April 23 2012 by Sam Lowe
In my younger years, when I was a carefree bachelor, most of my travels were solitary. I would, for example, select a destination but not a definite route, then hop in my car and drive there without concerning myself with trip durations, accommodations (I frequently bedded down in my hatchback), or lack of companionship.
During those times, I met several other travelers with similar agendas, and we discussed such important issues as fast food, parking lots that let you sleep in your car and, most importantly, rest stops. Life was good.
But those days are gone. Now I'm a senior who rarely, if ever, leaves town without Lyn, my wife, because she is a great relief driver, a wonderful best friend and exceptional map-reader. I did, however, once try to relive my past by taking a trip to Croatia by myself. (I wasn't actually alone; there were 47 others on the tour.) It was not fun. I missed my soul mate more than I could possibly have imagined. I kept a daily log for two weeks. At the risk of sounding gushy, most of my entries reflected loneliness. Dubrovnik was nice, but it would have been nicer had she been there.
So it was a learning experience, in more ways than one. I realized how much I relied on her, but also became aware that I had not made the proper allowances for traveling alone. Several of my fellow tourists were senior singles, and they filled me in, not only on that trip but on many others since.
First, they pointed out, most tour companies offer a sort of match-making service in which they'll pair you with another traveler. That not only gives you an instant companion, it also reduces trip costs because single supplements can run as high as $400. Many of these pairings have resulted in lifelong friendships. One couple I met in Croatia was on their fourth trip together.
Second, there is a tendency among solitary travelers to forgo the scheduled tours. I advise against it. You wind up wandering around, wasting time looking for the good stuff that the others are already enjoying. Stay with your group, at least until you get your bearings. Or, if you choose to go it alone, get a good map of the area so you don't spend valuable time searching for a museum that may be just around the corner.
Finally, be sociable. A part of the travel fun is discussing the day's events with others, sharing thoughts and ideas. Don't be a wallflower in the hope that someone will notice and befriend you. More than likely, they're just as shy and uncertain as you. So be forward without being overbearing.