Traveling Solo and Love Like the Movies

"Uh, hello?!" I couldn't get her attention. I had given the stare. You know, what I'm talking about guys. You're at a bar and you see that one girl that stands out above the rest. You so innocently give a long look, hoping her eyes meet yours. No, this wasn't a bar, but even better, on a beach in Costa Rica and one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. It was one of those moments like you see in the movies, where you see the couple sitting together on the beach. They take a deep, long look into each other's eyes, scooch a little closer together, and then slowly lean in for a long kiss as the sun sets over the crystal clear ocean waters. I had all the elements in place: Beautiful beach, crystal clear ocean waters, and sunset. But here I was, and I couldn't even get the attention of the dog sitting next to me. Saying hello, the long stare, snapping my fingers -- still nothing. She too, evidently was taken by the beauty of this moment.

Well you can freeze frame any moment from a movie or run the whole damn thing backwards from reel to reel, but I don't see one single solitary light technician or one single camera in this moonlit field.-Avett Brothers, Love Like the Movies

Travel itself has a certain romanticism to it. I've probably even contributed to that. I often talk about how travel has changed my life. Or maybe it's the glossy travel magazines or even the movies. But there's just something about travel that draws people. Maybe it's eating your way around Italy, driving through the countryside of Ireland, traveling on a safari in South Africa, or lying with your toes in the sand in Bora Bora. Most travelers have had at least one of those moments, if not many more, where they just want time to be suspended and be stuck in that moment for a lifetime. But as romantic and life-changing as a stint of long-term solo travel was for me, it was also challenging.

I've traveled nearly 275 days over the last year, and all but about 20 were by myself. There were people I often met or friends I made while traveling, but this didn't change the fact that I was primarily traveling alone. It was incredible. I could eat, sleep, and travel wherever I wanted without having to consider anyone else. If I had been out all day doing a group tour or spending time in the city, there was something refreshing about coming back to my place and having the evening to myself. If I didn't like a place, I could spend less time there and move on to somewhere else without even thinking about it. There was a certain freedom to that type of lifestyle.

Come month six of long-term travel, I hit a wall. I remember lying in bed one night in Costa Rica and saying out loud: "I can't do this anymore." It wasn't travel that I couldn't do, but this type of travel for such a long period of time by myself. I missed shooting the shit over beers with a friend, having a group brunch with friends, or hosting a travel meet-up.  I was starting to get to the point where I was interested in dating again and it would've also been nice to have photos and videos that I was in. Sure, I could Skype with a friend about my travel experiences, but it just wasn't the same as having someone there to share those moments with.

A couple weeks ago I did my first real traveling since I came back from Central America. It was a bucket list item: Road tripping down the Pacific Coast of California through Monterey, Big Sur, and Santa Barbara, all the way down to San Diego. It was with Annie (And her boyfriend) of the Wayward Traveller, who I've known via Twitter and my blog for a year, but hadn't met in person. I've done a lot of road trips over the years, but this one certainly goes down as one of the most memorable, from buying a pound and a half of over-priced jelly beans (Which we ate every single one of, except for the 5 I found on the floor of the car when I returned home) to enjoying one of the best views I've ever seen (At Big Sur, and over beer and cheese) to the rapid river ride at SeaWorld to racing around Newport Beach to find the best spot to view the sunset before it dipped over the horizon. We made fun of each other, shared travel stories, and traded our favorite playlists --making me feel like I had known them for years. That week of travel made me re-think how I travel in the future.

I'm taking a couple different solo trips over the next couple months before my next big trip, what I'm calling a "mid-term" trip for 4-8 weeks to Central America this winter. As of today, I'm doing these trips solo. However, this time around I'm much more willing and eager to have fellow travelers join me for any or all of my trips. I feel like I've often tried to put life in a box, including how I travel. I don't have to only travel either short-term or long-term or solo or with someone else. Travel experiences don't have to be so black and white. I think this trip, as well as other upcoming trips, will help form my future travel experiences. I'll always enjoy the independence and exhilaration of taking adventures by myself, but there's something about having someone there who can share those memories with me, often even enhancing the travel experience.

How do you prefer to travel?

The group photo above taken by Cailin O'Neil.