Things I’ve Learned: The Solo Traveler and The Couple

Am I sad when I travel solo? What do you think?

I love to travel solo.  In fact, it may just be my favorite way to travel.  I can do what I want when I want at the pace that I want.  If I want to wander around a park all day taking photos of trees, well, I can.  And I do.  Additionally, I find that I meet so many more people when I’m traveling solo, simply because I’m more approachable when I’m by myself–and because I’m outgoing to a frightening degree.

But I’ve written all about my love for solo travel before, so most of you know this about me already.  What I have not addressed is something that I discovered during my most recent trip, another solo cruise, this time out of New Orleans sailing to the Western Caribbean.  I discovered that there are two different types of couples that travel together.  And being able to quickly differentiate between the two types is very important for the successful solo traveler.

Let’s call the first type of traveling couples ‘butterflies’.  Butterfly couples are good for the solo traveler.  They are outgoing, enthusiastic, and friendly.  They will invite you to dinner, chat with you at the bar, or offer to take a photo of you with your own camera (after witnessing you awkwardly try to take your own) even though you are solo and they are not.

Befriend the butterfly couple.  After all, as a solo traveler, you’d seriously limit your social opportunities if you only sought out other solo travelers to befriend.  Butterfly couples are happy traveling almost anywhere, because there’s always something new to see and someone new to talk to.  Because of this, you’ll find butterfly couples all over the world–in cities and small towns, in theme parks and on cruise ships, hiking, biking, and sipping wine.

This type of couple is the type of couple I’ve always been a part of.  Even when traveling with my husband–rare as that is these days–we are still open to meeting new people and being generally social.  Because this is how I am when I travel as part of a pair, I assumed this was how everyone was.  Not so.

The second type of traveling couples should probably be referred to as ‘caterpillars’.  And by ‘caterpillars’, I am referring to the caterpillar that’s still ensconced in his cocoon, completely unaware of what is going on around him.  Caterpillar couples travel so that they can be together.  They want to spend time with each other–and no one else.  This type of couple would be well served to hole up in an all inclusive somewhere, spending their vacation days ordering room service and gazing into each other’s eyes.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that–I suppose I can see the draw.  It’s just not for me.

However, caterpillar couples can also be found all over the world.  This means that you’re bound to run into one or two or ten, depending upon how frequently you travel solo.  But that’s ok, because now that you know about the two different couple types, you can quickly and easily identify them ‘in the wild’ (just don’t throw a big net over them and pin them to a board–they might not like that very much).

As a solo traveler, it is your job to find butterfly couples and steer clear of caterpillar couples.  Because butterfly couples will enrich your travels and quite possibly turn into life long friends, whereas caterpillar couples want absolutely nothing to do with you and, in fact, might be disturbed by your presence.  Some couples are so very caterpillar-esque that they can’t even understand why a person would travel solo in the first place.  But you know why–and secure in that knowledge, you can move on to the next bar, pool chair, or tour bus seat.  That’s the beauty of solo travel–you’re free to do just that.

For all of you solo travelers out there–have you encountered both types of couples on your travels?  And couple travelers–are you a butterfly or a caterpillar?  Or have you (appropriately, given the metaphor) changed from one to the other at some point in your life? 

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