyone could ever give me.

So…what did we get each other for Valentines Day this year?  Nothing.  Zip, zero, zilch.  However, he did buy himself some accessories for his Nook yesterday, and today I ordered two books from Amazon (on html and WordPress, ironically).  And, just now, as I typed this, he returned home from work with the little heart-shaped peanut butter and chocolate cake pictured above.

Who could ask for more?  I can’t.

On My Own

I’ve been doing a lot of research for what I’m calling the ‘Tracy Extension Trip’–the days that I’m hoping to spend in Britain after the husband returns home.  But before I did this research, I did a lot of thinking and reflection.  Do I really want to travel on my own?  And the answer continues to be an overwhelming yes.

Many people–including my mom, whose comment can be viewed on my last post (hi mom!) think this is a bad idea.  But I know me–and I remember the person I used to be.  I rediscovered her last summer; it is only because of her rediscovery that this trip is even happening.  I visited her via yet another one of my own blogs–Blog on the Run–which I started as a means of documenting my last summer’s adventures–both of which were extensive, bold…and completely on my own.  And do you know what?  Not only did I have a fantastic time, but I appreciated Doug even more, both when I was gone as well as when I returned.

That being decided, I’m left to plan the solo portion of my trip.  I’ve been reading and googling like mad, looking up reasonable lodging in towns that are unreasonably priced during the times I’d like to visit, and I’ve found some fantastic options.  Several B&Bs have written back to my email inquiries (or enquiries, rather, if I’m driving on the left hand side), as well as extremely safe and affordable lodging at various universities throughout the UK.  For some reason that I do not understand, I’m drawn to Edinburgh, despite or, perhaps, because of the giant arts festival that will be taking place during the time I can visit.  In the past two days, I’ve spent the bulk of my researching time focused on this one city.  I don’t know what it is about Edinburgh–but I know I’d like to go there.  I’ve followed similar hunches in the past, and had life-altering experiences.  Here’s hoping this one will be life-altering for the better.

I could not be more excited.  Long live old me.

Burlington

Funny thing…if all one does is talk about writing for days on end, one ends up with very little to actually write about.  So contrary to how I ended my last post, I did end up visiting Burlington yesterday, and it turned out to be a pretty good idea. New York’s lakes would have been too much of a drive, and as it turns out, Vermont has a pretty nice lake of its own.  Though, to be fair, Lake Champlain is on the border, so I suppose I achieved both of my goals (Before I left for Vermont, I had a great disagreement with Doug about whether the lake was, in fact, in New York or Vermont, and for the first time in a while, we were BOTH right.)

It took me about an hour to get into town, and I promptly found a parking spot–or should I say parking lot–and paid the fourteen-year-old boy ‘in charge’ the eight dollars, only to discover that there were not, in fact, any parking spots available in the lot.  Fortunately someone was just leaving, so I quickly stole that spot, but I still wonder what happened to all the people in the cars that were lined up, happily paying money, only to be let into a parking lot that was well beyond capacity.  And I wonder what happened to the idiot kid that allowed that to happen.  Pissed off tourists can be brutal.

The crowded lot was right on the waterfront, and I walked a few hundred feet down to a shed where I bought a ticket for The Spirit of Ethan Allen III–a creepy name that made me picture ghosts of side tables and richly upholstered chaise lounges.  There was, unfortunately, a tour group of really, REALLY old people–the kind of old people that, I’m sorry but it is true, smelled strongly of urine–were scheduled to take the same tour.  Thankfully they had organized a trip that included a buffet lunch, which meant they were an entire deck below where I sat, and inside in the safely sun-less and air conditioned dining portion of the ship.  I stayed up on the upper deck, outside in the sun; I would, however, have paid a few extra bucks to get to watch what a group of 90-somethings looked like, shuffling and rolling in walkers and wheelchairs, whilst trying to serve themselves from a buffet on a boat.

It was a lovely cruise–just under two hours–and I learned many things about the local history and topography–which are often tied together in odd, military-esque ways–and got a pretty nice sunburn, especially on my nose.  I think my giant sunglasses acted as a sort of reflector, and I shocked myself later when I saw my reflection in  restroom mirror.

I then trudged up the hill hoping to find lunch–which I eventually had two hours later at a creperie about twenty yards from the boat and my car–and found, instead, the cutest little downtown area.  I didn’t know Burlington was such a touristy town, but sure enough, there was a whole street blocked off and dedicated to outdoor cafes and overpriced shops.  I browsed for far too long–and found the cheap college dorm room style tapestries I’d been looking for to use as curtain panels–had a crepe for lunch, and finally made my way back to Bread Loaf.

It was a nice day.  It felt good to get out and feel like a real person, a member of the real world. And that was after only a day and a half here.  I’m here for one more week–in fact, one week from right now, I will still be here.  Time is strange here.  And the scary thing is, I’m starting to get used to it.

I’d like to post more about the actual Bread Loaf experience, but I have a craft class to get to.  Plus, I’m sitting in the only air conditioned building on campus, and my left arm–because it is closer to the AC unit–is rapidly turning blue from the cold.   More later.

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Road Trip

I had planned to get some sort of road trip in during my time here, and this morning I sat down with the schedule to figure out if and when a trip would be possible. I discovered that the ONLY time in the next ten days that I could get away for even a little bit without missing something kind of major (‘kind of major’ includes many categories of events, some that I simply just really want to attend) is tomorrow. And tomorrow isn’t just the only day–it seems like the perfect day, as the morning lecture is the only morning lecture that does not interest me at all, and my workshop does not meet in the morning. So I could take the entire morning and go into Burlington, and I just spent a good twenty minutes googling ‘things to do in Burlington’–there are many–and compiling a list. (I’m on a real sized computer in the Mac Lab right now with a real keyboard–it is GREAT!) Or, if I don’t mind missing a panel discussion on publication (which, let’s just be honest here, is a far away dream at this point. If I’ve learned one thing so far this summer about writing, it is that I’m not as good as I previously assumed. I wasn’t comparing myself to the right people.) I could go west into New York State and check out the lakes–Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, to be specific. According to the tourism website, there is a scenic train that goes between the two towns. It looks lovely, and is only $12. We shall see tomorrow if I do one or the other–the short trip to Burlington or the long trip to New York. Or if–and this is far more likely–I just stay here and give up my dreams of exploring a previously un-explored-by-me region. That last option sure sounds a lot like something I would do.

Bennington

Bennington is very cute, though both last night at dinner and this morning at breakfast, I overheard local people speaking negatively about it. And I’m here taking pictures of main street! (Though the only ones I took with my phone– below– were of food and the grounds of my hotel. The rest are on my actual camera.) I wonder if that’s the way it is everywhere…are there people who take pictures of main street Macungie? Because that would be odd.

I’m off to Bread Loaf now, and am still equal parts excited and nervous. I don’t know if I’ll have cell service there, or how available wifi will be, so I’m preparing myself for technology withdrawl. Away I go…

Freedom

For the past four years, I’ve avoided going anywhere. I stopped doing things I loved–music festivals, rites of spring–because they were far away. I became a hobbit. But I thought that was a natural progression. After all, I did all of those things searching for a life…ok let’s be honest here, I was searching for a guy. So once I found one, I stopped searching and thus stopped doing everything else.

But I was wrong. Finding someone to love, deciding to spend your life with that person, settling down–that’s not the end of exploring who you are. That’s a great jumping off point to continue that quest. There is an amazing freedom in knowing that you can go out into the world, take risks, try new things even if they might fail (and this trip just might end poorly) and still have a solid place to return to. And in that place, someone will love you even if you did fail. And, as an added bonus, none of your houseplants died while you were gone.