The sun is setting over the ocean. As I admire the orange glow and cotton candy-pink clouds on the horizon from my private infinity pool, waves gently lapping at the stilts of my overwater bungalow, and glass of Champagne in hand, I can’t help but think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to share this with someone?”
Alas, my fate as a roving travel writer seems sealed. I journey to some of the earth’s most romantic corners and enjoy their many charms… but am almost always on my own.
Before you feel too sorry for me, let me just say that I can appreciate the romance of an epic sunset or the sumptuous splendor of a supersized bed on my own. And the fact that I am in some of these places alone certainly befuddles my fellow travelers more than it bothers me. But sometimes, I do find myself thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone else in tow?
That feeling when you're the only non-honeymooner.
The Maldives are made for honeymoons. And anyone who goes there and is not on their honeymoon is suspect. Or, at least, that’s the way it seems to me as soon as I set foot on a plane to the capital of Malé. I’ve been there twice this year, and each time I boarded a flight, it literally felt like I was the only single person on the entire plane. The rest were young couples or empty nesters — pale on the outbound and sunburned on the return — who had come to experience the destination of a lifetime. I got some broad stares from some of them, as well as the flight attendants, but minded my own business. After all, couples don’t own the Maldives!
This exotic island chain due south of India is a magical waterscape of vibrant coral reefs, tiny, verdant islands, and gorgeous results strung out across hundreds of miles of the Indian Ocean. In short, it’s paradise. It also takes over a full day to get there from the US. No wonder many folks save coming here for their honeymoon.
When I got to one resort, Jumeirah Vittaveli, after a charter yacht ride with yours truly as the only passenger, it seemed like everyone else was enjoying private beach dinners or couple’s treatments in the Talise Spa, while I was left to my own devices. Not that I minded too much, though. In fact, I’m usually up for a solo dinner, especially one serenaded by the noise of the tide, though one hostess seemed totally nonplussed when I told her I would be dining alone. “No one else coming?” she kept asking. Nope, just more grilled lobster for me!
I’m also happy to enjoy a solo spa treatment, thanks very much. No one else needs to be there to see me getting a massage. I also definitely took full advantage of my private sundeck and infinity pool and the aforementioned Champagne. I was just careful not to go swimming alone in the sea off my deck (safety first!). Plus, any excursion I booked, I usually had a boat or dive crew all to myself, so we could hit all the best snorkeling spots or track a pod of dolphins to my heart’s content.
While I enjoyed my overwater villa, I would definitely wait till I had someone else with me to book one of the seven Ocean Suites. Each is freestanding and served by private boat service to and from the resort island. That might be a little too much isolation even for me.
Table for… one?
One of the ways that solo voyages really differ from traveling with others is that you spend a lot of time eating alone. Like, a lot. Especially in romantic destinations and hotels where much of the experience can be predicated on long, leisurely meals. At this point, though, I actually relish the thought of sitting down to an hours-long dinner and having a chance to unwind over a few wine pairings, chat with the staff in detail about the menu and really try to learn about the place. If I get bored, I can always read a magazine or Instagram a particularly gorgeous dish to make my friends back home drool. Plus, because I don’t have food allergies, I can order whatever I like without having to consider another person’s needs. Selfish but all the more delicious.
On a recent trip, I stayed at a Relais & Chateaux wine spa and resort called Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. Housed in the remains of a 12th-century abbey, the resort is gorgeous. Its myriad historical elements include the fact that its Michelin-starred restaurant, Refectorio, is in the refectory where the monks would eat centuries ago. Forget modest bowls of gruel or vegetables, though. These days, the dinner menu is a multi-course bonanza of regional produce (some of which, like honey and pine nuts, are produced right on the property) and international delicacies.
My dinner there lasted about three hours and encompassed delights like a French oyster doused in horseradish cream and Galician seaweed essence; poached lobster with artichoke cream, lemon, and lavender flowers; and slow-cooked roasted suckling lamb with garlic puree and a jus demiglace. All were served with different pairings from Abadia Retuerta’s winery. Had I had a dining companion, they surely would have been bored by all the questions I asked the staff and the sommelier about what they were serving and pouring — we’re talking about a dozen questions about each dish — but I didn’t have to worry because I was on my own, and the meal was that much more memorable. Plus, I didn’t have to make my excuses at the end of the meal. When I’d finished, I could just get up and leave.
Getting cozy, solo style
If you ask me, there’s nothing more romantic than falling asleep to a flickering fire. There’s something so soothing and cozy about it, and I absolutely adore having a fireplace in a hotel room. The only thing better would be having someone to cuddle with while warming up. With or without someone else, though, it’s still one of my favorite hotel-room amenities.
Among my favorite recent hotel stays where the fireplace made the in-room experience were the ultra-luxe The Little Nell in Aspen. You’ll definitely want to people watch and celebrity-spot over a post-ski cocktail in the bar or book dinner at the award-winning Element 47 restaurant (its wine list is among the best in the country). But there’s nothing like coming back to your room after a day on the slopes, snow still clinging to your clothes, and make your own little après ski, stripping off, pouring yourself a glass of wine and sitting in front of the fire as your muscles warm back up. It’s just the right way to get ready for another day out on the mountain.
One of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed at in Australia, Pretty Beach House, is a private compound on the edge of a coastal national park in New South Wales, about 90 minutes’ drive from Sydney. Its four lavish guest bungalows are constructed from local stone and reclaimed timber, and each features a private plunge pool as well as a wood-burning fireplace, perfect for curling up in front of with one of the art books, a cocktail from the fully stocked minibar, and an album playing on the state-of-the-art in-room sound system. It’s like having your own little creative hideaway in the hinterlands.
The stuff of dreams
Here’s a secret confession: I’m an active sleeper. I rock back and forth. I fidget. I toss and turn. I talk in my sleep. In truth, it’s probably better that I’m traveling alone for the most part, because any roommate would be sure to lose a lot of sleep. In fact, I’m so bad, that even if I am traveling with a partner, I sometimes reserve rooms with two beds, just to spare them.
However, I love walking into a hotel room and finding an enormous, fluffy bed… just for me! I had that enchanting experience not long ago when I stopped through Amsterdam for the night. I was staying at the newly renovated The Pulitzer right on the Prinsengracht canal in the city center. The hotel is an Amsterdam landmark, comprised of 25 17th- and 18th-century traditional canal houses that have been combined into a single hotel. No two rooms are alike, and a recent refurb under the aegis of designer Jacu Strauss, has ensured that each retains its unique character.
Knowing all that, though, I was still surprised when I walked into my room, the eponymous Pulitzer Suite, to discover one of the biggest hotel beds I have ever seen. Forget your average king-size bed: This one was more emperor-size. Though the suite itself was enormous, the bed anchored the space and dwarfed the bathtub placed next to it. No matter which way I lay — vertical, horizontal, diagonal — I couldn’t reach both ends of it, even with my arms and feet all completely extended.
Would it have been fun to have someone else there for a romp in that behemoth bed? Absolutely. All that room! But I also enjoyed a superb night of sleep in it. Despite my usual nocturnal commotion (and I woke up basically upside down and diagonal compared to how I’d gone to bed), I was still surrounded by miles and miles of sheets and about a dozen sumptuous pillows… and they were all mine.
Would these experiences have been nicer with a partner? Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t thoroughly enjoyable even though I was on my own. And being so allowed me to experience them in a completely unique and thoughtful way.
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