I could easily have stayed single but then I would never have seen Kylemore Abbey

At Kylemore Abbey
Nikon N2000, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 400, 2016

If I were single, I don’t know that I would ever travel.

I rather like doing things alone. I’ll happily eat in a restaurant or go to a movie solo. I’ve done any number of road trips by myself. It’s terrific to be out in the world with no cares.

But get on a plane and visit a distant place? I’m not drawn in. First of all, since September 11 I’ve come to dislike flying. The increasing security theater at airports, and the declining service and comfort on airplanes, has ruined it for me. Also, big trips are expensive and I’m just not likely to spend that kind of money solely on myself. Finally, even though I like being alone, the idea of being alone in a foreign country just sounds lonely to me. There’s nothing so compelling to me elsewhere in the world that I’m willing to deal with the hassle, expense, and isolation of going there to see it.

It’s not like I had that kind of money anyway as a single dad raising my kids and putting them through college. But those days are gone and I have the means to travel now.

I seriously considered remaining single. I liked a lot about my single life. It was peaceful, and that peace was worth a great deal to me. You might not see it given that my blog is all about the things I do and the places I go, but I’m a homebody. I had my home set up exactly as I wanted it. I have my own aesthetic and I like tidy surroundings, and I was able to tailor my home accordingly. Going home was like entering sanctuary, and I was extremely happy there.

On the other hand, doing all of the home maintenance and keeping my garden felt empty somehow because it wasn’t part of caring for anyone else. I regularly questioned why I was doing all that work when only I was there to appreciate it. Also, despite my loner nature I missed having a regular companion. When I have a partner I’m not the type to be joined at the hip with them. But it’s just so much more fulfilling to share life and fun together.

That’s why, as my kids were nearing high-school graduation, I started dating again. I hoped to find a good companion. I wasn’t having any luck meeting people out in the world, so I turned to online dating. I hated it. After a couple years I decided to give up. I was matched with Margaret at the very last minute — my account was set to expire in a few days.

Margaret is an excellent companion. I have had a whole lot more fun doing things with her than I would have had I remained single. She’s also a good woman and we both love each other very much.

I did trade some things away for this companionship, though. I’m back in the world of helping young adult children to launch. I didn’t expect that we’d still be doing it at this point, and frankly I was glad to be done with it when my sons became independent adults. Also, things around my house are not all exactly as I’d like them to be. My wife has her own aesthetic and way of running a house and ours don’t always line up!

However, caring for Margaret and my whole new family gives my life meaning that it could not achieve while I was single. It’s not that my single life was meaningless, just that my married life is so much more meaningful.

My mother died with some regrets over the man she chose as her husband. He had good qualities — he was stable and provided for his family, and he loved us. But he also had a selfish streak, in that he would almost never do something that didn’t interest him. Mom would have liked to share more life experiences with him, but Dad wasn’t interested and just stayed home. Mom would have liked to have been taken out for dinner and drinks sometimes, and to take a few vacations to see places she’d always dreamed of. It was only after Dad died that she finally did a little traveling.

Margaret itches to travel, and has a long list places she’s dreamed about experiencing.

Number one on her list was Ireland, the country of her ancestors. It’s why we honeymooned there. She’d also like to see Italy and Spain, and the south of France, and Scotland, and Australia.

I still dislike flying, and spending the kind of money overseas trips cost. A loud voice in my head urges me to just stay home.

But we can afford to travel, and it fills my wife’s spirit so. We’re considering a trip to Italy next year, and she already has it mostly planned. It’s about all she can talk about.

So hell yes, we’re going to travel. It’s not like I don’t enjoy it when we are on the ground wherever we are. I experience beauty, pleasure, and fun I would never have otherwise.

I never knew I needed to visit Kylemore Abbey, this grand castle in the Connemara region of County Galway, Ireland. I remember the castle coming into view on a long path. My mind was boggled by the stunning view. It is a memory Margaret and I will share through our lives.

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43 responses to “I could easily have stayed single but then I would never have seen Kylemore Abbey”

  1. brandib1977 Avatar

    You’re a good guy and it sounds like you’re lucky to have each other. Joining two households and two management styles is never easy but compromise is part of every good relationship. I love that you’re willing to do the things that make her heart happy. After all, it’s horrible when you desperately want to travel and you feel stuck.

    I wouldn’t mind finding a partner but dating in a rural area is hard and I don’t think there’s anyone for me around. I have accepted that it’s probably always going to be just me and that’s ok!

    Have fun listening to her plan for Italy. Planning is part of the excitement!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s even harder to join two households when you and your new partner ran households alone for so long. CLASH OF THE TITANS. But there are always tradeoffs if life.

      I love it that she’s so good at trip planning. All I have to do is get on the plane and let the trip unfold like a story!

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        In every good relationship, there’s one who plans and one who gets on the plane when he’s supposed to! Lol. I’m glad it has worked out!

  2. lizkflaherty Avatar

    Life is full of beginnings and endings. How nice that you’re experiencing both instead of just getting through them.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Indeed! Thank you.

  3. Kosmo Foto Avatar

    You will love Italy. It’s almost impossible not to have a wonderful time there. My advice – stick to salads for the few weeks leading up. You are going to want to eat and drink everything, and you should.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The goal is to eat and drink everything we want while we are there!

  4. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I’ve always been single, and yeah, although I’m not particularly motivated to travel as a “lark”, I’ve traveled to see things that were pretty important to me. I’ve also traveled, and changed cities, specifically to improve my employment situation in my chosen career, which would have been practically impossible if I had been married or had children. If I had been married or had kids, I would have been collecting carts in a Walmart parking lot, or have gone back to night school for something I didn’t care about, by my early thirties, instead of working in a more professional capacity in larger cities. It became apparent to me, and many others I talked with, by the mid eighties, that the compression of salaries in my city due to the post Arab oil embargo, and it’s resultant brain drain to larger coastal markets among the college educated to follow the work; ended up creating a market where it was pretty impossible to buy a house, or do anything like travel, even for a single professional salary unless it was in a medical related field. I distinctly remember a pretty well hired art director pal complaining that the secretary at their agency had a better life, including a house and vacations, than she did solely because two salaries were involved, and she was single.

    There is always that concept, tho, that upon retirement, men are so burned out that they just want to hang around the house, hide in the garage, and just putter around; whereas women want to travel the world. I find this to be pretty accurate, hence the rise of things like women’s “Red Hat” clubs and the like.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My career could have been even better than it has been had I not been tethered to Indiana. I could have moved to CA and pursued bigger and better things! But no regrets; over this, they’re not worth it.

  5. Khürt Williams Avatar

    I connected to the second and third paragraphs. September 11 and then the global pandemic changed my relationship with flying. Prior to moving to the USA from the British West Indies my dad moved a lot for his career. Before my 18th birthday we moved an average of every three years before my 18th birthday. After that I was on an airplane from New York City or Newark almost once a year to visit family in the islands or return to college, etc. I haven’t flown since 2017.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Flying is just a pain in the ass now, full stop. We did get Global Entry, which has slightly relieved the PITA. We are not finding European airports to be worth a damn.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Used to fly to Europe more than a few times for work, as well as all over the US, pre 9-11, and whatever exists today is almost unbearable! I remember rolling up to the curb 30 minutes before a flight, and greasing the Sky Caps 50 bucks a bag to get all our professional camera and lighting luggage on the plane (8-10 bags), no problem! I’ve flown a couple of times professionally since 9-11, and not even worth the hassle. I’ve also cut way back on my jetting around the country to visit friends, i hate the process far more than seeing my friend, even tho I love them. I vowed if I ever won the lottery, I’d never get on a plane again: sleeper car on a train around the country, steamship to Europe.

        1. -N- Avatar

          A friend of mine once said, long before 9/11, that air travel was the worse form of public transportation. I think it still is – but worse.

  6. DougD Avatar

    Good choice, I have a couple of long single friends and although I occasionally am a little jealous of the freedom I am not jealous of the relative emptiness of their lives. And they don’t travel much.

    Also thanks for turning me on to Kylemore Abbey, it really is a beautiful place.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      On paper I’m a good catch. In person I’m quirky, so I’m not for everybody. But I still feel lucky to have found Margaret. There was no guarantee.

  7. Brian Purdy Avatar
    Brian Purdy

    Super post, Jim. Thoroughly enjoyed it and found food for thought. I too am a ‘loner’; am also married. So, some of what you had to say, very insightfully, is useful to me. Perhaps I can be better as a mate to my wife, having learned from your experience. Thank you. – Bep.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wow, I’m pleased this connected with you, Brian!

  8. -Nate Avatar

    Partner ship and living arrangements can be tricky .

    I love my Sweet yes indeedy I do but I also like being able to be alone doing whatever it is I want to do .

    She likes to keep a house like you see on TV, nothing that isn’t decorative (no books allowed !) and the towel bars are all filled with don’t ever touch towels, my bath towel is draped over the shower until it dries then I fold it and put it away .

    In my house I have auto parts on the kitchen table……

    You’re very lucky that you’re able to make this work .

    My Sweet doesn’t hassle me much, she says I should work less now I’m retired but I like being busy….


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m the guy who likes the house seen on TV! I just like tidy surroundings, well decorated. Part of being a partner is figuring out how to compromise on stuff like this.

  9. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Nate, this is very interesting. this falls under the category of “sociology is different everywhere”. I can guarantee you 100%, and overheard by myself multiple times, that when I lived in Washington DC, if a woman showed up to your apartment for a date, and saw zero books, that would absolutely be the last time they went out with you!

    1. -Nate Avatar

      The funny thing Andy ;

      I’m a voracious reader, she doesn’t read anything but the bills .

      Back when we had 6 foster boys I bugged her about the lack of books, she blew me off so I made a little library of young adult books in the play room .

      I told he boys they could have any book they wanted, I guess they didn’t believe me as several leaving behind carefully propped up dust covers to hide the gap….

      When they shitbird burned us out and we ha the house rebuilt, she made sure the contractor removed that built in book case .

      I got a book case and out some books in it but they seem more into games than reading now .


      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Nate, I’m winding down my life and getting small, and one of the most painful things I’ve been doing is going through my books and donating them to my local library; who will either shelve them if they don’t have them or sell them in their store if they do. I’m 69 and just can’t haul them around any more, especially since I probably have one more move left in me. I sold 80% of my books back in 2008, to a guy I found that went to art and photo expos and sold used art books at a decent rate, so I’m sure they went to a decent home. This time around I’ve donated 55 books so far, painful, painful, and have 10 stacks of about a foot high on my dining room table to decide what to do with, as well as two bookcases full. I’ve decided to give up the collections of my favorite pre-WWII writers, and “Beat” literature (as probably available in some library), and keep the sometimes esoteric biographies of writers and artists, which are many times pretty difficult to find. Also keeping at least one premium book of work by my favorite arts and photographers.

        When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, you could have a library card as soon as you could sign your name, and my mother sat us down and made us practice our names until we could sign, and then we too, weekly trips to the library until we got into grade school. Imagine that being so influential, that at 69, I can remember that like it was yesterday, and I was probably 3 or 4!

        1. -Nate Avatar

          Well Andy ;

          I’m right there with you, I have way too much stuff not just books and I can feel my ability to spin wrenches sipping away, I hope to die in my house but realistically I’ll prolly wind up in Seizure World or Menopause Manor and not need my books and crap……

          You’re wise to address this now and not leave it until it’s too late .


  10. -N- Avatar

    The honesty here is refreshing, and it is also good to see how sharing, even when of a loner personality, enhances life. Being able to let a partner be alone is important, but the partners also have to share in each others’ lives. I feel for your mother as that selfishness creates barriers over time, no matter how much a person loves the other. Only lately has my own husband started to realize that what he wants cannot be the only thing he does – on our honeymoon he didn’t want to go here or there, see a museum, and so on. He is better now, but that only began to change when I put my foot down and asked him why I should go on a vacation with him if he doesn’t want to do anything? Age and companionship help mellow out a lot of things – or just make incompatabilities that much more clear. Great post, Jim!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Margaret is amazing at doing the things I want. “You want that? We’re so there!!!” I have to push myself to do some of the things she wants. There’s nothing wrong with the thing she wants, just some of them simply don’t appeal to me at all. My motto is, do the opposite of what my dad would have done.

  11. Reinhold Graf Avatar

    You‘re a lucky man. Regarding the abbey, when we visited the it a few months later, it was covered by a scaffold.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What a shame. As you can see, the scene is arresting.

  12. adventurepdx Avatar

    I used to think that “lonerdom” was what worked best for me, but that was mostly because relationships were fleeting for so many years. Now I’ve been in a great relationship for six years, and while I miss some factors of singledom, I’m definitely happier now. And I never married or had kids on my own, but I got into a relationship with a partner that has two children. It’s fun and rewarding to help out and see them grow up before my eyes.

    I didn’t care much for flying before 9/11, but that event plus a growing love of train travel (and eventual love for bike touring) meant that I didn’t fly again until 2014. I’ve flown a lot more in the past few years, and still don’t care much for it, though I’ve gone ahead and gotten TSA Pre-Check to make the whole experience a little bit better.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      On the balance, being married is better for me than being single was. But being single was good.

  13. Hans-Peter Huser Avatar
    Hans-Peter Huser

    Hallo Jim. I love your blog. But given the environment, I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t travel…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hallo Hans-Peter! I wish I could blink my eyes and just appear in the countries I want to visit. Skipping the airports would be amazing.

  14. andytree101 Avatar

    Hi Jim, great post! I enjoyed my single life, and just like you had no trouble going to the movies or visiting places. Was less keen on eating alone and usually found quick and easy places to eat quick! I travelled quite widely and flew loads too. Now I’m happily married (8 years) and realise that in most cases “keeping busy” was in fact a distraction to the fact of being alone! Although I travel much less now, and have to consider what “we” are going to do – rather than just me, I much prefer my life now and wouldn’t swap it for anything!! Glad you found each other! – best – Andy

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I very much understand keeping busy as a hedge against being alone.

  15. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    I agree with you about flying…it is not what it was. And I have traveled a lot for business over the years…being on your own on the other side of the world can be very lonely! Only in recent years have I been able to travel with my wife. We don’t do it often but it is a fabulous thing to be able to share with the one you love. Enjoy!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      See, it seemed to me as well that being in a place halfway around the world alone would feel lonely and isolating. Thanks for confirming that.

  16. Louis Sousa Avatar

    I feel the same way about travel. I am hesitant to travel to places where Americans are unwelcome or frowned upon. I haven’t traveled all that much, having been to the Azores a few times (highly recommended) and once to Italy. My goal is to see as much of the USA as I can, if the time (now little) ever presents itself. L.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’d focus on the US in my travels if it were entirely up to me. But my wife has her bucket list of places to go and I would like to help her fulfill it!

  17. Doug Vaughn Avatar
    Doug Vaughn

    I’ve been happily married for 36 years, so kinda like my dad used to say, “I don’t remember when I wasn’t.” My wife and I are very different when it comes to travel, or adventure of any kind. I itch to see new places and am ready to start planning my next adventure as soon as I return from the last, although nearly all of the travel has been within the US. She would be perfectly content to stay at home with her garden, sewing machine, and everything that’s familiar and never go anywhere.

    Over the past few years, she keeps telling me “just go, I won’t be offended.” So I have, roughly a dozen solo trips. I still wish she would come but have learned how to travel alone. My only solo trip outside the US was to Cuba, which was an experience I’d highly recommend.

    As for air travel, it’s a nearly unbearable hassle as many have noted. I’m traveling by car for anything that’s a two day drive or less.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Fascinating that your wife has just released you to scratch your wanderlust itch alone. But it goes that way sometimes in marriages!

  18. J P Avatar

    It is always heartwarming to read about good marriages where both spouses are happy. Marianne and I both stretched each other’s comfort zones at first but we are now in a good groove.

    And having met Margaret, I can affirm that she is a delight!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We have a real marriage with real challenges, but we’re compatible in so many delightful ways.

  19. Frater Avatar

    Great photo of Kylemore Abbey. Did you know that Notre Dame make use of it for some of its external programmes? The location is fantastic with great walks and challenging climbs in the neighbourhood. You may have visited Clifden and the site of the first transatlantic crossing by air – Alcock and Brown in 1919 (I think).

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I did not know about the ND link to Kylemore Abbey! Fascinating. We did visit Clifden. I bought a tweed jacket there!

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