One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.
It takes two to make a thing go right.
Yeah yeah, I’ve heard it all before in song. But consider this twist on the fear of being alone: Sometimes it’s better to travel solo.
I’ve been doing it more often than not for 20 years, and my treks for one have resulted in some of the best experiences of my life. I have a handful of friends with whom I travel well, but you know what they say about going on trips with boyfriends. Do so at your own risk!
I’ve been lucky so far. I’ve had nothing but a good time on the road with my previous boyfriends. That said, it’s been several years since I’ve taken that particular plunge. And how does one negotiate the awkwardness of traveling with a guy you’ve known for about two months, someone who isn’t quite a friend, not yet a boyfriend?
That’s what I was wondering two nights ago while sitting in a pub in Bangkok across from the guy who’d invited me nine days earlier on a four-day long-weekend getaway to Krabi, on Thailand’s southwest coast. From the moment I accepted his unexpected invitation, my feelings were as mixed as the signals he’d been sending me for weeks.
My excitement was tempered with a fair amount of trepidation, which is why I consulted with several friends to get their take on the situation (they all approved), though in my heart, I sort of suspected that this getaway for two would never happen. I figured he’d rescind his invitation, and I’d be secretly relieved. After all, could a loner like me handle a weekend in tiny close quarters with this hot and cold guy who had such a huge chip dangling from his shoulder?
Three nights before take off, he sent me a text message suggesting that we “not rush into things,” that we look at the holiday as a “chance to unwind, get to know each other better, see what develops.” (See the 12th warning sign in the previous post, which was mostly inspired by you know who.) My gut told me that a cold front had moved in, and he wanted out. He insisted he didn’t, and after some back and forth over the phone, he apologized for overthinking things. He shouldn’t have said anything (his official assessment, not mine, though I agreed).
The next morning, he sent another text message apologizing for “sounding like a dick” the night before. I accepted his apology, though I wondered if he might have been onto something. Later on, he invited me to have after-work drinks that evening, and as I got ready to meet him, I felt like I was preparing for an audition, a moment of truth. Both of us would be trying out for the role of potential travel partner. I wondered what had possessed him to invite me on this trip in the first place. And why, pray tell, had I accepted? I barely knew the guy, and I was beginning to wonder if I wanted to.
As I sat across the table from him while he fiddled with his smart phone, I pretended to be too busy looking at some interesting scene unfolding outside to care that he was being unbelievably rude. I knew that the audition wasn’t going well for either one of us. I started having flashforwards of myself sweating in a bungalow without AC, swatting away mosquitoes and trying to hatch an escape plan as he tap tap tapped on that damn smart phone. My own hotel room (AC included)? The next flight back to Bangkok? I knew a preemptive strike was in order. When he finally put down the phone, I announced that he’d be traveling to Krabi solo.
And so would I. Why should I give up my trip to a place I’d never been just because I knew it would be a terrible idea to go with him? Sitting on the hour-long AirAsia flight to Krabi in the rear of the aircraft with my former would-be travel partner, who hadn’t taken my near-game time decision well (he’d unfriended and blocked me on Facebook within an hour!), somewhere in front of me, I wondered if I’d made the right decision to go, after all. When I landed in Krabi and got into the taxi, I knew I had. Cab rides from airports to hotels are typically flat, drab affairs, but cruising along with high-rise rock formations rising up on both sides of the road, I felt like I was traveling through a post card. How did it take me so long to get here?
“Dear Mr. Helligar & Partner,” began the welcome letter in my suite at Vogue Resort & Spa. I wondered if the proprietors had been spying on me over the course of the last few days and now were taunting me for my hasty last-minute change of plans. Then a text message arrived from my friend Samuel. He was in Krabi. He wanted to surprise me, so at the last minute he and his house guest booked a 12-hour bus ride from Bangkok to Krabi. About a half hour after I received his text, they were in my lobby.
Normally I’m not crazy about surprise visitors, but this one thrilled me. I was happy for the company and the glimpse they gave me over lunch of what might have been. Watching Samuel struggle to communicate with his Thai friend, observing his growing frustration as the guy he’d been spending the past week with paid more attention to his smart phone than anything or anyone else, I knew that despite that awkward “Dear Mr. Helligar & Partner” greeting underneath the Vogue letterhead, I’d made the right decision.
I’m looking forward to hanging out with Samuel in Krabi, but I’m also eagerly anticipating the time I’ll spend alone. For a recovering introvert like me, quality time with a friend is always best when it ends with a quick “goodbye,” and me alone, again, naturally.