"These sunsets are made for romance."
Those words, the closing lines of a rhapsodic travel piece I wrote about Anna Maria Island for the Orlando Sentinel in 2010, were concocted by a highly skilled wordsmith. Because, in my professional capacity as a travel correspondent, I go most places alone.
For that reason, I must capture the splendor of movie-scene romantic backdrops while standing on the beach by myself — or dining alone at a table for two, watching a gorgeous sunset obviously designed for couples only.
Not that I'm complaining. When I'm not on a solitary road trip, I also drive to the office alone to sit in a cubicle under harsh fluorescent lighting, which makes dining alone at a beachside restaurant look like a scene out of a romance novel.
After making so many solo excursions, I read with interest tips for the single traveler compiled by Jeff Klee, CEO of travel site CheapAir.com. I pass them along to help other parties of one:
•Get the right guidebook: There are guidebooks geared to families, while others cater to luxury travel. Snag a guidebook such as Lonely Planet or the Rough Guides to find listings aimed at pleasing the solo traveler.
•Talk to strangers: Mom told you never to talk to strangers, but in this case she might give you the green light. Of course, use your instincts. If you're a woman and don't feel comfortable talking to unknown men, look for another female traveling solo. There are lots of stories of love on the road, so keep an open mind.
•Eat at the bar: When you're solo, one of the easiest ways to make new friends is to sit at the bar. Other people might join you or at least start a conversation. If nothing else, you can always chat with the bartender for amusement.
•Avoid romantic destinations: Unless you're a masochist, trying to hang solo in a place that's known more for honeymoons is a recipe for disaster. The night life will likely be nonexistent and you'll feel left out as you watch couples canoodling.
•Stay at the right hotel: It might not seem like the most important consideration, but this is essential. A bland chain hotel might earn travel bonus points, but you'll be enjoying such perks alone. Choose one that has communal eating, or group activities such as yoga or surfing.