Feeling intimidated about solo travel after divorce?
That’s understandable. One of the benefits of marriage is that it usually means you have a travel companion. If you have children, then school breaks are a great incentive to get away.
All that changes with divorce. Suddenly, you no longer have your spouse to travel with. Compounding that, chances are your friends are all married so tagging along with them just feels weird. It gets even harder if you’re an empty nester and your kids are doing their own trips.
A common complaint from newly-singles is that they have no one to go away with so they just end up not going on vacation.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can travel solo. And once you start, there’ll be no holding you back.
My guest for this Conversation is divorce coach and contributor, Martha Bodyfelt founder of SurvivingYourSplit.com. It seems that every time I contact Martha she’s just getting back from a trip or she’s just going on one. And she does it solo, often to places that are off the beaten track.
Listen in to hear Martha’s advice on how to get started, or keep reading.
The Possibilities Are Endless
Just to get you started thinking about solo travel, Bodyfelt has recently returned from a three-week trip to South America, visiting countries she hadn’t been to before. That included Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru and Ecuador.
Bodyfelt, who speaks fluent Spanish, has always been passionate about South America and when she saw a really cheap business class air ticket, she grabbed it. Then she began to plan her trip.
“I started to do a little bit of research and they just seemed to have these hidden gems,” said Bodyfelt. “For example, I had no idea that Uruguay has this amazing wine region. I love wine so any undiscovered wine territory, pack my bags and I’ll go there.”
Solo Travel Is Easy Once You Do It
I’ll confess, I haven’t done any solo travel. Before marriage, I always traveled with friends. Then it was traveling with my husband and kids. I’ve always had travel companions or traveled to places to meet with friends or family. The idea of going somewhere solo and not knowing anyone is intimidating for me.
But my kids are now grown and off doing their own things. If I want to go exploring or have a vacation then I’m going to have to push through my fear.
Bodyfelt, by contrast grew up in a big family where it was hard to find alone time.
“I think the seed of independent travel was planted in me at a young age,” said Bodyfelt. “My parents took us on a trip across the border to Nogales, Mexico. I took it upon myself to go wander away from my parents and my little nine-year-old self thought, ‘hey, this is really great.’”
That was the beginning. In college, Bodyfelt did a study abroad semester and hitchhiked through Europe. Traveling while married though was different because Bodyfelt’s travel style didn’t match her husband’s.
“I always felt a little bit resentful having to travel with someone,” said Bodyfelt. “When my marriage didn’t work out, it was almost an emancipation. I felt it gave me permission to travel again.”
How To Get Started
Traveling anywhere means figuring out transportation, lodging and activities. Bodyfelt, being the seasoned traveler almost always books it all herself. That comes with practice. But you don’t have to do that.
For starters, you don’t have to do a three-week international trip to four different countries.
“If this seems overwhelming to you, you can start small,” said Bodyfelt. “You can plan a weekend trip by yourself. But you’re not going to feel comfortable doing it by yourself until you start doing it by yourself.”
The first step is to know where you’d like to visit.
Once you’ve pinned down your country, start looking for your flight. Bodyfelt uses Kayak.com and she’ll set up alerts so she’ll get notifications of changes in fares.
Once she’s got her flight, then Bodyfelt starts to look at lodging.
“I really like the local flavors, so I love using Airbnb,” said Bodyfelt. “It’s an amazing way to experience what a local would live like and you can find some incredible deals.”
For hotels, Bodyfelt uses Booking.com.
Consider A Tour
If even thinking about finding your airfare and searching for accommodation has you stopped in your tracks, then consider a package tour. Bodyfelt used this approach when traveling to countries where she felt nervous about booking for herself such as Jordan and the Middle East.
I see tours offered on Travelzoo and Bodyfelt suggests On The Go Tours, Intrepid Travel and Roads Scholar.
With tours, everything is going to be planned for you although there will likely be some optional excursions during the trip. The great thing about these vacations is that while you may be traveling solo, as soon as you meet your tour group, you’ll be with other people from all over the world. So, no need to worry about being alone.
Be Prepared For The Single Supplement
One of the inequities about traveling solo is the single supplement. It’s what tour operators charge you when you’re not traveling with a companion. Supposedly, the rooms are more expensive when only occupied by one person.
The charge is very trip and tour-operator dependent. But you can often get deals where it is waived. Bodyfelt suggests doing an Internet search for tours with no single supplement. If all else fails, always try to negotiate it with the travel company.
Choosing Where To Travel
When you’re choosing where to travel, I would start by making a list of the places that interest you. The truth is the order in which you visit the places doesn’t matter. There is no wrong choice. Having the list means you’ll be ready to snap a deal when you see it.
Bodyfelt shares a tip from a guide she met in Russia. He told her that where you want to travel is the city you see in your dreams.
Consider An Activity-Based Trip
If you’re nervous about what to do when you get to your chosen city, you can solve that problem by looking for a tour based on a specific interest or activity.
You can do a culinary tour, a bicycling tour, a volunteer trip or a religious tour. You could chaperone a Girl Scout trip. You could also do a language immersion course to get your Spanish up to a level to give you the confidence to travel around South America like Bodyfelt.
“Basically, the sky’s the limit,” said Bodyfelt. “Whatever you want to do, whatever interests you, there is a trip for you to take advantage of that interest.”
Consider Your Safety
Solo travel solo does demand some daring on your part. If you listen to all the unforeseen and unexpected incidents from worldly travelers, you could easily be scared into staying on your couch.
“It’s a balance,” said Bodyfelt. “You want to be prepared and you want to be vigilant but don’t want to be paranoid.”
Before booking a trip, and especially if you’re not going to be with a tour group, you should check the State Department and the Center for Disease Control for travel advisories. Bodyfelt also recommends checking the equivalent government entities in other countries. For example, the U.S might advise against traveling to Mexico City whereas the Australian government might advise only against specific neighborhoods.
Bear in mind too that safety is relative to your own experience and comfort level. There are plenty of places in the U.S. that foreigners see as being extremely dangerous.
Some safety basics include making sure that a close friend or family member in the U.S has your detailed itinerary and that you check in with them periodically.
Don’t Leave Without Travel Insurance
If you travel, then at some point your luggage will be delayed or even lost altogether. As inconvenient as that is, it is just that when compared to what can happen if you get sick or injured overseas. Bodyfelt always buys travel insurance to cover medical expenses and emergency repatriation back to the U.S. Such policies are not expensive – your credit card may even offer coverage if your flight is purchased with the card. This is important – you may have health insurance here but it is very unlikely that it provides any sort of coverage overseas.
Solo Travel Solo Will Boost Your Confidence
Bodyfelt swears that the best way to build your self-confidence is by traveling solo because it’s not going to be comfortable.
Solo travel will show you that you are strong, and that you are capable.
“If you recover from dysentery in Vietnam, if you can negotiate with a guy in New Delhi to get the price you want, if you can haggle with somebody to go into the Pyramids and not get ripped off, that’s going to give you a sense of accomplishment,” said Bodyfelt.
You internalize those kinds of experiences and translate them into being assertive at home. There’s no reason you can’t negotiate a raise. There’s no reason you can’t tell your ex you need them to watch the kids for the weekend.
“That instilling of confidence is something that I have not gotten from any other thing in my life,” said Bodyfelt. “Only solo travel can do that.”
Other people will notice the shift in confidence too. Bodyfelt says that whenever she comes back from traveling her coworkers comment on how much happier she seems and more confident.
“That is something I never take for granted,” said Bodyfelt. “It’s coming back from trips realizing, ‘hey if I can do that, I can do anything.’”
Traveling Solo Makes You Resilient And Flexible
No matter where you go, there will inevitably be incidents. You’ll miss your connecting flight and be stranded for three days. You’ll get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. You’ll get a stomach bug. Somehow, whatever it is will get resolved. You’ll figure it out or the people around you, even strangers, will help you.
“A byproduct of that is you gain a better perspective,” said Bodyfelt. “Once you’ve experienced that kind of stuff, being late for your train when you get back to the United States pales in comparison. It makes you a lot more resilient, a lot more flexible.”
Martha Bodyfelt is a divorce recovery and confidence coach whose website “Surviving Your Split” shows divorced readers how to finally get some peace of mind, regain their confidence, and move on with their lives feeling like Wonder Woman. For your Free Divorce Goddess Survival Kit, stop by Surviving Your Split today!