If we’re lucky, summer is a time when our travel dreams may become reality. Sadly, we can’t all make like the Europeans and take the month of August off for summer holiday. Unless we can, then do that. However, there are long holiday weekends, celebratory trips for graduation or travel just because.
All travel can be an exciting adventure but when you take the plunge for a solo trip there’s an extra layer of exploration.
The decision to travel alone is a big one. For many, the idea of spending time in a new place by yourself is beyond scary. For others, it’s an exhilarating option, especially because it’s an escape from loudly snoring counterparts (you know who you are). Whether you’re planning a solo trip, want to travel alone or think you’d never be able to do it, if given the opportunity take the damn trip.
Although an advocate of the practice of traveling alone, I am by no means a master of the solo adventure. I’ve taken exactly two trips by myself, but they were magical and have given me insight into what may be helpful to consider as a 20 something female frolicking on vacation. These are just a few takeaways from my trip overseas, but there are tons of great resources out there for more logistical and practical guidance on vacationing alone.
You can do this with enough planning and chutzpah.
1. Figure out what is most important for you to get out of the trip, then decide the destination: Not all cities for solo travel are created equal. Choosing where you want to spend time in solitude is a super fun and fundamental aspect of planning your trip. The possibilities are endless. Of course there are budgets to consider, but aside from that large factor, think big. View this beginning step as a chance to contemplate yourself as a person. What kind of destination and activities will feed your soul? That could mean a place where the natural world is in abundance, or a concrete jungle with tons of museums. Rest assured, any choice you make is the right one (definitely vet how safe the place you choose is for women though). As gushy as it sounds, I found that my trip was less about the destination and more about exploring myself. And also about the gelato.
2. Learn about the local culture/politics/language (if applicable) before you go: Take some time to peruse the World Wide Web for informational tidbits about the place you are visiting. This is something I didn’t do before I went and wish I had. If anything, reading about your upcoming travel spot will build the bubbling happy anticipation! Bonus, you’ll be well-prepared and informed if that handsome local sitting at the bar decides he wants to talk current events with you. Knowing a little something about the place to which you are traveling just makes you an informed traveler and more ready to hit the ground running when you arrive.
3. Try one new activity: You’re already out of your comfort zone. Why not push yourself a bit further? For me this meant taking some yoga classes taught in a foreign language. It was awesome, scary, weird, hard and a confidence booster. Maybe your solo trip is finally the chance you have to do that crazy thing you’ve been wanting to do, but no one in your non-travel life wants to join you. So whatever, still go to that salsa dancing place or to that painting class or on a walking tour. Pick something, don’t overthink it and just do.
4. Write it all down: Ahh, the beauty of the written word. Even if it’s just bullet points, document this trip. You did it! Alone! You are woman, hear you roar. This solo trip needs to be saved in the history of your cool life and always there for your reflection to remind yourself of how lucky you are to explore the world and to have gone surfing with dolphins sipping pure coconut water with your Brazilian instructor (see tip #3).
5. Be social and anti-social: Meeting people and making new friends is kind of a necessity when you are traveling alone. There are only so many times you can listen to FirstAid Kit’s new album while strolling or read The Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency while lunching. Most people are pretty decent when you give them a chance and you have a sweet smile, so people will want to talk to you. Bring plenty of reading material for when you’re not feeling like a buzzing social bee and let yourself get used to solitude, that is after all what this trip is all about. Unless you are traveling Down Under, then the trip is all about finding Hugh Jackman. Hanging out in your own mind thinking about your dream job is great, as is scouting out people with whom you want to share your precious dog pictures. There’s a healthy mix.
After a week on my trip, I was more than ready to come home and thrive in the social safety net of my friends, my routine, my home. It all seems like a blurred whirlwind. A wonderful time where I walked for hours and thought and explored. I don’t know if I came back from my solo trip transformed/awakened/changed (insert Eat, Pray, Love verb) or if you will come back feeling any different. I do know that the more time you spend with yourself, the more you learn about yourself. I hypothesize there is no way that’s bad for the happiness of your life! Traveling on your own is full of possibilities. Embrace them!
Ally Garner hails from Madison, Wisconsin, but is currently a grad student studying media and public affairs at The George Washington University in our nation’s capital. She loves to write, eats a cupcake at least once a week and lives for all things Tina Fey/Liz Lemon. Get her talking about yoga, history, Harry Potter or traveling and she’ll go on for days. Also, her life philosophy is laughing is the best.