Travel for Single Women
You can travel safely and enjoyably alone
After a long, hot day investigating the Mayan ruins of Mexico's Chichen Itza, I was unwinding in the hotel pool. A mariachi band played at one end, my margarita was parked at the other, and a thousand-watt full moon lit the space between. I paddled back and forth, alternately lamenting, on the one hand, having no significant friend or family to share the day and moment-and yet delighting in the private, unshared experience of that serenade to the sole swimmer in a moonlit pool. And last winter, when I finished near the top of my group in a skiing race, I overlooked the lack of a loved one to hug me in my success and instead accepted congratulatory cheers from co-racers, many of whose names I did not know.
Certainly, traveling solo has bittersweet moments, but it's infinitely more rewarding than staying home. Whether it is conflicting schedules, conflicting interests, or because the number of unmarried people in the U.S. has doubled in the last few decades, solo travel is one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel business. According to the Travel Industry Association, nearly one quarter of U.S. travelers, or 34.8 million adults, have taken a vacation by themselves in the past three years, double the number of a decade ago. Traveling solo means never having to say you are sorry about wanting to do something your travel partner doesn't, whether it is all-day tennis, shopping, or museum hopping. Going solo lets you fulfill your "wish list," even make those you left behind jealous of your adventurous enterprise. It does not mean being alone and feeling lonely, since it is difficult to be alone in a crowd of like-minded people.
Book "outer-directed" vacations
The key to finding rewarding, exciting, low-cost travel for singles is to choose non-standard, nontraditional vacations. You do not purchase a vegetate-on-the-beach vacation, a look-at-the-sights vacation, a socialize-at-a-cookie-cutter-resort vacation-all of these are bound to disappoint. They frequently leave you feeling isolated and alone, constantly challenged to make conversation in artificial and pressured group situations that have no guiding theme. You constantly feel that the key daily goal is to meet as many other singles as possible (which rarely happens). Rather, the smart single traveler chooses vacations that concentrate on a topic, purpose, or activity outside the world of socializing. You choose to go with people who are focused not on themselves or their social needs but on an independent special interest, a desire for learning, a strongly held belief that has nothing to do with their own personalities or personal needs. And when you make that type of choice, you inevitably meet fascinating people and end up with strong friendships; you also spend less and enjoy more.
An Earthwatch Expeditions program (log on to earthwatch.org/) is that sort of vacation; with Earthwatch, you make a (possibly tax deductible) payment to accompany a noted university researcher into the areas of their study, perhaps tagging seals, making inventories of scarce plants, counting the number of animals or fish that pass a given point each day. You occupy lodgings rented to serve the particular scientific project, perhaps using a sleeping bag or cot in the living room, making communal meals. You pay no single supplement and meet other dynamic persons who are among our most outstanding citizens; and whether you are traveling as a single or as part of a couple becomes utterly unimportant (the majority of participants travel alone). You can learn more about Earthwatch Expeditions by accessing its Web site (see above), and you will find a similar, extensive program operated by the Research Expeditions Program of the University of California (extension.ucdavis.edu/urep) for projects initiated by its faculty and graduate students. Alternatively, you can also sign up to assist noted archaeologists in their fieldwork both in the U.S. and abroad.
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center (crowcanyon.org/) is a nonprofit group that conducts archaeological expeditions and solicits volunteers of all ages (and mainly singles) to assist in them. And for a great many other such volunteer activities, contact the Archaeological Conservancy at archaeologicalconservancy.org/aaabout.html.
...Or vacation at alternative resorts
As you might expect, singles of all ages are also the overwhelming majority of guests at America's most popular "personal growth" centers, arts-and-crafts schools, yoga and Buddhist retreats, and campus summer sessions; and the pricing policies of nearly all of these vacation institutions are favorable to the single person traveling alone. The Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York (800/944-1001, eomega.org/), America's foremost center for exploring personal relationships and psychological issues, maintains spacious dormitory accommodations for singles starting at $70 per person per night, including three (vegetarian) meals daily; it is primarily patronized by singles.