The 1986 French Film Offering Tips in How to Holiday Alone

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Le Rayon Vert, 1986(Film still)

Eric Rohmer’s pastel-hued Le Rayon Vert provides welcome lessons for the budding solo traveller

All pastel shades and Biarritz sunshine, Eric Rohmer’s Le Rayon Vert (1986) follows the solo travels of Parisian Delphine (played by Marie Rivière) over one eventful post break-up summer. When a friend cancels on their plans last minute, Delphine decides to travel by herself: first to an ex-boyfriend’s chalet, next to a friend’s holiday home on the French coast. Here she overhears a group discussing the Jules Verne novel from which the film takes its name, and learns about the natural phenomenon whereby one can see the last visible ray of light from the sun, a sweeping tongue of horizontal light which holds mystical powers: “When you see the green ray you can read your own feelings and others’ too.” This promise of a new perspective urges Delphine on to find the rayon vert, and in the process find herself again. With this in mind, we take stock of the wisdom to be gleaned from Delphine’s solo adventures.

1. Don’t let others dictate your plans

“I’m not stubborn,” Delphine declares, “life is stubborn toward me”. Whether it’s about approaching someone, eating meat or taking long walks, people are constantly attempting to direct her thoughts and feelings to suit their own desires. In her new solo state Delphine refuses to concede to the wishes of others. As a single traveller she holds firmly to her beliefs, refusing to blend into the social circles and expectations of the environments around her. 


2. Get ahead with a hat

As tempting as it is to throw caution to the wind when exploring (especially without a companion to remind you) don’t forget to use proper UV protection when out and about. Delphine, right on trend, favours a white bucket hat to defend her from the seaside sun, and later on brings out a bright green beret for drinks with a newfound friend by the shore. Why not follow suit and find yourself some stylish and sensible headgear for the season ahead? Regardless, remember SPF!

3. Go for statement swimwear

Unlike other single travellers who bathe topless and beckon men over, Delphine prefers to suit up in colourful one-pieces and plunge into the waves. She seeks solace in real emotional connections, the kind she hopes to find “in the hollow of a wave” and not in beachside bars. She demands more from the fluid world of coastal encounters, and so she demands more from her swimwear. Bold colours and ornate patterns secure an identity that defies lecherous eyes while ensuring you stand out.

4. Comfort is key

Travelling alone means being self-sufficient, giving no room for blistered feet from sore shoes or discomfort from too tight clothes. Mimic Delphine’s relaxed approach to her wardrobe and prioritise your body’s needs, perhaps embracing the casual athleisure appeal of a pair of marl grey jogging bottoms or a simple hoody as Delphine does when heading to the mountains. At other times it might mean going braless with a spaghetti-strap top in lemon yellow, or enjoying the simplicity of cotton button-down shirt and shorts. Don’t dress for other people when you’re travelling alone; if you’ve only got yourself for company, you may as well be comfy.

5. It’s okay to feel lonely 

Olivia Laing in The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone notes how loneliness “feels shameful and alarming, and over time these feelings radiate outwards, making the lonely person increasingly isolated, increasingly estranged”. It’s a pattern that’s exemplified in Delphine, dissatisfied with her new state yet reluctant to “escape her loneliness” as her friends urge. Delphine’s frequent bouts of tears carry with them the anger of a woman who suddenly finds herself unrecognised by society. Nonetheless, she recognizes that loneliness is part and parcel of travelling alone, and doesn’t want one-night-stands and casual small talk that make you “feel more alone afterwards”. The trick is to not shy away from flickers of loneliness, but indulge, wallow, and move on. Delphine knows it’s important in life to “preserve what little energy you have”. That way, when the right person comes along, you have something to give.