Traveling Solo has its Rewards.
Most of my travel is solo. I enjoy traveling with my wife, but she doesn’t care for the actual traveling part. It’s quite a different experience when you travel by yourself and I’ll admit things may be somewhat more likely to go wrong.
For instance, there’s no one there to notice that you left your mobile phone on the restaurant table. I’ve learned to stop and take a minute just to take stock and make sure I’m not forgetting something.
The most common place for that is just when you’ve finished going through security at the airport. That’s where I stop and do a mental check and—sure enough!—once I left my laptop on the belt at London’s Heathrow. Another time, in the Los Angeles airport, I grabbed the wrong bag off the belt. The real owner, a female Japanese tourist, noticed me starting to walk away with her bag. She let out a shriek that stopped everyone in their tracks for 150 feet in every direction.
I found solo travel in Russia to be more difficult than I had expected. The problem was the Cyrillic alphabet. If you’re in Rome and you see a sign that says RISTORANTE, you know what you’re going to get what you walk through the door. But in Moscow, the sign says РECTOPAH. It was almost as though I had suddenly become illiterate and I confess I had a vague feeling of unease as a result.
When I first started traveling solo, I found I missed interaction with other people. That’s another reason why I’m such a fan of Amtrak’s community dining policy. Three times a day you spend an hour getting to know three other people. But I look for ways to interact during the day, too. Some people are shy, some are suspicious, but most are cautiously friendly.
And caution is a good thing, too. If I find myself having a friendly conversation over a lunch with a couple at an adjoining table, that’s a plus. Interestingly, when traveling in Europe three or four years ago, when I had conversations with the locals or with any non-American tourists, they were primarily interested in finding out why we Americans had lost our collective minds and elected Donald Trump president. Heck . . . I still don’t know.