I both hate and love alone traveling.
As you can see from some of my vintage (cooler way to say old--ask anyone) blog posts, alone travel at the end of the travel season can be rough (haunted condotel rooms, bad radio, awkward college fairs, etc.), but in general, I like it just fine. Lots of time to catch up on books on tape and podcasts (confession...I just learned about podcasts yesterday. I'm not joking. I mean, I knew they were out there...people talked about them...but I literally downloaded my first one yesterday. They're SO EASY to get...and they're FREE...and they're ALL THAT I NORMALLY LISTEN TO ANYWAY...just right there. I listened to Amy Sedaris all the way up and back from my college fair and smiled so much. It was amazing.), you get to eat when/where/whatever you want, you aren't neglecting anyone when you go to the gym or to bed early, you can have the TV on all night...there are a lot of ups.
However, when I travel alone, whether I'm loving or hating it at the moment, I get in the alone-zone (rhyme unintended, but appreciated). Work time on the road is 100% small-talk-social-happy-and-excited time, so non-work time has to be non-small-talk-non-social-mellow-and-low-key time, or I'll lose it and start letting swears slip at college fairs, or cry at the hotel check-in desk or something crazy. I know my balance. So if you're like me, or if you're bored at work, here are some tips to ensure that your alone time stays alone time.
1--Stay in chain hotels.
They're generally laid out the exact same way, so whether you're in Bakersfield or the bay area, you can walk, with confidence and purpose (thanks Oprah!), directly to the front desk. That way no one will stop you to ask you if you know where you're going, how your trip was, if you know the hotel serves breakfast (never your best option), what you're up to later, etc. I lived a couple of travel seasons thinking "oh I'm independent, and want to stay at independent hotels!" I did find a couple of gems...but I ended up finding more un-gems, to say the least. Like unsafe, unclean, uncomfortable, unconvenient (I know) places. At some point, it's not worth it. Also, no points. I show my fierce independence in food eaten and purple shoes worn.
2--When you check into a hotel, just walk up, put your ID and credit card on the counter, smile briefly, and start to look for something in your bag.
This says "I've done thing before, I know that this is everything you need, I'm pleasant, but don't want to tell you the type of food I like so you can tell me the restaurant that tips you out to recommend them." The last time I made the mistake of engaging in the small talk, I ended up holding up a line of 12 people waiting to check in while the guy working told me all about how crazy it was last time he went out in downtown San Diego, because he just kept!ordering!shots! So great, so great, stop it because my take out Burmese food is getting cold.
3--Always have a book. Always have a book. Always.
I have no problem eating alone. Other people have a problem with me eating alone. I think people feel bad, so neighbors, wait staff, etc, like to chat it up. Not so with book. They go from "oh look at that girl eating alone...that's so sad that she has no one to eat with" to "oh look at that girl with a book that must be so good that she took her book to dinner rather than a friend." The book is also lucrative on trains, shuttles and while waiting for anything to start. All of the sudden, you're intentionally alone.
4--Never wait at the movies.
Squeezing in the random mid-day movie is the best on the road, and when you're alone, you can see WHATEVER YOU WANT. But again, it can lead to a bunch of awkwardness if you choose a movie, plan it out, get there early, and sit and wait for it to start. There are a lot of the "is that seat taken...?" convos, that, when you answer "no." leads to both you having to sit by a stranger AND the people who just called you our for being at a movie alone judging you. The book does help here, but here's how to nail it. Just show up at a movie and buy a ticket for whatever is starting right at that time. It's the best for several reasons: you don't have to worry about the seat convo (that's pretty clearly the first reason, since I just talked about it for so long), it's already dark for the pre-preview commercials, so no one stares, and, maybe best reason...you can see movies that you'd never, ever be able to see with other people. Not like pornos (unless you want to--to each her own on that one), but cartoons, musicals, prequels, etc., that you KNOW you want to see, but are too embarrassed to admit it. But the key is to arrive right when it starts. Then it's no big that you're alone, and if anyone makes fun of you later, you can just be like "What? It started at the right time...it's not like I waited for it."
I'm sure I'll have more to say about this as travel continues...but "back to the old bump and grind" for now (not my quotation, but a current favorite verbal slipperoo from a phone convo).