I had an absolutely wonderful time on my vacation. It was desperately needed. And even though it was short, I still learned a few new things about how to take a trip alone.
I should probably disclose that this isn’t the first travel experience I’ve ever had solo. When I was in college, I studied abroad for a semester in Italy. We had class Monday through Thursday, leaving three-day weekends free to travel to all of the cities I’d always dreamed about. One particular weekend, all of the other students on the trip wanted to head to Spain. It was one of the last weekends we were going to have before the semester ended, and per the usual, I missed the sun (a winter semester in Northern Italy is pretty friggin’ frigid). So I decided to be a rebel and check out Cannes on my own while everyone else headed to Barcelona (I haven’t yet traveled to Spain to make up for my missed opportunity, but after two trips to Europe under my belt, I’m confident I’ll make it there at some point).
Anywho, I survived that trip, and really enjoyed the experience of discovering a place on my own. So when an opportunity to get an inexpensive hotel stay on Hilton Head Island (South Carolina) popped up on my radar, I went for it. Whether I would be going alone or not, I needed to get my R&R before summer semester ate up all my sunshine (class starts again this weekend)! After posting some of my (mostly) Instagram pics last week, one reader commented that she wasn’t sure she could take a vacation by herself:
Just a quick question: did you go on vacation by yourself or did you meet with family/friends? I’m a single lady and would love to have the balls to go on vacation by myself instead of waiting around for my friends to arrange their schedules with husbands/kids.
I’m sure many people feel similarly. So, in a nod to everyone who might be feeling a little anxiety about taking a trip companionless, here are my top five recommendations for where, how, and why to take a trip by yourself (and not feel alone).
1. Beach it. The best place to take a solo trip? THE BEACH. If you’re anything like me, when you plan a trip to the beach, you’re thinking of sun, sand, and most importantly, relaxation. What’s more relaxing than laying on a towel, earbuds in, feeling the cool breeze, and diving right into the latest bestseller? And guess what? None of those things require a second person to do. And if you’re single, it’s not so hard to ask someone to help apply the SPF (winkwink – you can even ask a mom type next to you or buy the spray-on kind if you’re at all shy).
2. Get your “Samantha Brown” on. In high school, my favorite show on the Travel Channel was Passport to Europe with Samantha Brown. I loved her enthusiasm for talking up locals and getting the scoop on the best places to eat and visit. If you’re traveling solo, why not chat up the stranger next to you? Even if they’re with their family or taking a vacation themselves, if they’re sitting at the tiki hut bar, there’s a good chance they’re looking for some lighthearted conversation too. Just don’t agree to go with them if they offer to take you somewhere (hey, better safe than sorry). Plus, the bartenders at these places are usually very friendly people who only want you to have a good time. Don’t forget that simply saying “Hello!” goes a long way to making new (albeit temporary) friends!
3. Alone time = think time. Sometimes taking a vacation in a group is exhausting instead of relaxing. All the things you thought you’d get to or all the things you thought you’d forget about might not be the case if you’re stuck in the middle of a conversation with your BFF of why you both hate your dead-end jobs. Don’t forget that there’s a reason taking a trip to the spa has soothing music and people tiptoeing around silently – because it helps you to unwind. Venting may be helpful when you’re at home and can’t get away, but after taking two trips by myself with nothing but my books to keep me company, I’ve truly enjoyed the opportunity to “brain dump” and empty out all of the contents skipping around in my head. Sometimes your solutions may be right in front of you if you just give them a chance to work themselves out without any extra input or chatter.
4. Facetime for a friend fix. You don’t have to spend your entire vacation not talking to a familiar face. While I was on mine, a buddy of mine was in Costa Rica celebrating his 30th birthday. Instead of a text to wish him the usual “HBD”, we both took advantage of free wi-fi and shared a few travel stories. It was a blast, and I could sit the phone right on top of the centerpiece on my table and chow down on some fresh Mahi Mahi while he recounted his latest sportfishing adventure.
5. Your rules rule. You don’t have anyone dictating your schedule. No need to worry if you have a late start time for the drive. Sing to your favorite tunes with no one asking to change the playlist. Go to bed early; stay up late. Have two desserts. Take a long walk around the island without anyone hassling you or rushing you to do something they want to do. You can selfishly do what you and only what you want. You paid all that money to travel somewhere else besides where you usually are; take advantage of your freedom and smile at all the other people still trying to pack a schedule into their vacation to get everyone’s preferences accounted for. Best. Sleep. Ever.
There ya go. My top five easy-to-digest tips for traveling with just me and my shadow.