2017: The Year of Solo Travel (Ch-ch-changes)

I occasionally post personal updates here. Because I expect they’ll influence the way I travel and how I plan trips.

I wrote about getting a job at a PR firm in Manhattan, paying off my credit cards and starting FIRE, and leaving New York for Dallas: all personal things that influenced the scope of my thinking, and subtleties about how I travel.

So here’s another update: I’m newly single. The past couple of months have been pretty rough. Although I still managed to visit New York and Chicago to see Hamilton.

solo travel

“Sho,” by Jaume Plensa, at SMU in Dallas

Now it’s table for one, breakfast for one.

And with my trip to Brussels coming up in a few weeks, I realized I’ll be traveling alone for the foreseeable future. I started researching a RTW trip with stops in Hong Kong and South Africa (my first time in both places!) on brand new (to me) airlines.

I was also thinking of visiting Vermont in the fall to see the changing colors. And it hit me so hard that I’ll be doing all of this alone. So I’ve been gathering my personal power. It’s been good getting to know me more.

I’ve also never felt so alive. And I’ve never felt so alone. Solo travel.

Seven years

I was with Jay for seven years. We traveled the world together.

Always looking for two award seats, double occupancy, two tickets – everything came in pairs for so long.

The last time I was single, I was a (literally) poor and (literally) starving art student in Chicago. Each year, things changed. No year since has not had staggering change.

We moved to New York, started working, got Fenwick (our dog), moved all around the city, and of course I got deeply involved with points and miles somewhere in there, too.


My first award trip was to Hawaii

In 2013, we went to Hawaii (I started Out and Out in March of that year). And saw Maui, the Big Island, and Oahu. From there, it’s been a journey to so many new places (and returns to some places I hold in my heart). We went to Australia, Japan, Ireland, Alaska, and most recently Cancun. And so many other places.

On a bit of a petty note, I also recently got the Southwest Companion Pass. And now I don’t have a companion to share it with.

February and March were rough for me. We were together a long time. I don’t have anything bad to say about any of it. I just want to make sure I honor the time we had. And move forward in a way that gives me care for myself.

Other schtuff

While we’re at it, I should also say I got rid of my Airbnb business partner.

Now I have one in Dallas all on my own and another I co-manage. The other guy, I think, had some sort of nervous breakdown. And the reason I had to go to New York at the end of February was to completely and utterly scrub him out of my life.

With that trip, I cut my final tie to New York – that was the last thing I had there. It was also a bit of a sad trip – nostalgic, say – to see the places I used to love and close some doors for the last time.

What do you do when you know you’ll never go back? Just shut the door and sigh as you walk down the stairs. Try not to cry while you walk back with so many people all around you.

I got to see two dear old friends while I was there. We sat and talked for hours and walked around the city. Got drunk and laughed. Lots of hugs. Definitely needed that. Anyway…

Clearing out the energy

Everything you do taxes your energy.

What if I'm not sure just yet?

What if I’m not sure just yet?

Holding things in your mind requires energy.

I was holding on to all this mental sludge for so long I could barely think straight. Things I had been putting up with for years finally caught up with me. I suspected they would at some point.

When I moved to Dallas, it was because I didn’t want to give New York my 30s. I gave that city my 20s, but I thought – I’ll be damned if it takes my 30s.

Now I don’t have to deal with those things any more. Just like that, they’re gone.

That’s the hardest part, too. All the emptiness. Empty drawers, empty closet. Empty empty empty. I’m not trying to fill it up just yet. But it’s still there – pictures of empty.

Bottom line

I’d been avoiding writing this because putting it up here, on my blog baby, makes everything so real. And I didn’t want it to be truly real. Until now, I guess.

But yup – I’ve already visited New York and Chicago on my own. And I’ll be in Brussels in just a few weeks. And I’m very much looking forward to that.

Solo travel is bringing new philosophies into my little world: being the travel companion you want to meet, taking myself out because I want to, the freedom and scariness of exploring alone, and finding the open-heartedness to go through with it all. I hope those are topics I can think and write about later, as they’ve newly become very real to me.

On another note, thanks for the continued support as I took some time to sort of work through this. Back to regularly scheduled Out and Out goodness – and hopefully a lot more of it. Just wanted to post an update – still here and thankful.

Stay scrappy out there!

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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  1. What an incredible journey. Thank you for sharing that. I know it took a lot for you to write all of this. Keep that chin up and the never let go of that smile that lights up the room 🙂

    You’re going to have great times ahead. How exciting to be doing something totally different. You will not only be great, but will discover some incredible new connections along the way. That’s exciting!

    Yo’ll be great!!

  2. I have found, as a frequent solo traveler, you can have some experiences and interactions you wouldn’t if you weren’t alone. In Hawaii especially I ended up in being invited into “local only” places/experiences. Also a few auto rental agents bumping me to convertible (at no added cost) when they found I was alone (maybe a mothering instinct), etc.

    It will be interesting to see how your travel experiences differ from before.

  3. I agree with carl traveling alone opens doors that might otherwise be closed. I lean towards introvert so it also gives me time to just take it in alone.

    While being newly single is hard try to focus on the joy of traveling while you continue on

  4. I’m 72 and been alone all my life. Loved every minute of it and always traveled alone. I do what I want when I want (or nothing if I feel like it.) I only see what I want to see and spend money on. Only what pleases me gets my money. I pick the restaurants and I don’t sit there like a noodge with a book afraid to make eye contact and I better never be given a crappy table. Mileage upgrades are easier to get. People talk to you more. Go ahead and order room service pizza for breakfast. Hog all the covers. Stay up all night with the TV blaring binge watching something. It’s YOUR life so enjoy it. Noah isn’t looking for pairs for the Ark anymore.

  5. Hey Harlan,

    Sorry to hear about the changes. Everything works out in the end though. As one door closes, another opens. Have fun with your travels, keep exploring and be sure to keep us updated on all of your adventures.

      • Yup, we’ll be ready. It’s hot as hell in CO too, but humidity is lower. A few years ago we had 25 days above 90F in a row.

        Crossing our fingers Kim finds a job. If not we may move overseas.

          • I think so too, but school districts haven’t posted any vacancies yet as a whole. She’s found a few openings in Keller district. We’re trying to find a spot north of FTW, as there’s no way we could afford anything in the Dallas area.

            BTW, an 85Degrees opened up by DFW. It’s one of our favorite spots from SE Asia and we went there twice while in Los Angeles last week. It’s the only location east of the 3 west coast states.

          • I plan on exploring FTW a little more this summer. Seems like a cool place. (Growing, too.)

            Looks like that 85C is in Carrollton? It’s kinda of a hike from me, but good to know and keep in mind. Hard Eight is close to DFW too, in case you need a BBQ fix before or after a flight.

          • Yeah Carrollton, just up 35 for you. It will be a real hike for us.

            If we’re flying in/out we’ll probably go to the Centurion as long as we still have a Platinum card. But TX is full of incredible BBQ.

          • Yes it is! I met some friends there who had a long layover at DFW and it ended up being a super convenient spot.

            Keep me posted on what happens – July will be here before ya know it.

            Brussels in a few weeks. Getting exciteddd!

  6. The good thing about traveling solo is that you can really not plan anything and go with the flow. Specially in Europe! have fun!

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