And, then, there are a few weirdos like me (at least I hope there are) who actually enjoy it. It's not that I don't like traveling with family and friends--I do! But traveling alone is very different experience. My first solo trip was my second trip to England, the year after I graduated from college. I had been for the first time the previous September with my parents. I knew, after one week in England, that I absolutely had to go back. So I moved back home and worked in the family business for the next nine months, saving money and planning. In June of that year, I took off for England, alone. I'd bought a bus pass rather than a rail pass, because I didn't want to see Britain only from the backside, so to speak. I spent the next cold, rainy six weeks crisscrossing the country, staying in cheap (and often horrible) B&Bs. But there were some gems, too, and I saw wonderful places. And I looked and listened and made notes, taking it all in.
That, for me, is the big appeal of traveling alone. You have the opportunity to observe and process in a way that isn't possible if you're socializing. There is also, of course, the fact that you do only the things YOU want to do.
What about you, fellow REDS? Do you like to travel alone? And if so, what have you done that's most memorable?
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I used to enjoy traveling alone when I was a young woman, but I think so many years of solo business travel has made me appreciate having a companion (or companions) along.
When I was in college, I spent a summer at an archeological dig in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. I had a week or so before my semester started in London, so I went to Rome and Nice on my own. I did the topless sunbathing thing and felt very daring! Then, when we had the end-of-term holiday, none of my friends wanted to go to Germany and Austria, so I went by myself, to revisit some scenes of my childhood and see my dream city, Vienna.
The things I loved then about going it alone? I talked with and met more people - there were several times I wound up having dinner with someone I had just met that day. Speaking of dinner, it was great not having to adjust to anyone else's stomach. (I swear, half the time we spend traveling as a family is consumed with finding food for one of the kids or Ross.) And, as an art/archaological/history museum fiend, it was bliss not having to cut a visit short because my companion was tired or bored. (My perfect art museum companion is my mother, who would stay until the doors close.)
And of course, you all know how much I value my solo visits to my agent's house in Nantucket in February. Is it a state peculiar to writers, or does everyone crave more time alone as they get older?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Okay, just between us? I adore traveling alone. I mean--I thrive on it. I get to make all the decisions. I can eat whatever I want. I can get to the airport really early, ridiculously early, because it's much more relaxing for me, without having to explain that to anyone. I can have hamburgers and salad and wine and diet coke and tea in my hotel room every night, and hot have someone wonder whether I am in a rut. I AM in a rut, and I like it there. I can work on my book for hours without feeling guilty. I can sneak down to breakfast in a jersey nightgown and a levi jacket and scarf, snag my food and two cups of coffee and take it back to my room and watch the news. Oh. It is completely great.
Now let me say. My mom used to say a "vacation" was not fully realized unless there was something to have a vacation from . So I am infinitely grateful to be able to travel with Jonathan at the times I do. ANd I love our vacations together--he is a perfect travel companion. I'm just saying: when it's book tour and I am on my own? I really like it.
Julia, that is a good question.
RHYS BOWEN: I've always traveled alone, ever since my parents put me as a young teenager on a train in London and I made my way to Vienna unescorted. A year later I went to France by myself, finding the way to get around Paris from one station to another. I suppose I had been up to London on my own from the age of about ten, so nothing phased me much.
And I still love finding myself alone in a strange city. Sometimes when I come to New York on business I take a day to just wander around, discovering little treasures: a garden between tall buildings, new Subway murals, old Jewish delis. And I find myself thinking "Nobody knows I'm here but me" and it's a heady thought. Like Debs and Hank I love the freedom to stop to eat when when I feel hungry, suddenly decide to fan a museum and go shopping or just sit in the park and people watch.
And I love getting room service when I'm on book tour and come back late to my hotel, then curling up in pjs and eating a sinful helping of fries. However..... I only like being alone for a finite amount of time. After three or four days alone in a city I find myself chatting to grocery clerks and the person next to me on the bus. And I do enjoy traveling with husband and family too. Just not all the time!
HALLIE EPHRON: I can't imagine traveling alone for pleasure. It's like an oxymoron. Because the fun of travel for fun is doing it with someone. YOu've got to be compatible because within five seconds you'll know if you're not. My druthers: food (YES, all kinds), walking (YES), museums (YES), shopping (NO NO NO!!!), wildlife (BIG YES).
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Love, love, love traveling solo. Of course, I love traveling with my family, too. And, come to think of it, when I travel alone—for research trips—I'm really traveling "with" my characters. Having someone else along would impede all the ideas, the scribbled note-taking, the feeling of overhearing snippets of their conversations....
That said, I went to Scotland to research Maggie Hope #4, THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT, and I'm going to be returning to Edinburgh, with Noel and Kiddo, next summer for a proper holiday with all of us. I loved it so much I have to share.
But first I'll be traveling solo for work to ... Shetland! Yes, the very northern tip of the UK! The 8th Maggie Hope novel will be set in Shetland and revolve around the so-called Shetland bus—the secret boat service that ran between the UK and Norway, ferrying British SOE secret agents in and out of Nazi-occupied territory. So, solo research trip for me and THEN a meet up with the family. Sounds like a good compromise!
LUCY BURDETTE: I'm with Hallie--would rather travel with good company than alone. Definitely book research days are more productive alone, but for fun--I like someone to share the road with. Unlike Hallie, I don't at all mind a little shopping...
DEBS: Everybody's hitting my fantasies! Room service (adore it when I'm book tour.) Vienna. New York. Birding. And Shetland!! Susan, that sound fabulous. Ever since I read Ann Cleeves I've wanted to go to Shetland. Plus, the research time alone, and then the family time, is the perfect mix.
And that's a good question, Hank. I've always liked that time alone, but I think these days, because I'm so frazzled all the time, I appreciate it more.
READERS, solo, companions, or both? And what about the time alone?