While it may seem intimidating at first, traveling solo is a rewarding and unique experience. Below, we gathered 12 of our most popular stories that give a glimpse into what it’s like to travel alone, ranging from personal experiences to expert-backed tips.
This summer, my four-year relationship ended. So naturally, I booked a two-and-a-half week trip to Croatia and Iceland. By myself. When asked, I’d explain the purpose for my first solo trip by telling people that I wanted to reclaim a self-reliance and take back a dependence I had on a man for the past four years. I went on this trip with a void in my heart, exposed and constantly feeling like something was missing because my other wasn’t around. I mean, solo traveling as a mid-20-something female is scary in itself, and I knew that I was adding an extra, heavier layer of emotion by doing it heartbroken and confused.
There’s no right or wrong way to solo travel. Do whatever you want, without worry about what other people expect you to be doing. If you want to sleep, sleep. If you don’t want to see that cultural monument, don’t. No one, even someone with solo travel experience, can tell you how this trip is going to go. Each person’s solo adventures are experienced uniquely to that person. So before you go, try really hard to clear out all the stories you’ve read and heard.
Newsflash, people: You don’t need to travel with a partner in order to travel well. Yes, safety is a concern in certain locations, and it’s often pleasant to have someone to share the scenery with. But never underestimate the glory of traveling solo, because you’ll learn things you can’t learn any other way. Tomasz Furmanek can attest to this firsthand: The IT worker and photographer has spent about three years documenting Norway’s picture-perfect fjords from the seat of his sea kayak, often completely alone. Many of the spots he captures are reachable only by ferry or boat. And while kayaking in a group is recommended for beginners, Furmanek says there’s nothing like the buzz of going on his own.
While my first solo adventure served its purpose in that it got me to face myself in a way I never had after the ending of a long-term relationship, it also taught me a ton about relationships and human connection… and that I’m not actually ever alone. I’ve noticed there’s often something missing from most conversations regarding solo travel: The people you encounter along the way.
Whether you’re camping for the weekend, backpacking across Europe, or road tripping across the states for some important self-reflection, you’ll want to focus on packing the necessities. That’s why we’ve rounded up the ultimate solo travel list. From comfy live-in leggings to multipurpose essentials like sneakers and a scarf with pockets, you’ll be set for your next Cheryl Strayed-inspired adventure.
I became a solo traveler out of necessity, rather than choice: As a travel writer I spend a lot of time on my own. Also, as my friends settled into their lives and acquired partners, children, careers, and mortgages, I discovered I had to travel solo if I wanted to travel at all. I quickly learned to love it. There is a freedom to traveling alone: I am in charge of my own decisions and my own rhythm, and being in charge of my own travel budget has saved a few arguments, too. I’ve learned independence, and I’ve even learned to love loneliness.
As a major Julie Andrews fan, going on the Sound Of Music singalong bus tour has always been on my bucket list. And, I’ve written about solo travel plenty of times in my career. I was now in London, so Austria was just a short two-hour flight away. What could be more epic than belting my heart out on the Austrian Alps as I turn a year older? Once the seed had been planted in my head, there was no going back: I bought a Ryanair flight to Salzburg — where the classic was filmed — in less than an hour, with a jaunt to Vienna thrown in for good measure.
Introvert travelers tend to have little desire for big crowds, buzzy hostels and parties that last until dawn. Their idea of a well-balanced trip may look more like time spent alone on a mountain path or exploring quiet pockets of culture. Take these 11 trips of a lifetime, for example: From to backwoods to beaches, they happen to be perfect for introverts who want to lace up, bliss out and finally enjoy a vacation from small talk.
Have you been bit by the travel bug? Is your sister, or best friend, a globe-trotting fairy person? Whether you’re looking for stylish décor for yourself or practical travel gadgets for others, this is the ultimate gift list for explorers.
“If you have the travel bug and want to [go] solo, a good way to start is short-distance domestic travel,” says Dr. Swierczewski. “You have the language down, which gives you more confidence, and after a few trips, you can graduate to international solo travel.” Plus, trips around the country can also be shorter—even if just a long weekend—making them ideal for those of us who can’t duck out of work for weeks on end. Read on for eight cool, unexpected American destinations to consider this year.
I’m scared because I didn’t know when I tried to solo travel I’d end up wanting to never live a life without it. I fear I’m not cut out for the traditional life my bicultural roots expect of me. I’m scared that by declaring that and choosing something unconventional it means I’m de-prioritizing my family and choosing less time with my aging parents and with my growing nephews. I’m scared my life of travel means I’m only destined for transient relationships, even though I know I’ve built lifelong ones. I’m afraid with every trip I take I’ll grow further and further apart from those I hold dear to my heart, and I worry that choosing a life of solo travel makes me selfish.
To some travelers, “vacation” means lying on a tropical beach or staying in an urban hotel, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s time to think outside the box and start planning trips that help you both unwind and grow as a person. In 2017, and for years to come, do yourself a favor and get creative with the types of trips you take. Of course, we don’t always have the time or finances available for regular getaways. But many of these unique trip ideas cost less than your typical beach break, which makes them easier to get on the calendar. Which not-so-average experience will you have?
For more reading lists like this one, sign up for our Lifestyle email!