The Year of Courage: Solo Travel

Have you ever been on a solo trip?

I’ll be honest. I never thought I would be a person dying to go on their next trip completely alone.  It’s not that the thought of traveling by myself scared me, but I always thought of it as a last resort: a backup-plan in case I couldn’t find any takers on my next adventure. 

The funny thing is that my first solo trip was a disaster.  I decided to do a long weekend in Seville, Spain, and ended up feeling like I did a long weekend in hell.  (I’m sure Seville is a perfectly wonderful place, and I look forward to returning one day, but not anytime in the near future…)  The weather and architecture were amazing.  Everything else was not.  It was scary.  There were lots of tears.  I may have called my parents crying more than once. At the end of it all, I ended up surprising myself: instead of feeling discouraged, I felt challenged.  I wanted to redo it.  With my remaining time in Europe, I booked a solo trip to Italy and never looked back.  That week ended up being the best and most transformative week of the year for me. 

Here is my best advice for taking your first solo adventure:

  1. Start at home.  Do something you’ve always wanted to do, but do it alone.  Maybe there’s an amazing restaurant you’ve always wanted to try, or maybe you can play hooky from work and see a movie.  Don’t wait around for other people to be available or interested.  This might terrify you, but at some point, the fear turns into empowerment.  Once you realize that nobody thinks you’re weird (everyone is far too focused on themselves to notice), you’ll find a sense of freedom in doing what you want on your own terms. Enjoy spending time with yourself. Learn to listen to the voice inside of you.
  2. Stay an extra day or go a day early the next time you travel in a group.  See how good it feels to have time for you.  The opportunity to set your own daily agenda is freeing.  This way, you can be sure to catch that art exhibit that no one else seemed too thrilled about, or spend an entire day at the pool, or a Saturday night snuggled in your hotel bed watching HBO- no judgment here!
  3. Start somewhere without a language barrier.  For your first trip, choose a destination where you feel comfortable (or at least moderately confident) with the primary language.  Traveling can be stressful, so easy communication can increase your confidence.  I think this goes without saying, but wherever you are, learn as much as you can about the culture and the language in advance.
  4. Plan your must-sees in advance, but no more than 2 per day.  Leave your time open and flexible.  You won’t be bored, I promise.  Besides, you never know what might come up, or whom you might meet.
  5. Just do it! Sign up for email newsletters with cheap airfare, find a bargain to your dream destination, and go for it.  Don’t “save” a location to go with the right person.  You can always go back. I love checking the app Hopper to see great fares to all kinds of destinations.

That’s it.  You just have to go for it.  A little courage will pay off big time.