Some people love to travel solo. They enjoy the freedom of answering to no one but themselves and the luxury of being fully in charge of where they go, what they do, and how much they spend. Going solo can even make some things easier (grabbing a single ticket to Milan’s La Scala is much easier than getting two). But some of us aren’t quite there yet. We like the idea of a solo trip but then the fear sets in. Will I be lonely? Will it be awkward? What, exactly, will I do all day, and how will I fill my nights when I’d normally go out to eat of have a drink with my traveling companion?
Taking that first solo trip can be daunting, so why not ease into it with a shorter trip that better lends itself to solo travel? Before you set off on a six month solo trip through Southeast Asia, for example, start with a long weekend alone in a destination closer to you. With that in mind, we’ve come up with a few ideas to help you plan a low-stress solo adventure, whether it be your first, fifth, or fiftieth time going alone.
- Pick places and activities that won’t be overrun with couples. Some places are known for being romantic. An adults-only Caribbean all-inclusive, an over-water bungalow in the South Pacific, or a luxury hotel in Paris might not be the best options for your first solo trip. Instead pick places that aren’t as popular with the honeymoon set. In France, skip the vineyards of Provence (and the couples gazing into each other’s eyes as they sip their Sauvignon. Instead, perhaps opt for Normandy, where among other things to do, you can visit Omaha Beach, see Mont Saint Michele, or try the regional food and drink, like cider, fresh seafood, and locally-made cheese.
- Avoid party destinations. Just as some places seem custom-made for lovers, others are perfect for the party people. Skip these if you’re flying solo, or just get creative when seeking out activities that don’t involve hitting the bar. In Vegas, for example, you can skip the casinos and pool parties and visit some of the city’s not-so-wild attractions like the Pinball Hall of Fame or the Neon Boneyard, where old neon signs are retired.
- Take a class. Take a cooking class in Spain, learn to sail in Australia, take a tango class in Argentina or learn to surf in Hawaii. Not only will you pick up a new skill, but you’ll get to meet other travelers and make some new friends. While there are countless options for day-long classes, in many places you can also do longer classes and retreats. Build a trip around daily yoga sessions, a week-long cooking class, or a three-month language study class.
- Volunteer. Volunteering for a portion of your trip is another way to get your feet wet as a solo traveler without being completely on your own. Pick a voluntourism programs that relates to a cause you are passionate about and you can make a difference while meeting new people who share your interests.
- Pick a “safe” country. While most experienced travelers will tell you that the vast majority of the world is very safe for solo travelers, many first timers (particularly females) let warnings of worried friends and family get to them. To ease their (and your) nerves, it’s probably wise not to jump right into solo travel to, say, Russia. Instead pick a relatively safe and stable country. Iceland is one of the safest countries for solo travel and it’s an easy country for first timers as it’s only five hours from the US and most people there speak English.
- Take a tour. Even the most independent traveler may find himself or herself a little apprehensive at the idea of taking off on a long trip alone. If that’s you, consider taking a tour for just the first few days of your trip. This will help you acclimate to the country or region while you still have a bit of a “safety net.” If you’re off to Tokyo for the first time, hire a guide for the first two days of your trip. Or if you’re starting a month of backpacking in Europe, join a small group tour in Italy, which can not only help you get your feet wet in the country, but also help you cut the line at many popular attractions.
What was your first solo trip?
Photo by roberto la forgia