And Then There Were Two

April 21, 2011 27 Comments »

solo

Who says you need two people? The ultimate entertainment for the solo traveler...it comes with a (plastic) friend!

You may be wondering – why did I go back to Sri Lanka. After all, I’ve been there before and I don’t really like to go back to a place I’ve been before; the world is too big and life is too short.

There were a few reasons for this ‘do-over’ of Sri Lanka.

• The last time I was there it was only for 6 days.
• I was there working photographing a luxury villa for some friends and only stayed at that villa and went no where else.
• I was sick in the very short time I was there, so was mainly sleeping and miserable most of the time. I was only able to explore villa and one pharmacy in Galle.
• And… I suppose I must confess…I went to see a boy.

Yes, I’m a self professed solo traveler and I often evangelize about how great it is and how it allows me to actually meet more people than if I were with someone. Traveling solo also opens me up to a lot of flexibility and opportunities… and attention (welcome and unwelcome). But everyone needs change once in a while; and certainly I don’t shun companionship. The idea of flying off to meet Russ and have a travel companion for a while sounded like an adventure itself.; and I love a good adventure.

When we looked into where we could meet for a month, the most sensible option seemed to be to meet in the middle. He was coming from his career break travel in Southeast Asia and I was coming from my cultural exchange and work in the Middle East. In the middle was Sri Lanka…with no visa fees for Americans…so I went to Sri Lanka…for a second time.

It was especially ironic that I was flying there to shed my solo-ness for a month since the last time I was there I was all alone and having a hard time adjusting to being solo after traveling with my father in Nepal.

I feel like I’m now sort of qualified to finally weigh in on solo travel vs. couple travel after conducting a month of research while traveling around Sri Lanka with Russ. But that is a debate that is probably very personal to everyone. Instead I simply decided to take my experiences and decide what I liked about traveling as a couple and what I didn’t like.

What I liked:

• Someone to share moments with. Everyone talks about this sharing ‘thing’ and it has always eluded me. I quite frankly file it in the sappy, fluff, romantic category in my brain which isn’t too often accessed. I never really cared before; or truth be told I avoided thinking about it because maybe I secretly I wanted it…something to ponder. If I was somewhere cool and I wanted to share it I would mention it on Facebook or Twitter. However having an actual human being to interact with had its benefits.
• Cheaper accommodation costs. Being solo is expensive. Sharing costs is good…nuff said.
• Have someone to help me put my luggage up on the overhead rack on the train and bus. Sometimes a girl just likes a little help.
• It’s easier to negotiate everything. With a partner you can actually take on the role of good cop – bad cop and normally do better with negotiation. It was quite fun to look at Russ before we got in a tuk tuk and say..”you got this one.” (a.k.a. – you play the hard ass this time.)
• Someone to kill bugs. Yes – I’m a sissy when it comes to big cockroaches. Thank you Russ for putting up with my bug phobia.
• Someone to take my picture without me trying to contort my arm to take my self portrait. Thanks to Russ now I have an abundance of photos of myself.
• I learned new travel tactics and a myriad of other new techie stuff from Russ. When you travel alone…it’s easy to get in a rut after 4+ years of being on the road. This is the way I always pack my bag, do my photography workflow, find wifi access, get access to movies online, ensure my gear doesn’t get stolen, etc. Quite frankly traveling with Russ, a new career break traveler, was an education. At times it made me feel pretty old fashioned and I realized I hadn’t changed many of my travel tactics or gear in the years I’ve been moving around.

sri lanka tea country

I'm caught doing photography in tea country surrounded by groupies

What I didn’t like:

• Being with someone else made me painfully aware of how much I work when I’m traveling. A travel bloggers life may seem like all fun and beaches…but there is a lot that goes into this little digital journal and personality of mine as well as my other websites. It is my main source of income, so it’s my job. Until I traveled with Russ I didn’t really know how tethered to it I was. It left me wondering how my work/life balance became so unbalanced.
• Two people with cameras are really intimidating. For some reason I when I travel solo with my camera I feel much less conspicuous. But when Russ and I would both have out our cameras taking shots of people, I was painfully self-conscience of what we were doing and it felt like we had invaded a village in camouflage carrying ak47’s and hand grenades.
• This may be obvious, but when you travel with a boy you tend to get hit on less. I’m not sure that this belongs in the ‘cons’, but when you are not seen as a single woman, you simply don’t get any of the attention and perks I’m used to when I travel alone. No one offering to take me places, give me little tastes of food, no one buying me a drink. However, in Russ’s defense – he did pick up the slack. It wasn’t bad…just different.
• It’s challenging dealing with the ups and downs of another person…and trust me – I know I’m no cake walk. When I’m solo I can wallow in my own phobias, esteem, quirks – but hard to do when you are with another person…they are exposed to it all. Granted, I know this is no different than being in any relationship – but when you travel the stress is hiked up even more as you are testing patience, flexibility, communication constantly.  I suppose the sappy side of me would say that it makes the ‘ups’ even better when you are with someone.
• You get used to having a companion…which makes it hard to part.

So…welcome to my travels in Sri Lanka. You will be seeing lots of “We” in my upcoming writing – which still feels a bit foreign to me. However I think ‘we’ were able to get a really great dose of what Sri Lanka had to offer – the good and the bad. Stay tuned…

Weigh in on how you feel about traveling solo vs. traveling as a couple…I’d love to hear what others experience!


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