Solo Travel - recent experience

  I just have to post my recent experience on my trip to Ireland September 15.

I am a single woman and since I'm relatively new to international travel I prefer to travel with a group because of the planned activities and excellent lodgings and meals.

My prior two trips (Sicily and Cinque Terre) were a delight .  The group was friendly and inclusive and I never felt left out.

However - this last trip was extremely unpleasant.  I was ignored, excluded and sometimes avoided.  One kind woman explained that everone was grouped by family, siblings, partners, etc.  

Three incidents stand out;

1. I broke my foot in June and it was badly swollen after the 6+ hour plane trip.  The group leader got me settled with an ice pack in a sitting area adjacent to the room where tea was being served.  No one approached me to see what was wrong and no one offered to bring me a cup of tea.

2. As we were gathering for the bus I tripped and fell down a few stone steps in the quad outside Trinity College Library.  The group leader and a stranger came over to help me (no major injuries). A very kind man from the group (he appeared to be a loner too although he was with family) rushed to me to assist.  To the assembled group I was invisible. 

3. The last day was free time in Dublin.  Our hotel was not in easy walking distance to down town Dublin.  I asked a small group if I could accompany them, "We already made plans".  I asked a duo of sisters, "We don't know what we're doing yet"

As with many people my age I'm on a tight budget and save each year to afford these trips.  I can honestly say that trip was incredibly painful and I couldn't wait for it to be over.  I even considered going home early.

I'm not thin-skinned or unusually difficult or critical.  I'm friendly, adaptable, open to new experiences and cultures and lands.  

Alhough I realize there are "singles" trips available I feel that Road Scholar could screen these trips closer for solo travelers and alert them.Ireland is a magnificent country - the people are wonderful and my tour leader was great this trip will be etched in my mind as a horrible experience.

I have decided to not schedule another Road Scholar trip.

  • Oh SquirrelCottage, your experience breaks my heart. I always travel solo on Road Scholar trips and go solo about half the time with another European small group tour company. I have noted it really changes the dynamics of the group if there are bigger groups of family and/or friends who are traveling together but I’m fortunate not to have encountered what you did.

    I'm not sure there is much Road Scholar can do regarding the make-up of their groups. You could call the office and check to see if there are other solo travelers signed up but still, that might not give you a whole picture. When I travel with the other company with my brother and SIL, I always get the single supplement. This summer SIL's sis traveled with us and also got a single supp. It would have appeared that we 2 were on our own but we were with a family group. I will say that we do try to be very inclusive, inviting anyone to join us for both activities and meals during free time.

    I'll also add, as your experience from your Italy trips showed, that this behavior in this group is NOT typical of Road Scholar travelers.

    I hope the "kind" woman who explained things to you finds herself in the situation where you either travel solo or you stay home. Karma bites.

    I hope you enjoy your next adventure and that your foot heals!

    ~Pam
  • In reply to PamInIdaho:

    Thank you for your kind response.

    I guess I'll have to do my homework before I plan a trip next year.

    I admit that in retrospect I have pictures and purchases to prove that Ireland was a very beautiful and exciting place but the human experience is still stuck in my gut like a sour stone.

    Thans again.

    - Linda
  • It is terrible that you had such an unpleasant experience. I am sure you know that it is an anomaly; most trips are like the other two you went on (Sicily and Cinque Terra). I was on one trip that had all couples and only one solo: me; and another one where I was one of two solos. I doubt that RS would tell us that a trip has few solos and sometime that doesn't really matter because the groups and couples are friendly and inclusive. I hope you will continue to remember how beautiful Ireland is and how friendly and delightful the Irish people are.
  • In reply to zen012501:

    Thank you for your response. I guess my experience is too recent in my mind.

    Yes - Ireland is a wonderful country and the people are friendly and gracious.

    I chose to visit Ireland because of my love of literature and I certainly got a lot of exposure to Ireland's massive contribution. Wilde, Joyce, Yeats, Goldsmith, etc.

    The Trinity Library was a high point and frankly I'm glad I saw it alone and had a conversation with one of the guards.

    - Linda
  • In reply to squirrelcottage011137:

    "I'm glad I saw it alone and had a conversation with one of the guards."

    Oh, Linda, I LOVE that statement. I, too, love to engage the museum guards if they aren't busy. They generally look SO bored and they often have so much knowledge. If I can't think of a question, I'll ask them which is their favorite room to rotate thru. They usually love to talk to anyone! They are usually locals as well and it's fun to engage that way. I think they also appreciate people who actually stop to look at things instead of the folks that race thru snapping selfies!

    A couple of years ago I was in one of the museums in Munich and noticed one of the guards continually walking thru a square of 4 rooms, then I noticed he had the same FitBit I did. I stopped him, pointed to the FitBit and asked how much (my German is non-existent) and he just laughed so we compared steps. He had more, of course!

    ~Pam
  • I hope people who do not travel solo will read your post and think about how much they have to gain by being welcoming to the people they meet in their programs -- whether solo travelers or people traveling together. I often wonder why so many couples always sit together at every meal. Are they trying not to meet other people?
  • On the other hand I was with a group of almost all couples who made a point of eating with some one new every chance they got. They had seen what you had experienced and it made them mad. It was one of the best trips. Part of the experience with RS, or with any travel, is meeting new people. Put it behind you, remember the wonderful things you did and saw.

    RS can't make people kind and remember not all solo's are treat to be around either! You could easily encounter same with any tour group. You just have to expect the best and move forward. The ruder people get the kinder I become. It keeps me centered.

    Reverse the logic and say to yourself if someone wants to join me great; if not then I already have fun plans for free time. That way you are never disappointed!
  • In reply to GerryL:

    I remember back in one of my 1970's "past lives" I was married to a man who, after a very impoverished childhood, became quite successful and wanted to learn social skills and graces. He was wisely advised to mix couples and groups at dinner parties even to the point of assigning name tags at the tables. It certainly made for a more energized event and new friends were made.

    I still want to travel and until my relationship status changes I'll just have to do more thorough research prior to the trip/s.

    Thank you for all the thoughtful and helpful replies.

    ~~ Linda
  • I'm really sorry this happened to you. I've been on 10 RS trips, all solo, and have never felt excluded. I did go on a trip where 2/3 of the people were part of a college reunion and that definitely affected the dynamics of the group but even they invited me to eat with them. Now that I think of it, I was the only solo on that trip. That's unusual, in my experience. There are usually at least a few of us.
    I've never been to Ireland and definitely want to go, most likely with RS. I hope I won't be the only solo, but of course won't know until I'm there.
  • In reply to zazzca012420:

    I went on the ENCHANTING IRELAND: TOWN AND COUNTRY (#21258) tour. Landed in Shannon, shuttled up to Ennistymon for 3 days and stayed in a fabulous hotel. Visited Galway and the west coast and spent the last 3 days in Dublin. It's a very well constructed trip. A primary Irish tour guide and entertaining and extremely knowledgeable experts along the way.

    It's a good choice. Hotels are super posh (except I was never able to order a proper Jameson's old-fashioned or Manhattan, but I adapted. Guinness is not an option for me), With my recent joint replacements, 2 knees, 1 hip and a healing fibula, I had no problem walking. Everthing was level except for a gentle climb at the Cliffs of Moher. I was the only lucky traveller to pack wellies.

    The weather was nasty - remnants of Florence caused fierce winds and more rain that is typical for Ireland. I've read that the west coast tends to be blustery. It reminded me of October in Iceland except there were several rainbows.

    Food's a bit bland but I was warned about United Kingdom cuisine. Try to get to the pubs at night. The good stuff happens after 10. I didn't get a chance because I was too meek to go alone and couldn't join a group.

    In retrospect I think this was an extremely conservative group. They cringed at the colorful Irish language (I loved it!) and some even walked out of a play at the Abbey Theater in Dublin that was generously laced with the "F" word.

    I live near a city in Pennsylvania that has a large Irish population - descendants of the potato famine immigrants from the 19th cent. We have one of the top 10 St Patrick's Day parades in the country. I should go to a few of their pubs some night.
  • Squirrel, I'm so sorry for your experience! It's very atypical. I've been on 7 RS international trips, always as a solo. Except for one trip where there was only one other single, there have always been at least 5 other solos. I always ask RS before I commit to a trip how many singles there will be. Not that a low number would deter me from taking a trip but it's nice to know up front. I've always found both other singles and most couples to be very inclusive. I will say that it seems that the group leader on your Ireland tour did not do a very good job of integrating the group. True, there's only so much the group leader can do but they should at least try. Also, as a solo, you should develop a thicker skin. If you ask someone if you can join them and they say they already have plans, don't take it personally and don't let it prevent you from reaching out again. (As an introvert, I really hate approaching people asking to be included but it gets easier the more you do it. I'm also very independent so if they say no, I'm fine with going off on my own.) Another tip is to select trips that have little free time and many included meals so you're not constantly confronted with the necessity of finding folks to hang out with. Also if you select trips that have free single supplements, you're virtually guaranteed that there will be other solos. Finally, I usually stick with the small group trips since it's easy to "get lost" in larger groups of 35 or more. Hope this all helps and that you will will not let this one less-than-stellar experience sour you on RS or on traveling. Happy travels!
  • So sorry you had this experience. I , too, travel solo. I have found RS trips to be inclusive and with friendly people, but I have noticed a species of traveler who seems to be terrified of being even inches away from his/her co-traveler. :-) I understand that people want to share the experience and events of a trip together, but I would hope we all could show kindness and courtesy to others. Part of the fun of traveling is meeting new people and sharing interests. Your co-travelers sound like rude people, no matter where they might be - trip, at home, at work. It wasn't RS - it was bad luck.
  • I don’t blame you a bit for not wanting to experience that again! I’ll be going on the Egyptian Odssey Tour, solo. I thought about this situation and I pray I don’t have your experience,. I just hope there will be kinder and more understanding people in my group.
    I feel so bad that you saved, paid and looked so forward to your trip for it to end up the way it did. Almost worst, that you thought about coming home early. I am conserned for my self about being the “odd woman out”. I’m shocked you where given the cold shoulder by 2 different groups when you asked to join them. That is about the rudest thing I’ve ever heard of! I don’t have thick skin, I would have cried my eyes out for an hour or two! It takes a heck of a lot planning, cost and nerve to do one of these trips. let alone doing it solo. I wish it was a requirement that all travelers have 1 prior solo travel experience, see how they handle it?
    I think your one tough cookie putting up with all of that. I haven’t even mentioned your injury, how did you ever get up and down all the steps on the bus? With that injury it must have felt like there were 1000 bus rides!
  • In reply to GetAwayGirl:

    I too am a solo traveler, and heading to Egypt next week on the Beyond the Pharoahs tour. I had 1 previous trip as a solo and was delighted to meet several(3) other women also traveling solo. We became fast friends and enjoyed a week of hiking, paddling and comraderie. I do find couples and family groups keep to themselves regardless, It’s the nature of things. I signed up as a single wanting a roommate but ended up the odd one out. Whatever happens, I will make the best of it. Does RS have trips with only solo travelers? Or anyone been on a trip with only other singles?
  • Hello squirrelcottage, thank you for reaching out on our discussion boards regarding your trip in September to Ireland with us. Our apologies for the delay in responding to you here on the discussion boards.
    We’d like to have a conversation with you on the phone, as we also did receive your evaluation and reached out via email shortly after we received the evaluation, but did not hear back from you. Here is our post-program participant phone number so you can speak directly with one of our team about your concerns – (877) 634-1893. Our hours are 9am – 6pm (EST) and if you reach voicemail please leave a message and we will call you back within 24 to 48 hours. We will look forward to hearing back from you soon. Best, Rachel