How glossy and polished is the travel industry today? Well, I suppose it’s always been like that. Everywhere I look online, travel seems perfect and sparkly, like a clean car.
But let’s be honest here, how many times are our cars actually that shiny and clean? If you’re like me, never.
It’s the same with travel. Us bloggers paint a perfect picture of the world, because, let’s be honest, we’re paid to do that. But what about all the messy, sloppy, disorganized bits behind the scene? Where do they go? For me, sometimes on Snapchat, though often it’s just lost somewhere.
I’m the first person to admit that I’m guilty of making travel seem perfect. But I’m about to spill some major truths about my lifestyle as a professional travel blogger.
For the past decade I’ve been an unashamed hardcore solo traveler. I don’t really like people. And I definitely really don’t like traveling with people. So I go on my own. And I love it, for the most part.
But I am not going to lie, sometimes it blows. It’s not always rainbows and unicorns.
And while I tend to be more comfortable traveling on my own than with people, there are a few solo trips, moments and memories that stand out to me as being really fucking hard.
Are. You. Ready?
Let’s start with a story. A shitty story that might make you hate me or feel bad for me, or probably both.
Around 2 years ago I was in the middle of a long and drawn out break up. It sucked. I was a mere shell of my fabulous self.
I was in a tropical place at the end of a solo blog trip – the kind of thing that looks like paradise on Instagram. After two weeks of blog work I had a week on my own to explore at my own pace.
I thought I was going to meet up with that guy. Instead he was “too busy” even though we were finally on the same side of the world together. So I ended up in this tropical magical paradise alone instead of the dreamy reunion I had imagined.
I know, I know. Serious first world problems. Whatever. Hear me out.
As I went to check into my hotel for a few nights, the manager came down to greet me as media (this often happens when I am being hosted at hotels). I looked like a raggedy bum with my huge backpack, humid hair, and general foul attitude but I tried to pull it together and be as professional as I could.
“We’ve upgraded your room, enjoy!” famous last words after 5 minutes of small talk.
As I headed up, I was pleasantly surprised to swipe my keycard into the Presidential Suite. Normally, this would be greeted with an almighty “oh hell yes” and whoop of excitement, but this time I was in the middle of a giant weeklong “oh woe is me” fest and was NOT in the mood.
As the bellboy dropped my bags and left, I was left dumbfounded at the size of this suite. It was literally as big as a house. Two stories high, private pool, jacuzzi, sauna, multiple rooms, TVs everywhere, you name it, they had it.
Then I wandered into the enormous kitchen. Dun dun dun.
And waiting for me on the counter was a lovely and thoughtful gift from the hotel – a huge fancy fruit, cheese and chocolate platter, two glasses of bubbles (not one but two!) and a note wishing US a pleasant stay.
Fuck. My. Life.
I don’t know what got into me, but I just looked at those two glasses of perfectly chilled champagne, and as the bubbles drifted up in the glasses so did the tears in my eyes, and I lost my shit. Seriously, I lost it.
Sobbing big gulping tears, I had some dark thoughts, guys, mostly along the lines of “I’m going to be alone forever” and “no one is ever going to love me” and of course the big old “I hate my life waaaaaahhh.”
I mean, sometimes we just need a big cry. I’m pretty good at keeping a lid on it most of the time, but sometimes we just crack, right? Please say I’m not the only one.
Even though I was in the middle of having my heart completely broken, I kept it together for as long as I could, but in that moment I snapped. I mean who cries in a presidential suite that she’s staying in for free on an amazing trip that was also for free? Far out, I even hate me remembering this story.
Confronted with the new feeling of hating solo travel after years of loving it, of being alone in a super romantic place with no one to share it with (something that never bothered me before) I did the only sensible thing and immediately downed one glass of champagne, grabbed the other glass and the rest of the bottle and proceed to get completely hammered alone at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
Screw you feelings!
Throwing the biggest pity party you have ever seen, I then blasted Adele while slamming all the doors around the suite closing off all the extra rooms, and then proceeded to shove all the chocolate strawberries in my mouth before passing out in front of the TV in my swimsuit in a perfectly terrible mood.
Talk about glamorous! If anyone DIDN’T deserve that suite, it was this hot mess over here.
Waking up (rather painfully) the next day thoroughly disgusted with myself, I decided I needed to pull myself together for the rest of my travels. I wasn’t about let a guy ruin a trip for me in a beautiful place.
Though to be safe, afterwards I booked the grungiest, cheapest motels I could find preferably with single beds and not a whiff of romanticism about them.
And while I had moments of sadness that you will always feel when going through a break up and I was still pretty bummed out (I’m not going to lie), my memories of that road trip are pretty fond ones. Sometimes you need to hit a low point to realize you need to pick yourself up and move on.
It also helps to have a purpose or a passion to keep going, and as sad as I was, my curiosity to explore a new place, have some adventures and share stories about it later on were stronger than my self-pity and desire to curl up in bed for a week and sob.
It was if blogging was there to save me again.
A few months ago I found myself in similar circumstances – solo and single in another romantic destination – the Maldives.
The honeymoon capital of the world, I don’t think I could have picked a more awkward place to travel solo. “Lovers bungalow for one please?” “Couples massage half price?” “Sunset beach dinner table for one?”
But this time I was a different human and I couldn’t care less. I had been single for a few months and I was perfectly content with my situation. I briefly remembered my little breakdown from a few years before when I was offered the chance to go to the Maldives, but decided it wasn’t enough to deter me. This was a place I was dying to visit and I was going to enjoy myself.
I was faced with a decision – I could be sad and lonely and wish I was there on my own honeymoon or with a boyfriend on a romantic trip OR I could live it up and absolutely relish the fact that this was a one of a kind of a holiday for me and I was visiting a place that I had only dreamed about on Pinterest.
I decided to go with the latter. And you know what? I had an amazing time! I went diving, made new friends, caught up on sleep, worked on my tan, read books, drank a million coconuts, ignored my emails, and did all the normal things that people should do on holiday.
Often I’ve found with travel that happiness is a choice.
Because I decided that I was going to enjoy myself no matter what and not feel sorry for myself for being single, I ended up doing just that. I wasn’t even fazed by the dozens of lovey dovey couples on their honeymoons, and I ended up even making friends around the Maldives. I even met other solo travelers just like me. It was awesome!
And while I have been thinking a lot about whether I want to keep up with this intense solo travel life I’ve built for myself, at the same time I still really love it.
As I walked into my overwater bungalow suite in the Maldives after 2 days of flying, I was greeted not only with champagne but also with flower petals strewn all over the giant bed. Because of course.
Shrugging, I flicked them on the floor and got ready for a long nap to catch up on sleep with nothing on my mind except for which bikini I was going to wear at the beach tomorrow.
And damn, was that bed pretty comfortable, especially because I didn’t have to share it.
Have you ever traveled solo in a romantic place? How do you cope with feeling lonely on the road? Share!