BY AMY HILL
Are you dying to backpack through Europe, but none of your friends can take off work? Do you want to visit a National Park, but your husband hates the outdoors? With today’s technology and the endless amount of information available at our fingertips, why not go alone? Post-pandemic travel may require a bit more caution and forethought when choosing a destination, but people are still sowing their wild oats and looking to get away. If you are healthy, brave, and itching to explore, don’t wait for your friends or family members to free up their schedules before you book your flight.
I’ve been traveling alone as a female since I was 21 years old and have experienced the many ups and downs of solo travel. Although it was intimidating at first (and terrifying to my parents), traveling solo has now become my passion. If you’ve been considering booking a trip, here are some tips to help you determine whether solo travel is right for you.
Table for One
While traveling alone allows you to be free and follow your own itinerary without the input of others, don’t assume that every moment of your trip will be filled with fun and excitement. Battling loneliness (especially at night) is one of the most difficult parts of solo travel that I have encountered. After the adrenaline from exploring a new city has worn off at the end of the day, you may find yourself desperate for human interaction. On a positive note, you are guaranteed to meet friendly locals or tourists in local restaurants, breweries, or live music venues. If you’re lucky, you may even get a free drink! Due to COVID-19 rules and regulations, be sure to call the restaurant or venue ahead of time for information on operating hours. I recommend making a reservation when possible to ensure that you will be seated while restaurants are limiting capacity.
Aside from a creepy Uber driver in Munich, Germany, who asked me for a hug when he dropped me off at my destination, I’ve been fortunate enough to have very few safety concerns while traveling alone. I’ve found that most people are helpful and protective of solo female travelers. Since carrying pepper spray or other small weapons for protection through TSA is not an option, common sense will be your best friend. Avoid walking alone at night (as much as possible), don’t leave your drinks unattended, and don’t broadcast that you’re flying solo to strangers. Pack plenty of face masks and hand sanitizer, and consider investing in an anti-theft bag or money belt if you will be walking around in crowded areas or taking public transportation. When traveling to a foreign country, prepare for the unexpected by researching emergency phone numbers and U.S. Embassy locations before you arrive.
Where to Next?
Certain destinations are better suited for solo travelers than others. While relaxing in the sun by the ocean all day may seem enticing when you’re booking your trip on a cold day in February, the last thing you want is to find yourself surrounded by newlyweds at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. There will be plenty of opportunities in the future to travel with friends and loved ones, so why not choose a city that challenges you and pushes you out of your comfort zone? Consider whether the destination you’re interested in offers plenty of options for day trips, outdoor activities, or bus and walking tours to keep you occupied and entertained.
Through solo travel, I have gained confidence, experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world, and great stories to share. If a two-week trip to Europe seems too overwhelming at first, start small by taking a quick weekend trip out of state. Go at your own pace and follow where your heart takes you – but don’t forget to wash your hands.