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November 13, 2008


Ted Marcus

Bora Bora as a solo traveler destination? Everything I've ever seen or read about it suggests it's primarily a honeymoon haven/romantic getaway kind of place. But maybe that just proves a solo traveler can have a good time just about anywhere. The constitution of Hawaii apparently includes a provision that "only couples and families shall be recognized and welcomed as visitors to the Aloha State." Or at least that's how the official brochures from the Visitor's Bureau appear, as they make no concession to the possibility that a visitor might be someone other than a couple or a family. But I've nonetheless smuggled myself onto all the major islands without a spouse or kids, and always had a great time.


Well, I'll use your comments "against" you. If you went to "Honeymoon Hawaii" and had a good time, why couldn't you in Bora Bora?
"Primarily a honeymoon haven?"
Primary, shmimary. If you're with a bunch of people on an adventure trip, you have your own little family with you. And I think that's who goes with Intrepid, the company that chose their favorites. Just ignore the smoochy couples and go enjoy yourself.

Ted Marcus

Ah yes.... except my trips to Hawaii weren't adventure tours. I was by myself, with no little family. And three of those trips were during Christmas week, when families with kids and grandparents greatly outnumber the smoochy couples and I really felt like I was the only "soloist." That's also when I ran into restaurants that wouldn't take reservations for one, and also those that kept me waiting interminably while they seated couples and families who arrived after me until I finally got the message that they didn't want me wasting one of their precious tables. That must have been a special policy for that Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, since I never encountered it when I visited at other times. And with that exception, I found all the locals gracious and welcoming-- even though no official brochure acknowledged the fact that people who aren't couples and families might want to visit and spend money there.

Which brings up an interesting philosophical question. Is an adventure tour with a bunch of people actually "solo travel"? Or is your definition a broad one that comprises any trip where you aren't with someone you know? Not that it matters, of course.

By the way, my roommate is now enjoying a solo vacation on Maui. I couldn't join him because I took my own solo vacation last month. Inspired by the error you made identifying my home town in your article about single supplements, I decided to visit San Francisco. It's a truly remarkable place in many ways. That diversity of lifestyles there means that a solo traveler need never feel like the odd (wo)man out.

Ellen Perlman


One of these days you're going to write in with a positive comment, I'm sure of it!
Well, you learned a lesson about Christmas travel. Now you have a decision to make. If you're uncomfortable around a lot of families, you will have to reconsider how and when you travel. No one says this solo travel stuff is foolproof or always the best option.
But sometimes it's the only option other than staying home.
I happen not to travel during the holidays because airports are crowded and prices skyrocket. Especially for the week during Christmas and New Year's.

On another note, maybe the next time you see smiling, happy families, don't idealize their situation. Look around for the screaming babies, the exhausted parents, the single moms, etc. And be grateful for your self sufficiency and freedom, since many of those happy families may be envying you that.

Yes, I consider it solo travel when I leave home alone to join a group.
This blog is a very middle ground blog.
I am writing as a full-time professional who only has a few weeks of vacation time a year. I'm not one of those who goes off and wanders solo for months at a time. Or insists it's the only way to go.
I have a busy life (don't we all?) and I like to travel. So when I don't have friends planning trips that I can join (that's how I usually do my annual ski trips), I often let a tour company do the work.
Many people are fearful of doing even that. They won't go "alone" on a group trip. Much of this blog is aimed at them. It's about getting the courage and enthusiasm to leave home without a security blanket friend.
PS - Thanks for pointing out my error all over again, Ted! It wasn't intentional. Will I ever be forgiven??

Ted Marcus

Ellen, I learned the lesson about Christmas travel years ago. The last of those Christmas trips to Hawaii was 20 years ago. In those days I had very little vacation time, but I did have Christmas week off from work. So I took advantage of that because it was my only opportunity to travel. What I neglected to mention was that I did have a really good time, despite the restaurant difficulties and the hordes of families (who basically ignored me anyway). Hawaii is a great destination for solo travelers, even if the official tourist bureaus have decided to ignore that market (probably out of ignorance rather than antipathy). I'd also imagine that Bora Bora would be similarly enjoyable, although my own "tropical island dream" would be the Cook Islands (less expensive, less developed, less visited, and they speak English; it's supposedly what Hawaii was like 50 years ago).

Like you, these days I specifically avoid travel during Christmas week for all the reasons you describe. I take my vacations in the spring and fall, which is what I'd recommend for any solo traveler. It's easier to have a good time when crowds are lighter (and prices are lower). Along with Christmas, summers are best left to the legions of families who have no other choice. And yes, even though solo travel isn't my favorite way to go, it's definitely better than staying home.

I'll also agree that tours can be a great option for the "middle ground" people who might not be comfortable with "boldly going solo" but aren't so spooked about it that they'll stay home if they can't go with someone they know. I think that "middle ground" is the majority of solo travelers. Then it's a matter of finding tours and tour companies that are interested in giving their solo customers a comfortable experience (and value for money).

Finally, consider yourself officially forgiven. I only mentioned the error because it inspired a really great trip!

Ellen Perlman

Truth is, you can have a good or a bad time anywhere, whether it's supposedly a honeymoon place or a location for swinging singles (remember THAT term?)
Sometimes, luck is involved.
I'm glad your San Francisco trip was a good time. Here's to more of those.
Happy travels.

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