I took my first solo vacation after a toxic year-and-a-half relationship ended. I desperately needed to clear my hand, get some space from the city and well, as far away from my ex as I could afford. I tried every tactic available to persuade my friends to take a long weekend vacation with me, but they weren’t free. Or didn’t have the vacation time. Or didn’t want to spend the money.
I understood, but I still wanted to get the hell out of dodge as fast as I could — especially since my ex’s birthday was coming and I knew he’d reach out to me to try and reconcile. So, on a complete whim (and thanks to my flight alerts), I booked a four-day trip to Puerto Rico, all by myself. It was the first of many solo vacations I’ve taken, and highly recommend to anyone — regardless if they’re coming out of a bad relationship or just want to live by their own travel schedule.
Apart from fully being able to make your own agenda, wake up when you want to, go where you want to go and explore how you please, one of the perks of being a solo traveler is the ability to meet other people as you go. Not only does it put you out of your comfort zone in a healthy way, there’s also something pretty remarkable about opening yourself up to new cultures, strangers and opportunities that has a way of setting your spirits higher. (And really fueling that wanderlust!)
If you want to take the plunge and go on a trip by yourself, try these five cities first:
1. Reykjavik, Iceland
Known for the Northern Lights, the Blue Lagoon and a quaint downtown, Reykjavik tourism has been building over the past decade. Since it’s a short jaunt from New York and other Northeast cities, it’s an ideal long weekend trip or a good spot for a 48-hour layover on your way to Europe. Most locals speak English and the majority of signage is in English, too - so you don’t have to worry about translating or attempting another language.
Plus, if you’re on a budget, you can easily rent a room for less than $40 per night and stay with a local person, family or couple who can help give you recommendations. The city is easily navigated via bus transit and tour buses will take you to the Blue Lagoon and other destinations you want to check off sightseeing list.
While you’re there: Since you’re on your own, take some time to reflect on your life — and maybe even a little journaling (even if writing isn’t your thing). After seeing the Blue Lagoon or the volcano, stop by one of the countless cafes and write about your experiences. It’s the perfect scenery for a mini-soul cleanse.
2. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Though I’m a little biased since it was my first solo trip, when it comes to safety, Puero Rico tops the list for caribbean islands. You don’t need a passport to land on Puerto Rican land and with dozens of all-inclusive resorts that are only a $20 cab ride from the airport, it’s easy to get from your hometown to the beach, stat. Many tourism companies offer half to full-day rainforest hiking trips - some with a zip line I highly recommend! — and you can also rent a jet ski, kayak or other water sports for small fees. While you’re there, ask your concierge where the locals go for local grub (specifically their signature dish: Mofongo) and drinks.
While you’re there: When you’re not in the rain forest, visit Old San Juan to tour ruins, shop local crafts and food, and hear live music on the streets.
3. Edinburgh, Scotland
Though Edinburgh has many rainy days — approximately 191— you won’t let the showers get you down with all of the beautiful art in this Scottish capital. If you go during The Fringe Festival, you’ll enjoy a month-long selection of great food, music, dance and theater. You can tour the many historical streets, grab brews at dozens of pubs that have been around for centuries, all while getting to know the super-friendly locals. English is the first language of most locals, and they’re usually pretty open to meeting tourists and helping you get around if you get lost. Plus: if you need to get out of your head and remember the little things, stop by the inspiring (and enchanting) Childhood Museum.
While you’re there: Spend some time on The Royal Mile, where you can see everything from the Scottish Crown Jewels at the Edinburgh Castle to many blends of the old and new with restaurants, shops and more.
4. Stockholm, Sweden
If you’re anxious to travel alone because you fear safety (and rightfully so!), Stockholm might be your best bet since it was voted the safest city in Europe. Though you might go over your budget when you visit this Swedish center, your eyes will be amazed the whole time as you look through the lens of the design capital. If you want the high-end experience, visit Ostermalm or for cobble streets and a historical feel, stop by Gamla Stan. In this Viking Town, you’ll find that most everyone speaks English and it’s easy to find local brews and great eats, no matter where you find yourself wandering around.
While you’re there: Rent a bike! Cabs will run your wallet drive, so opt to pedal yourself insead. There are plenty of bike lanes wherever you go, so it’s easy to get around. And since it’s on the water, a ferry might be a fun choice, too.
5. Lisbon, Portugal
From the beautifully colored buildings to stone-paved streets and easy access to the beach and to its neighboring country, Spain, what’s not to love about Lisbon? While you’re there, you’ll definitely get in your workout, since as a walkable city, you’ll find yourself hiking up and down a hill, wherever you go. Though Lisbon is a bigger city, it has a smaller town feel and though English is not the primary language, it’s easy enough to find someone who can help you translate. You can visit many historical sites like The Church of Santa Engracia, 25 de Abril Bridge and Jeronimos Monastery, all while taking in the breathtaking views of the seaside.
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