One of the best holidays of my life was a solo trip. My husband and I had planned a Spanish cycling tour (we were newly married and I was 27). But, at the last minute, a work conference came up that he couldn’t miss. I decided to go it alone.
Along the way – as I cycled along a Vía Verde (‘green way’) from the foothills of the Pyrenees to the Costa Brava – I met locals who were welcoming and helpful. But still they asked: “Aren’t you worried about travelling alone?” But the experience made me realise that successful solo travel depends on a mixture of things:
1. Know your comfort zone
I admit it: I’m a free spirit and stubborn to boot. So I was determined to enjoy my holiday, even all the solitary bits. But if you’re at your best in a buzzing social scene, yet curious to go solo, consider package tours and popular destinations where you’ll always be at the heart of the fun.
2. Do your research
Before I left on that trip, I knew where I’d stay each night, and I’d either booked my accommodation or made contact in advance. I’d also looked into back-up plans. (Where else could I stay if my plans changed? What were other transport options?) I had all the maps, contact details and information I needed in print. Planning ahead gave me immense peace of mind.
3. Use your common sense
Cheap holidays to Spain are perfect when you need to get away on your own, but you want to save the big bucks for something with family or friends. Spain’s a truly tourist-friendly destination. Still, as a solo female traveller, I used my head about where to hang out. Truck-stop cafés for dinner? Definitely not. If I felt uncomfortable, I kept moving. And I was careful with my belongings. When I stopped in pretty Sant Feliu de Guixols for a swim, I locked my bike and secured my luggage at the local bus station. In a country I’m less familiar with – Egypt, for instance – my common sense might tell me to join a tour instead of going totally solo.
4. Get active
My trip was action-packed all the way. I made friends by joining fellow cyclists partway and greeted family groups who took to the path on Catalonia’s ‘National’ Day. There were meditative times among spectacular scenery, brilliant stopovers (the old town of Girona was a highlight), village visits for market shopping and chats with curious Catalans. I never felt lonely. But on another solo trip, to Barcelona’s big, bustling metropolis, I felt completely alone. If you’re somewhere where people are too busy to stop and chat, plan to avoid the blues by booking up some of your time – with cooking courses in Turkey, yoga retreats in Goa or climbing tours in Sardinia, to name just a few possibilities.
Have you ever travelled solo? What was it like for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.