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« Utah: Home to some of the best national parks in the country | Main | Five high-adrenaline adventures for daring solo travelers »

March 30, 2009

Comments

Tom

For the adventurous type:
http://www.incredible-adventures.com/halo-jumping.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caminito_del_Rey
http://www.gauley.com/whitewater_rafting.htm
http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/02/tough_guy_challenge_2009.html
http://www.bungee.com/bzapp/volcano/index.html

Ellen

Tom,

Thanks for the amazing adrenaline adventure ideas. Men (and women), these are heart racing...

I've done the Gauley (or was it the New?) River in West Virginia. I hear springtime throws Class V rapids at you practically the whole way down the Gauley. Suit up, gentleman (and ladies)

Ellen

Ted

I think it's pretty obvious why women-only travel is proliferating like kudzu but men-only travel is scarcer than hens' teeth (I ate a mixed metaphor salad for dinner tonight). If I see an advert for a "men-only" tour, I would (like most men) immediately assume it's intended specifically for men who live in San Francisco or West Hollywood-- and quickly turn the page. Conversely, a "women-only" tour does not immediately bring Sappho to mind, unless perhaps it's a Greek island cruise with an itinerary that prominently mentions Lesbos. I have no idea why that is, but that's the way it is.

There seems to be a growing, profitable market for women-only travel because women apparently enjoy traveling in distaff groups. Presumably women feel safe and comfortable that way, possibly more so than either alone or in a mixed-gender group. Men don't bond socially in the same way, and don't find the idea of spending a vacation with a group of strangers either safe or comfortable. Going fishing or doing some other specific activity with a select group of buddies, however, is a desirable thing when that's available. So there would seem to be insufficient profit in trying to organize tour groups for men, unless you're perhaps talking about something like sex tourism in Asia (or the aforementioned "men only" tours, as I do know some gay people who have taken such specialized trips).

I also think men in general aren't as enthusiastic about travel as women are. That's probably the main reason you don't find many male solo travel enthusiasts. If we don't have a buddy to do something with, or a wife or girlfriend insisting on a family vacation or romantic getaway, we'd rather stay home and work on the car, some project, or watch sports on television (beer optional). Conversely, a woman who wants to travel will have no problem joining a group of like-minded women, since those strangers will soon become supportive friends. Or they'll just go on a trip alone. Obviously not all men (nor all women) are that way, but there's definitely something to that stereotype. I've certainly seen it.

As for there being "anything wrong with mixing with women," I can only relate my one experience with a mixed-gender singles tour. Toward the end of the first Reagan administration, my parents convinced me to take a Singleworld tour of Britain. The group had about 25 people, four of whom were men. The women, some of whom already knew each other, immediately bonded and formed their little cliques. Presumably having decided in the first 20 seconds that none of us men excited them, they all but ignored us (although they apparently found the male tour guide exciting enough to share their evening entertainment with him). We men didn't even attempt to "bond," and basically kept to ourselves (although I did go to dinner with one of them who, like me, had planned a few solo days in London after the tour). When I read about how women greatly outnumber men on tours for singles (e.g., "O Solo Mio"), I chuckle because I have a good idea why that is!

And by the way, some men actually do "bond by talking, as women do." And they don't necessarily live in San Francisco or West Hollywood. It's probably more common than you think.

Ellen

Ted,

I can't argue with any of your points. I saw something similar happen on a trip I went on where there were just a couple of guys and about a dozen women participants. The women bonded and pretty much ignored the men. Tough crowd. And unpleasant if you happen to be one of the men.

If I were a single guy, I'd be sure to call any company I chose to travel with and ask the ratio of men to women on any trips I'm interested in. And if not enough people are signed up to go, I'd wait.
I've done that in a different way when I went on trips that weren't purely "singles" trips. I'd ask how many other people were joining the trip alone.
Ideally there are at least a handful of solo travelers in a mixed group of singles and couples/families. And close to 50-50 of each sex in a singles group trip.
But there are no guarantees no matter what. Maybe I've been lucky but out of dozens of group adventure trips I've only hit a couple of dud groups.

Ted

The only group trips I would consider are those specifically dedicated to something I'm interested in. That should sidestep (or at least minimize) any concerns about gender balance and solo status. I once took a photography tour that was enjoyable even though I was the only one on the tour too young to be eligible for Medicare (that's unfortunately what has happened to camera clubs these days).

The only singles group trips I've seen advertised are cruises for which the organizer actively manages the participant list to ensure a balanced gender ratio. Absent such active management, the ratio inevitably skews strongly female. I can just imagine your hypothetical single guy calling the organizer, receiving the information about the ratio, and eagerly anticipating a wild time-- until the trip starts and he discovers how different reality is from fantasy!

If I ever did think of going on a non-special-interest, non-singles tour, I would look for one that had a low single-occupancy penalty. That would increase the likelihood of finding some single women (far more likely than single men) among the couples and families. I doubt it would be much fun to be the only single person on a tour full of couples and families, especially as a man (a woman might get "adopted" by a family, but I doubt that would happen to a man).

On the one cruise I have taken as an adult (so far), I was the only "solo sailor" on a ship full of couples and groups. They all ignored me, except for a gay couple I kept running into, and various senior couples. The seniors were the only ones who were interested in talking to me. But when the conversation inevitably turned to family and children, and I revealed that I was single and traveling solo, it immediately ground to a halt. Apparently they had never encountered such a strange creature before and had no idea what to say. "You're so brave," they said, before excusing themselves. The two couples at my dinner table ignored me as well, except when they mentioned that they had never heard of anyone taking a cruise alone. And even the gay couple-- who had taken many cruises together and shared a lot of information with me-- admitted that neither of them would ever have the guts to take a cruise alone. But I'm glad I took the cruise, even though it taught me what it means to be a stranger in a strange land. I can see how cruising might be enjoyable-- if a suitable companion ever becomes available to go with me.

Ellen

Ted,

There are many groups other than cruise companies that cater to "solos" which often is a much better designation than "singles" for a relaxing vacation.
I've written about them on this blog - biking, kayaking and other adventure groups - have solo weeks that cater to people traveling alone, not necessarily "single and looking for love."
Try Backroads, Zephyr Adventures and others. The category on the blog is "solo-tour operators."
As to your photography tour, I do find that the less active the trip the older it can skew. Not a given, but something to think about. If that bothers you, you need to ask tour companies their demographics and again, call ahead and double check who is on a particular trip you're interested in.
Or, maybe these types of less active group trips are not for you. Of course, you can always take photography lessons at home...

Ellen

Ted

Oops! I had meant to say that the only singles group trips I've seen advertised as offering a balanced gender ratio are the singles cruises with actively-managed participants. Indeed, there are numerous trips for "solos" that make no attempt to balance the gender ratio, since they're not specifically for those "looking for love."

I had also meant to say that the photography tour was enjoyable even though everyone else was far older than I was. The point is that a trip devoted to a special interest could overcome differences in age, solo status, and gender balance. Adventure trips seem to provide you with a good balance of solo travel and companionship, but for any number of reasons adventure trips aren't for me. Whatever floats your kayak, as they say.

I think the advice to ask the tour operator about "demographics" is always a good idea for anyone who isn't a "normal" customer (i.e., something other than a couple or family). But I think it's still possible to enjoy a trip even if the "demographics" aren't optimal, if it's something you specifically want to do. While the number of trips specifically for singles and solos is growing, the selection of trips that aren't specifically for singles and solos is much greater. It's possible that being the only solo person on a tour or cruise that has an itinerary that particularly interests me could be better than a trip chosen specifically because it's for singles/solos. The ideal would be a "dream" itinerary on a trip for singles/solos, but that might not exist.

Ellen

Other companies I've traveled with also try to balance the sexes, even though they may not advertise it. They've told me this over the phone, though they won't guarantee it.
In general, I tend to avoid solo or singles trips because they feel contrived.
I prefer to call ahead and make sure I'm not the only solo on the trip and that the group isn't made up of a majority of people who are coming together and won't be as open to meeting new people.
I've had great success in this regard. And, "some of my best friends" on those trips were couples, or halves of couples.

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