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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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How the Internet Changed Solo Travel

I'm a working gal looking to fit in a vacation in 2012. Due to the nature of my very corporate job, I really need to schedule any travel time in now. The hitch is that I'm probably traveling solo for various reasons. Friends from college are either broke or already have plans; I've moved to an area where I really only know my coworkers; and going with my parents just seems stressful. As someone who has only traveled with family and friends, the thought of vacationing alone is a wee bit scary. Do you have any tips for going it alone both from a practical and safety standpoint and for having a fun, interesting vacation? Any trips taken by yourself that have particularly stuck out?

P.S. How do I respond to any concern-trolling about a woman traveling alone? Your wisdom would be greatly appreciated!

I think traveling alone is becoming more popular: traveling itself is easier and more accessible than ever, which allows for more spontaneity, and it doesn't always make sense to wait til your friend/family/partners schedules and budgets align.

It's also WAY easier to travel alone in 2012 vs, like, 1992, because of how easy it is now to keep in touch with everyone back home, which means you can take off on your own without feeling completely isolated and cut off and ALONE. Even the most remote corners of the earth have Internet cafes these days.

The huge perk to traveling alone is obviously that you're able to plan your trip based on your whims alone. Want to go to the weird doll museum you read about in a guide book that's half an hour out of town? No need to spend an hour convincing your boyfriend that it's worthwhile. Want to skip that Cathedral, even though you KNOW how fundamental it was to the development of gothic architecture? No need to endure dirty looks from your mom. When you're hungry you eat, when you want to walk for another hour or two without stopping for a snack, you walk.

You'll notice so much more of your surroundings when you're not distracted by having to talk with someone else. Locals are often curious about tourists, and you're much more approachable when eating dinner alone than with a group. It's easy to make friends with people while you're traveling alone: of course, it's also easy to avoid, should you not want to.

People always say that it's nice to have someone with whom to share the experience when you're traveling, and this is certainly true. But sometimes, it can be so nice to NOT have to share a moment with someone, to NOT have to turn to your traveling companion and verbally acknowledge what you've just seen, but rather to selfishly take it all in for yourself. You can tell the rest of the world about it later, if you want. For now, it's just yours.

The best thing about traveling alone, though, especially if you do so without a cellphone connected to the US, is the uninterrupted time by yourself. When you can no longer text people while waiting for a bus or mindlessly scroll through Twitter when you're alone at a bar, you're left with your thoughts and observations. It sounds too cheesy to admit, but I seriously get the best ideas while I'm traveling.

As far as safety, the most important thing to remember is that you are in a real country, not Disneyland, not the faux-genial Tuscany portrayed in Under the Tuscan Sun, and not a setting where everyone you see is merely a character in Your Vacation. That is to say, have a magical experience, be friendly with everyone, and make new travel buddies, but also be circumspect, even more so than you'd be in the US, if only because you won't have all the requisite cultural knowledge to determine whether something or someone is creepy. (Also: forward family members/loved ones your itinerary or hotel/flight plans, just in case; don't do things alone in different locales that you wouldn't do alone at home [drink too much, do drugs, etc.]; and don't keep all your important documents/cash on your body.)

But the No. 1 tip is to just enjoy it, enjoy being young and able to travel, and enjoy seeing exciting new things and leading a fairly glamorous life, wherever it is that you go, even if it's just two hours out of town. My grandmother always tells me about traveling when she was younger, and I always love to hear about it. These are definitely the stories you'll be telling the rest of your life, so find some good ones.

Commenters: favorite solo vacations?

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386 Comments / Post A Comment

MeghanElizabeth

This is relevant to my interests; thank you.

atipofthehat

London is fun solo. Paris, too. And especially ROME. Any place where you can WALK.

My wife travelled across Central Asia solo. (I have emails from Samarkand and Ashgabat to prove it!)

cherrispryte

@atipofthehat Italy solo is only okay for a chick if you don't mind constant aggressive street harassment.

Slapfight

@atipofthehat Your wife sounds amazing.

atipofthehat

@Slapfight

She REALLY, REALLY is. Thank you!

bangs
bangs

@atipofthehat I would love to o to Samarkand!

atipofthehat

@Xaxa

Me, too! Maybe someday.... Apparently, as you drive down the main street, its name and the system of addresses change continually.

feartie

@atipofthehat Italy, yes: I had a week in Florence by myself a few (uh, 8) years ago now. No street harassment there - the only time I had that was in Venice, when a friend and I had nowhere to stay so we slept outside the train station.

Florence is walkable, and there are loads of nice cafes and eateries to stop at. I did get weird/pitying looks for eating alone - from the staff of a restaurant I was eating in, but whatever.
I stayed here
hung out, read, watched DVDs with the other people staying there. I am terribly shy and managed to have a great time. Also recommended - the really long walk to find the best ice cream in Italy (can't remember the name of it now) because no one is going to stop you.

Artressa Vandelay

@cherrispryte: Parisian dudes are also uncomfortably forward for a solo lady.

junkle

@cherrispryte Must dissent. A sweeping generalization that is far less true than it used to be.

atipofthehat

@junkle

My wife also soloed in rural Greece, Turkey, and Russia. Only Russia scared her. Getting the dead-eyed leer from teenaged boys in military uniforms carrying submachine guns and drinking vodka from the bottle at 7 in the morning was too much for her, but then she loved the Hermitage....

pinkmoon

@atipofthehat I agree! Any place you can walk...to cafes, bars, restaurants, parks, museums...is key. I went to Montreal a couple of years ago, because it was close, cheaper the Europe, but felt fresh. I had the BEST time! It's a great city, easy to navigate, really pretty, really fun.

cherrispryte

@junkle It was pretty damn true for me in 2005 when I was in Rome, Florence, and Naples. I agree extrapolating the entire country from those three cities might be a bit heavy handed, but unless there's been some massive increase in respect for women in the past seven years, (which, with Berlusconi in power for a bunch of that time, I find highly unlikely) "it's not as true as it used to be" is a bunch of bullshit.

ormaisonogrande

@atipofthehat @cherrispryte I have to dissent, too. I've been here for about eight years and definitely do not look like an Italian. Where I live now I can maybe pass, but I spent another six years in areas where I was clearly a foreigner.
On an average day where I spend at least one hour walking around busy city streets, I might hear a few "Bella"s and see some head turns, but anything beyond that is really unusual.
The last time anything seriously obnoxious happened to me was last summer when an asshole asked me how much I charged and then shouted something nasty when I gave him the finger, but he wasn't even Italian, he was Romanian.
Generally, if you don't wander around obviously drunk and you aren't just really unlucky, it won't be too bad (or bad at all).

The one exception to this is black women who in smaller cities will probably be taken for prostitutes by a certain moronic percentage of the population. I've written this sentence 20 times already and can't think of how to put it. The basic problem (other than people sucking) is that some people only ever see black women on street corners and in no other contexts and then jump to idiotic conclusions.

junkle

@cherrispryte Actually, it is not bullshit. I have traveled in Italy quite a lot, alone and in company. Like, every couple of years since the mid eighties. My own experience has changed over that time, as have those reported by women I know. Far fewer men drop comments as women walk by (and this is starting when I was a backpack-toting college student, on up through becoming a lady in short skirts). And the number of men who will try to sit at your table, or keep talking after the first brush off is much lower. And I'm just talking about big cities. In smaller towns, it's always been much less. Obviously it depends on where you are and how you present, but even as things have changed in America, they have changed all over Europe.

feartie

@ormaisonogrande One that last paragraph - revolting, and once a stereotype gets passed around it can be hard to uproot. Oddly in Cyprus when I was there the stereotypical idea was that most prostitutes were from North Eastern Europe - I am very pasty-white, and was mistaken for a prostitute while waiting for the bus at night. I was wearing a cowboy hat and short-shorts, but in rebuttal, also had all my luggage, and my boyfriend of the time sitting near by.

packedsuitcase

@Artressa Vandelay I didn't really find Parisian men uncomfortably forward. Definitely more than I was used to, but all of them took a simple, "I'm sorry, I doubt my boyfriend would appreciate us having dinner together," quite well. One or two of them still paid for my meal even after I refused to let them join me. Paris solo was one of the best trips of my life, and I definitely encourage solo travel for just about everybody.

cherrispryte

@ormaisonogrande @junkle I guess I'm really unlucky, because in the two weeks I was there, I was molested twice (and had to fight both men off from assaulting me further) and had a constant barrage of lewd comments hurled at me. I was repeatedly followed for blocks by men saying such things. In Naples, the man who was running the kebab stand next to where I was staying would start yelling things at me (in English!) from about 100 ft away, even if I was on the other side of the street. (And passing by his place was the only way to get to the B&B I was staying at.)
I am (and was at the time) frumpy as hell and patently conventionally unattractive. I don't drink when I travel alone, and was in no way "asking for it," though that shouldn't make any difference.
I'm glad other people have had different experiences, that must be nice for you.

becomeriver

@cherrispryte I found the key to avoiding about 90% of unwanted attention: blending in. I did my research beforehand (fashion research! What Do Italian Women Wear?!) and went out armed with shades, a scarf, long sleeves and pants, and a "I just smelt something bad" look on my face. I went largely unnoticed as I traipsed about Rome alone. Yes, a few "bella!" calls, but nothing I've never heard and ignored from construction workers.

The one exception: when I pulled out a map in the middle of the Villa Borghese (stupid, so stupid - I knew which way I was going but oh, I just wanted to make sure...) and ended up getting trailed by a rather insistent man all the way down to the Piazza del Popolo. Oops.

So yeah. Pro tips: blend in, and if maps must be checked, do it discretely.

Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse

@packedsuitcase Agreed, when I was in Paris last year I got more attention from men, but they were very polite and didn't press the issue when I didn't respond to them/brushed them off.

cherrispryte

@becomeriver The lengths one must go to in order to avoid men coming up to you on the street and grabbing your tits. Please, keep telling me what I did wrong to invite such a thing.

planforamiracle

@atipofthehat I traveled in Paris alone for two weeks, and the only experiences where men disrespected me occurred when I hung out with other Canadians and Americans at an expat bar.
I'm always sorry to hear about people's bad travel experiences, but at the same time, I think when it comes to unwanted attention (especially when it's of a sexual nature), circumstances are more to blame than national attitudes are.
I had a really fun and lighthearted flirtation with a French guy while I was there, and felt totally safe the whole time. The one time we stayed out late, he put me in a cab and sent me to my hostel.
I had such a wonderful trip, met so many terrific people, and had some great solo experiences. This was in 2008; I had just turned 21 (I'm now 24) and I'm longing for another trip like this one.

packedsuitcase

@cherrispryte Jebus, I just read your experiences. I'm so sorry you went through that!

ormaisonogrande

@cherrispryte That really sucks. I'm not trying to belittle your experiences at all. I just honestly think you had some serious bad luck. The one time I went to Sicily I had a guy follow me around saying things I could only half understand in dialect for twenty minutes until I went and hid in a supermarket until he stopped waiting out front. So I believe you and I know it can happen -- but for me it has been literally once in almost nine years. And the only time I've ever been groped was at a gay bar in Miami.

I have no idea why your experience was so different than mine has been, and really it doesn't matter because it wasn't your fault. People (men) acting like assholes is on them, not you.
I just wanted you to know I didn't respond to your comment to imply that you were exaggerating or making up your experiences. I responded because I've generally not been harassed here and I felt like it was right to give a different perspective.

Titania

@atipofthehat I went to Rome solo last summer and loved it. Roman men are forward, sure, but I'm a New Yorker; it's nothing I wasn't fully capable of handling. That said, I'm a New Yorker, so my default look is unfriendly and relatively dressed up, which is different from a lot of tourists. The more you blend, the less horrible they are, I find--the one day I went out in cutoffs and sneakers instead of a dress and flats I was followed, commented on, harassed, etc.

Artressa Vandelay

@packed suitcase: On the whole, I definitely had a great time. It's obviously a beautiful city, but having dudes follow you down the street and insist they come with you or sit at your table without an invitiation is a bit much. I live in New York; we get offended when people say good morning.

packedsuitcase

@Artressa Vandelay Ahhh, got it! I've been living in the South for the last almost 8 years (holy cow that's a long time to be down here), so I find it odd when people *don't* strike up conversation with strangers.

becomeriver

@cherrispryte Just read the details of what happened to you -- men acting like that and the idea that you/women in general "must" be doing something to invite that sort of abhorrent behavior absolutely sucks. I agree with @ormaisonogrande - I'm one of the people who had an overall good solo-female-traveler experience, and I'm sorry that you (through no fault of your own) ended up with the horrible experience.

missedconnections

@packedsuitcase oooh I'm thinking about a solo Paris trip in 2013. This is good to hear!

cherrispryte

@becomeriver I mean, I've had really good solo-female-traveler experiences! All over Poland, Berlin, London, Paris, Vienna - about the same amount of street harassment as I get here in DC. Italy was, everywhere I went, off the fucking charts in terms of this bullshit.

gtrachel

@cherrispryte That happened to me in Toulouse. And I wasn't even alone. Also it was broad daylight.

Gilgongo

@atipofthehat I'm both a little horrified and VERY relieved. I was in Rome (with my mom) a few years ago and I got not so much as a "Bella!" I was 5 months pregnant at the time, but not showing. What the hell? Could they sense the pregnancy? Was it because I was with my mom? Why not even a "Bella?"
I'm so sorry that happened to you. What a way to completely ruin a trip.

Diana

@cherrispryte

Hey, you aren't alone. I got a ton of harassment, mostly in Paris (but that's where I was living, so it wasn't a disproportionate amount compared to other countries) but Italy was AWFUL in that respect. Rome was okay, but I still shudder when I think about walking through Florence. At the end I was literally jogging across certain squares to avoid the men calling out filthy things to me. It sucked and I can't say I ever feel like visiting Florence again. And it sucks when it feels as though other people invalidate your experiences and say you must have been asking for it or exaggerating or whatever. Christ, I remember once I was taking a train to a club to meet up with friends and a guy tried to talk to me, I gave a polite non-committal answer and he started screaming at me on the train that I shouldn't try to look pretty if I wasn't going to be nice to the men around me. Total fucking stranger! That was five minutes after a dude reached directly under my skirt to try to grab my ass! It was pretty fucking shitty and I can't figure out why they went after me in particular. But they did, and at a rate waaay above anything I experienced in the States. Probably because I have blonde hair and skin and definitely don't look Parisian? Whatever, who cares. The good news is that I eventually developed a fabulous Bitch Stare by watching the Parisian girls, which has served me well in life and has helped deflect nasty come-ons the world over.

The point is, I think it's important to warn women who've never traveled solo that this shit *does* happen, and it is *entirely likely* that it will happen to them. But just as importantly, you have to be stronger than that and move the fuck on with your bad self, because it's worth it despite those guys. Even with those gross dudes, Italy was an incredible place and I'd go back again in a heartbeat.

/surprisingly long-winded rant

P.S. If everything else fails just start singing En Vogue's "Never Gonna Get It (My Lovin)" while you power walk. You'll feel empowered and everybody else will think you're insane and stay away!

Feminist Killjoy

@cherrispryte i've had bad experiences like this with italian men, both in and out of italy

Kivrin

I spent a week wandering solo around Frankfurt while my husband worked. We were able to have dinner together, but I was on my own for everything during the day—and I really enjoyed myself. The only "bad" thing is that I kept seeing people out and about with their little dogs, so I got homesick for my pup and wished that she could have been there to roam around with me. Otherwise, I had a blast. But then I'm a total introvert and enjoy spending time by myself anyway!

theharpoon

@Kivrin When are they going to invent Rent-a-Dog already??

Slapfight

@theharpoon In Rome, in the ruins where they believe Ceasar was killed is a cat sanctuary called Torre Argentina. It's not rent-a- dog but you can get plenty of needy feline love. It helped me a little. Also, give them money if you can! They are amazing!

Megasus

@Kivrin They have! http://www.happyjappy.com/other/offbeat/dog_cafe.html

theharpoon

@Megan Patterson@facebook Whew.

LilyMarlene

@Slapfight I was just in Rome, and missed this? SHIT!1!@!!! Ruined history + cats = would have made my entire trip!

feartie

@LilyMarlene Yes, I went there! It was amazing. They let me pet the cats for ages. T'was fab. An excuse to go back!

Slapfight

@LilyMarlene Awww...I'm sorry this post didn't come up sooner! It's pretty amazing but also sad, like any shelter. People get kittens and when they don't want them anymore, they just throw them over the wall in the night. But it's amazing how so few people can care for so many cats. When they call for feeding time there is a massive swarm of upward to 200 cats!

LilyMarlene

@Slapfight Oh jeez - I would just want to roll around in the kitty swarm and never, ever leave. Screw the Colosseum, I want the Cat-o-sseum!

(also: people of the world, spay and neuter your g.d. pets.)

TFox

I went to Suriname alone, and it was an amazing trip (highly recommended for vacations both solo and with others). Warm, gorgeous, safe country, almost no tourists, tons of rainforests, delicious food, and while not fancy, you can probably afford a nice-ish hotel. Plus, how many of your friends have even heard of Suriname? You are so exotic! Only downside: you need to get a visa ahead of time, which takes some planning. I wrote about my trip here http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/17/AR2011021706463.html

iceberg

@TFox Oh wow, I want to go to there (now that I know it is a place that exists, thanks to you!)

hahahaha, ja.

@iceberg: The "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" TV show is how I learned of Suriname's existence.

atipofthehat

@ietapi

I learned of it in connection with giant river otters.

hahahaha, ja.

@atipofthehat: I have now added "giant river otters" to the list of Animals I Want When I Grow Up. They're somewhere after Caucasian Shepherds but before Flemish giants.

Mingus_Thurber

@ietapi I hate to even mention this, but they're at the top of the food chain for a reason. Teefs!

social theory

i've mostly traveled solo, and have really enjoyed the solace of it. amsterdam is (perhaps surprisingly?) fun and relaxing while solo, as is much of germany & austria.

annepersand

@social theory Amsterdam was great alone, even though everyone seemed to be there with big groups of people. I was working part of the time when I was there, so I didn't try and immerse myself in the nightlife, but I suspect that if you got really tired of being alone and wanted to make some temporary friends, you could definitely do that by basically walking into any bar or coffee shop.

christonacracker

@social theory Agreed...I am kinda socially inept but had a new dutch buddy pretty much every day inviting me to his/her mom's house for lunch when I was in the netherlands. Austrians can be a bit reserved in my experience though.

Tragically Ludicrous

@social theory The Dutch are pretty nice and relaxed, at least in my experience (1.5 years in Utrecht so far!). Sometimes they can be assholes, but they're assholes to each other too, and like speaking English. Bars and cafes are really pleasant and comfortable, even when alone. Dutch bars tend to pride themselves on that feeling.

Anne

Skiing is the greatest solo vacation. I met some of the coolest people on chairlifts & there's always a good dive to have a burger and a beer at the end of the day. I've had the best times in Montana and Banff. (I don't think it would work in Aspen or Tahoe.)

nevernude cutoffs

I've never gone on vacation alone, but I have travelled alone to meet up with friends in other parts of the country. Airport travel is SO MUCH EASIER by myself than with a group of friends! I'm usually the antsy one who needs to be there at least 20 minutes early, and I love not having anyone stress me out about my punctuality.

Steph

@nevernude cutoffs Yes I LOVE flying alone, it's so relaxing.

Kivrin

Oh, and I also took a few solo beach trips before I met my husband. Nothing fancy, just me and a bunch of books in a small East Coast U.S. beach town. Slept late, hung out on the beach reading books all day, grabbed takeout for dinner…amazing for my mental health.

Daisy Razor

@Kivrin I worked at an inn on Martha's Vineyard for three summers, and the solo travelers always seemed the most relaxed of anyone.

oh, disaster

@Daisy Razor @Kivrin This sounds fantastic. My parents have a time share in South Carolina that they inherited from my grandfather and I don't think anyone in my family is using it this spring. I'm so taking advantage of it.

Edith Zimmerman

I'm going to Iceland solo on Friday (can I keep talking about this evvvery day?), and plan to sit in a lagoon and drink beer. But not too much beer, I guess.

hungrybee

@Edith Zimmerman Dream trip! Especially solo. I think I would sit in the lagoon for 12 hours straight, and if I were solo, nobody would be annoyed at me.

area@twitter

@Edith Zimmerman I am horribly jealous of your Iceland trip. Look for elves! And don't eat any hakarl.

Lizanne07

@Edith Zimmerman So, so envious. Q: do you have to bring the entirety of beer-to-be-consumed to the lagoon or can it be brought to you a la carte? Either way, envious.

atipofthehat

@Lizanne07

Wait until she gets on the plane and finds out we're all there with her. Ah, ha hah hah hah ha!

Agarina

@Edith Zimmerman I went to Iceland solo for a week when I was 19, so believe me when I say that you're going to have so much fun. :D Eat some lobster bisque for me!

solidgold

@Edith Zimmerman EDIIIITTHHH it is going to be the most amazing trip. Everyone I met there was super friendly but also had an extremely dry sense of humor, which is a really delightful combination. Relish in your solo enjoyment of geothermal lagoons, booze, kooky food, and geological wonders (and then come back here and write about it please)!

teaandcakeordeath

@Edith Zimmerman
The northern lights are meant to be the best theyve been for 50 years right now so remember to look up!

atipofthehat

@Agarina

Are you kidding? Edith will be heartily digging in to singed sheep heads and other local dishes.

Edith Zimmerman

@Lizanne07 Haha -- my mom tells me that they serve it to you in the lagoon. If she's wrong, it's going to be devastating & she will be hearing from me. She will prob be hearing from me anyway, because I am her child.

parallel-lines

@Edith Zimmerman Drink ALL the beer.

emilylou

@Edith Zimmerman PLEASE TELL ME YOU ARE GOING TO RIDE ICELANDIC PONIES

packedsuitcase

@Edith Zimmerman I know we've just met (also, hi!), but take me with you? Please? I'm bendy and can probably lose a lot of weight by Friday so you don't get hit with overweight baggage fees (that's a lie, but I'll pay them for you!). Put me in your suitcase? Please?

Luija

@Edith Zimmerman well I'm an Icelandic girl in Reykjavik and you're in luck - we just hit the season for traditional food (i.e. disgusting). If you need local tips or any help drop me a line. Ta.

Edith Zimmerman

@Luija AH! Oh my gosh yes! I think I am ... going to email you, and I hope that's not too weird! Thank you!

grapevine

@Edith Zimmerman lobster bisque at saegreifinn (er, the sea baron) in reykjavik! and definitely ride the ponies if it's not too cold! then make us all jealous with tales of the northern lights

Katie Heldstab@facebook

I traveled alone for the first time right out of college. I went to Italy for two weeks with a backpack and a phrase book. It was the best experience of my life. I never wanted to travel with anyone again because it was so much fun. In two weeks I met life long friends, made out with many beautiful Italians, ate the most amazing food and got my backpack slit open and all of my personal info/money/cc's/passport stolen. However, I can report that the US embassy in Florence is nice! I got back on my feet in two days and kept on going to Rome!

My advice to you is plan, plan, plan. then, once you're there, throw away the plan. You have it as a resource and back up but you're free to explore! All you really need is a place to stay each night. I recommend hostels because you'll meet interesting people who are traveling solo too. Do your research on the internet so you know it's clean. Go, have fun, bring books and a journal and a sense of adventure. Oh, and cash in a bank account that you're parents can wire to you at 3 a.m. US time!

dj pomegranate

I traveled in Jordan and Lebanon for two weeks. It was awesome. I met cool people in hostels, camped in the desert with some Bedouins and random French tourists, and went snorkeling by myself. I definitely prefer traveling with one or two others but traveling alone can provide such amazing freedom, beauty, and isolation (even with the internet cafes.) I endorse it!

atipofthehat

@dj pomegranate

dj pomegranate of Arabia!

dj pomegranate

@atipofthehat I spent the whole two weeks really trying to fit "Thy mother mated with a scorpion!" into conversation. Alas, I never did find an appropriate way to do that.

atipofthehat

@dj pomegranate

Ha! I have been watching Orrens while I reorganize my office.

At least you didn't have to execute the man you saved from the Sun's Anvil.

bunB

@dj pomegranate I've been thinking about a solo trip to Lebanon in the fall but wasn't sure if it would work. Happy to hear you had a great trip! (Plus, it didn't occur to me that they'd have snorkeling there. Perrrrfect.)

dj pomegranate

@bunB Yayyy Lebanon! The snorkeling was actually in Aqaba...Lebanon might also have some though? One thing Lebanon definitely has is awesome clubs. Bring a pair of heels.

wharrgarbl

To people planning on traveling alone: If you have not already, you may want to see if you can turn up some information from freelance journalists (blogs, twitter feeds, etc.). A fair amount of traveling, most of it done alone, with a lot of time to dick around on-site trying to cover an event or research a story often translates into some gorgeous travelogues.

Megoon

There was a NYTimes blog post a while back interviewing a woman who specializes in women-only trips, asking for tips on solo travel for women. The interview itself was LAME (her advice was along the lines of, "leave all those fancy shoes at home!") but the comments re: safety were pretty helpful - don't drink a lot in public, make friends with families, bring a pack of stickers that you can share with local kids.

http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/frugal-travel-a-womans-perspective/?scp=5&sq=travel+women+shoes&st=cse&apage=5#comment-55747

whateverlolawants

@Megoon Bring a pack of stickers for kids? In what countries would that be good? I did not want to engage with children who approached me on the streets in Quito, Ecuador. (Thankfully, that was relatively rare.) I'm not there to hand stuff out. I don't think any of the foreigners I knew there ever did that. On the other hand, in some parts of the world, I think it's pretty much expected when a first-world traveler comes through a remote village. I don't know how I feel about that. Anyone with more experience in the matter have thoughts? (A month after everyone stopped reading this post...)

madge

i love travelling alone! last summer i took several weeks to hang out in the rocky mountains, take the train to salt lake city, hang out a few more days, then train again to SF. it took 3 weeks and was amaaazing.

did a lot of little trips around europe when i was over there for work, too ... amsterdam is fun alone, but find your hotel before you visit a coffeeshop. my friend tells me this is very good advice.

Decca

My favourite - and, to date, only - solo holiday experience was a four day jaunt to Washington DC last spring. So exotic compared to other people's stories! I was on a study abroad program in Boston and had already made a couple of trips with groups to New York, Rhode Island, Montreal, etc., but I really wanted to see DC and none of my friends had the time or inclination to go with me. I was absolutely terrified and spent the time leading up to the trip Googling "DC murder rates", but it turned out to be one of the top holidays I ever took.

I flew to Baltimore and from there caught a Greyhound to DC. I ended up staying in two separate hostels because I only booked them the week before, and I couldn't get one hostel for three consecutive nights. (In one of the hostels, I arrived too early to properly check in, so the owner "stored" my luggage in a freestanding bathtub in the middle of his living room. I was momentarily "...um?" and then I was like "Sure!'.)

I absolutely loved DC and loved being there by myself. Being able to dictate your own erratic schedule is such a gift. I spent hours in the National Gallery without having that awkward "...have we spent long enough in front of this painting?" thought I sometimes have when going around galleries with people. I went to see a drag show and made friends with some guys in the queue. I went on convoluted subway journeys to find the best second hand bookshops in the area. So many people - gallery attendants, tour guides, fellow hostelers, waitstaff in the restaurants I ate in - recognised that I was travelling alone and went out of their way to chat to me, recommend places, answer my questions about DC. It was just the greatest trip.

theharpoon

@Decca I was at the National Gallery a couple weeks ago! Did you go see the Calder mobiles? I'm still not over that giant one.

Decca

@theharpoon Yes! I'm not usually a sculpture person, but I actually really enjoyed some of the sculpture stuff they had, especially in the garden. I've been fascinated by Louise Bourgeois for ages so it was thrilling/terrifying to finally see her Spider.

Bittersweet

@Decca: Glad you enjoyed it! I grew up in DC and regularly went and stood in front of my favorite medieval and Impressionist paintings at the NGA. I never really thought about what a gift the NGA and the Smithsonian are until I moved away and realized that everywhere else you have to pay (out of pocket) to see great art.

melis

@Decca Full disclosure: the last time I was in D.C. I spent the entirety of my time at the National Archives muttering "I'm going to steal the Declaration of Independence" to myself under my breath.

melis

Also wandered around a lot of bars asking "DO YOU KNOW ANYBODY NAMED CHERRISPRYTE, JUST WONDERING, NO REASON"

Decca

@Bittersweet Yes, that was one of the best things about DC! I'm used to galleries being free of charge, so being in the States where you usually have to pay was odd. But DC was the greatest! The Holocaust Museum, the Folger Shakespeare Library, Library of Congress, the Smithsonian - I think pretty much every tourist thing I did was free. Good work!

atipofthehat

@melis

The last time you were in D.C., you agreed to do my murder if I did yours. Criss-cross.

I'M STILL WAITING.

datalass

@atipofthehat I love this so much!

thebestjasmine

@melis You tried to touch it too, didn't you?

melis

@thebestjasmine Miiiiiiiiight have licked the Magna Carta.

cherrispryte

@melis love u bb. Next time you come to DC, LET ME KNOW.

Also, the Sculpture Garden is one of my favorite places here. I used to go and sit at the fountain and study alllllll the time.

theharpoon

@melis And then you got in there and it was so dark you had to ask a guard where it was and then you were like well ugh I can't steal it now...

feartie

@Decca Can I put a word in for the Newseum? It was amazing, though pretty difficult to deal with the 9/11 footage room.

chevyvan

@Decca DC is great by yourself! I did a lot of exploring on my own when I interned there in college. And everything's free! Well, I guess the Newseum is not free, but that's about it.

kate.m

Maybe this advice does not apply to other people, but I find that it's important for me to avoid getting too introspective when I'm traveling alone. All that time to think, combined with a change of perspective... it is wonderful and can be super refreshing, but there have been a few times where I dove too deep into contemplation of the world/myself/my life situation, and ended up weeping in various West African airports.

SuperGogo

@kate.m Oh yes, I hear you. During my last solo travel venture I was single and had been single for a long time, and sitting in a foreign restaurant feeling lonely was somehow much, much worse than sitting in a restaurant alone at home. I may or may not have excused myself, gone to the bathroom, and sobbed uncontrollably for a few minutes.

TheRisottoRacket

@kate.m I'm traveling solo for the first time on my spring break in late March. I'll be going to New York City where I only know acquaintance's (who'd I rather not see, quite frankly) and then to Portland, OR where my sister's live, but they can't take off any work so it's mostly just me time.

While I'm very excited, I can already tell I'll probably have one too many contemplative moments after a glass of wine and seeing something pretty and end up bawling my eyes out somewhere embarrassing. Whoops!

Also, any tips for New York and Portland? I've been to Portland a ton, and New York a couple of times, but never as a grown up ass lady who travels alone.

Rosebudddd

@kate.m newyorkology.com Covers EVERYTHING about visiting NYC.

TheRisottoRacket

@Rosebudddd Ooooo, thank you! Most sites only cover basics like, "go to the Met! Go to MoMA!" which is fine, but I want more rando stuff to do.

Rosebudddd

@TheRisottoRacket Yeah, this is a great site. I used it last summer to find an organ concert for my 7-yr old nephew who was visiting from Austin. He LOVES organs. We ended up at Riverside Church which has a huge organ and he even got to go up and look at it after the concert. New Yorkology is also on twitter which has helpful updates even for natives.

Inkling

@Rosebudddd
Is seriously no one going to comment on this girl's nephew for loving organs and seeing a huge one in church? I am either proud or ashamed.

Rosebudddd

@kate.m Hahaha! AMEN. I have the most adorable photos of him sitting in the front row of this cavernous church, directing the music. He was beside himself.

Jennifer L@twitter

I was in the same predicament after landing my first career job straight out of grad school. Not wanting to spend all my vacation time visiting the homebody parents, I went solo to Australia (2010), Belize and eastern Canada (2011), and Eastern Europe (2012). People may scoff and say "Won't you get lonely?", but you keep yourself busy and can meet people at pubs getting dinner or lunch if you get too much inner-monologue going on.

swirrlygrrl

I LOVE solo travel. I've done NYC, UAE, Oman and France alone, and am adding Turkey soon. I have never found meeting people to be a problem - in NYC, I sit at the bar and chat with the bartender and solo guests, or strike up a conversation with someone carrying a guide book at the museum, or go on a walking tour and meet other people with similar interests. When I told people I was going to UAE and Oman, I got several "Oh, I know someone who lives there - you should contact them!," and I did, and it was far less awkward than you would expect. When I was in France, I met tourists at a hostel and met Europeans at a protest, both of which lead to fun evenings.

If you're going to be some place for more than a few days, check out meet up groups - maybe they'll be a fun activity or a dinner you can drop in on, and this can be just one fun night or a chance to build a social circle. You can also try a platonic listing on Craigslist - yes, there will be creepy people who seem to think this is an invitation for sex, but just delete those and respond to the people who don't seem creepy and are excited about another person who wants to see a free jazz concert at the Lincoln Centre.

All of that is assuming you want company (which I often do for about 1-2 hours a day), because I agree that the best thing about solo travel is being by yourself and doing what you want, when you want, for however long you want. And knowing that you can rely on yourself, to figure things out, to navigate difficulties, for entertainment is a good feeling, as is confronting the fears that tell you "Oh no, everyone thinks I am a loser because I am here alone!" and having a great time, by yourself or with new people.

Have a great time, and update on where you decide to go, please??

Terrifying Wife-Avatar

@swirrlygrrl Co-signing the awesome solo-ness of solo travel. As far as international travel goes, I have only done London, Paris, and Vienna by myself (all separate trips) but it is great to be on your own agenda, dependent on your own resources, and responsible for all your own accomplishments (buying socks in Vienna with <100 words of German IS an accomplishment, dang it!). It helps to be a little introverted in the first place and maybe less interested in the traditional "touristy" stuff. I love to just walk & walk & walk, take pictures, ride public transportation, go to grocery stores, eat a sandwich in the park, etc. The energy you save by having no one to talk to can be re-invested when you HAVE to talk to a stranger, especially in a foreign language.

Emily C.

I went to Peru alone a couple of years ago and also traveled a bit in Thailand alone. It was scary at times but incredibly rewarding!

Stay in a hostel (I usually choose party hostels) or couchsurf (couchsurfing.com). I was able to find companions for my adventures in the hostel and couchsurfer hosts will usually show you around. As long as you choose hosts who are vouched for and have reviews it's not very risky. Don't be afraid to ask other people who look like tourists to share a taxi, especially if you are feeling unsafe. I've had so many adventures due to the hostels and begging people for rides!

And general travel tips, scan a copy of your passport and save it somewhere safe online. Don't be afraid to not find a place to stay in advance. All you really need is a internet cafe (which are extremely common in most countries). Lastly, don't cheap out on buses or excursions. Those are the ones that are likely to scam you.

Roxanne Rholes

@Emily C. Completely this with the Couchsurfing! I've been on the site since 2005 and the worst experience I had was when a guy I stayed with drank too much and woke up grumpy with an awful hangover. Stay only with women with lots of positive references and you should be good to go!

cuminafterall

Solo travel is the best. I find that annoying things bother me so much more when I have someone to complain about them to. I'm also more open to meeting new people when alone, both locals and fellow travelers.

Try staying at a bed and breakfast or hostel-type place instead of a larger hotel-- getting to know the proprietors and/or other guests can be great and, you know, person-to-person intercultural exchange, lifelong friendships, etc.

redheaded&crazy

@cuminafterall this totally happens to me too, where by myself i'm like easy going and whatever, but when i'm with people, the things that bother them start to bother me too when normally it probably wouldn't even occur to me that its a problem.

lindsey@twitter

Who is this post sponsored by? I was totally fooled into reading it, but now I'm curious about who sponsored it!

SuperGogo

I've traveled alone in Holland, Croatia, and Spain, and the Spain trip was definitely the easiest/best to do alone. I feel like Northern Europe can be more difficult for solo travelers because the locals are a little less likely to open up to strangers. I had several evenings of sitting in the pub by myself when not a soul approached me or stuck up a conversation. And Croatia was gorgeous but also a pain because there weren't a ton of single accomodations and I ended up paying for a double several times when it was my only option.

But Spain was fantastic. Easy getting around, friendly people, and beautiful. What also helped with the Spain trip was that I spent the first part of it volunteering with a program that helped Spaniards practice their English (http://volunteers.grupovaughan.com/vaughantown), which not only gave me free room and board for a few days, but introduced me to an amazing group of people, some of whom I went on to spend time with after the program was over.

SuperGogo

@SuperGogo Add: I realize I just pimped the Vaughantown program here recently in the "olds say you should travel!" discussion too, so I just wanted to clarify that I don't have any sort of incentive to promote them, I just thought it was a cool experience and want to share the love. There are plenty of other great programs that offer short-term volunteer or immersion experiences anywhere you travel; it's well worth it to include them in your itinerary, IMHO.

SBGBlogs

I traveled to Paris, Brugge, Austria, Budapest, and Florence alone and good god was it ever the best decision I've made!

Keep your wits about you the way you do in an unfamiliar or scary neighborhood at home, but don't be afraid. Lots of people travel alone and you'll probably meet a few of them giving you someone to talk to when you want, but also the freedom to keep doing your own thing.

In Paris, though, I learned the hard way that making direct eye contact with a stranger is considered "flirting." But the harassment I received was truly mild and just a stern, "NO" while walking away did the trick. In Budapest, I didn't go out too much at night because the neighborhood was a bit sketch, but when a group of friendly Romanians offered to take me to the famous bath houses with them one evening, I said yes because why the hell not??

Just do it. I know that sounds cliche, but just do it.

My best advice? Keep an unassuming notebook full of your confirmation numbers, travel dates, times, addresses, phone numbers, and mini-maps. If you want to avoid looking like a tourist, it's the best way to go! I of course had maps and travel guides on me, but I kept them put away while I roamed the streets.

GOOD LUCK! You'll do great!

Katie Heldstab@facebook

@SBGBlogs Great advice about the notebook. I cut and pasted maps into a notebook with all my travel info, an English language version of various train schedules and best of all, I got the smallest translation dictionary I could find, then covered it in brown paper ala 5th grade math book, then wrote the most common phrases on the outside. So I could just glance and remember how to ask for the bathroom in Italian. Also, key phrases like this one, so I could tell the frisky Italian men to go away, "Basta, I' la m. una lesbica, mi lascia un solo e vaffunculo" Go ahead translate :)

thebestjasmine

@SBGBlogs Love that notebook idea!

packedsuitcase

@SBGBlogs How did I never think of this genius notebook idea? I keep one with the names of places I want to go written down so that I can catch a cab and know I'm not accidentally asking to go to the vet's office instead of a hotel, but never thought to put confirmations numbers and things in it.

Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse

@SBGBlogs Yes a notebook!! When in Paris I got one of the moleskine city notebooks, which was really helpful for a longer trip because it had maps and stuff.

irieagogo

@Katie Heldstab@facebook
"That's enough! I'm a lesbian & you should go shove it up yer ass!" (I missed something in the middle but got yer gist, I think!)

I asked my friend's husband (born in Mexico) to tell me something that would make spanish speaking guys quit their bullshit if I snapped it at em in Espanol. He suggested "Lave tu culo" and I asked how to add "I can smell it from here!" but I cannot recall how to say that part. Rats.

It is always helpful to know some good cuss words in the language of the country you are visiting, tho I have found "FUCK OFF" is universal!

melis

The worst part about traveling alone is listening to your grandma tell you about Taken for the nth time. "IT'S NOT A DOCUMENTARY, GRANDMA. White slavery isn't really a thing."

Decca

@melis My favourite part of that movie is how Holly Valance is a plot point.

atipofthehat

@melis

Then how do you explain the trap doors in department store ladies' rooms and changing rooms?

redheaded&crazy

@melis my dad's favourite line: "x is the center of the white slave trade in y"

"toronto is the centre of the white slave trade in canada"

"orlando is the centre of the white slave trade in florida"

"london is the centre of the white slave trade in europe"

(all actual quotes)

if anybody would like to hear "best time i had a gps chip implanted in my skull by my overbearing parents" i'll be here all week

redheaded&crazy

@redheadedandcrazy to be fair, i thiiiink that at least some of those times were jokes. i think. i hope. i think.

monicamcl

@melis Haaaa! When I mentioned that I want to go to Helsinki and take at least a day or two to go see Estonia, my brother was all "WHAT, LIKE IN HOSTEL?"

Pocket Witch

@redheadedandcrazy True story: one time my family was at the Mall of America, and my dad didn't want me and my sister to walk around by ourselves because there were kidnap gangs roaming the mall looking for young white women.

And yes, I'd love to hear your stories! I'll even trade you for some of my stories, so we can reassure ourselves that our parents are only as crazy and everyone else's.

parallel-lines

One of my favorite vacations of all time was going to England back while I was in college with only a backpack and a map. I ended up going to clubs every night and meeting people who took me on crazy adventures. I'm sure my parents would have been pissed if they had known what I was really up to but I was safe and used good judgment. Highly recommend solo vacations!

Party Falcon

Urban solo travel is great. There is nothing like wandering a city on your own, feeling (a little) like you're a local. But let us repeat....Don't Drink Too Much.

Solo travel is not for us drunkards and those who dabble in recreational drugs. There is literally no one you know to get your altered ass home. So don't do it. Or you'll find yourself crying in a cab trying to explain that you need to get back to your hotel. The posh one with the columns and the lovely blue carpets. Doesn't the cabbie know which one you're talking about? It has a bar. And your room is there.

And the cabbie won't know, and you'll be sobbing and shoving your credit card and/or cash at him just to make him FIX IT. This will lead to being dropped off at some hotel lobby, after a very very expensive cab ride that you won't really remember. It won't be the right hotel lobby, you'll fall asleep on a couch (hopefully in a reasonably well-kept way) and then you'll wake up an hour later, somewhat more sober and realize your hotel is a two block walk the other way.

Don't do this.

melis

GUESS YOU HAD TO "CRAAAAAAAAAAW"L HOME THEN

Party Falcon

@melis I'm not speaking from MY experience.

Clearly, Party Falcon a)can fly and b)is far too fly to get irresponsibly fucked up (Party Falcon Knows No Party Fouls. Just Party Fowls.)

wharrgarbl

@Party Falcon Snag a card or brochure or something with the hotel's number and address on it before you go out, then don't get so drunk* you can't shove that at your cabby.

*Also works for people prone to panic attacks/disordered anxiety. "So long as I have this, I can get mugged and hit by a bus, and they will still know where to cart me back to!"

phlox

I did a trip to London solo this fall! It was actually a really good thing that the friend I was supposed to go with bailed, because as soon as I landed I came down with a horrible cold and spent almost the whole time I was in the hotel room blowing my nose and coughing and generally miserable. But I pulled it together during the day and went out and did museums and the Tate Modern (so amazing) and wandering around neighbourhoods and markets and eating Indian food with an old friend and generally had a great time! And saved money on food, because I ate almost nothing but soup and crackers.

atipofthehat

@phlox

Oh, the Indian food in London!

Artressa Vandelay

@atipofthehat: Mushy peas were the highlight for me!

atipofthehat

@Artressa Vandelay

That, too! And a vegetarian place off Tottenham Court Road had the most delicious items when I was on secondment there....

Slapfight

I haven't traveled alone, per se, but I did drive from FL to Boston with just my dog and kittles and I was surprised/annoyed by how many people told me I shouldn't do it alone. So then I of course wanted to out of spite, and it was surprisingly pleasant. I look forward to taking a *real* solo vacation. Thinking of a week of surf camp in Costa Rica...

Daisy Razor

Ireland is a fantastic place to travel solo if you like to be social, because everyone there will talk to you like you've already been friends for decades. Plus you can choose to see all the historic and natural wonders, or you can just hole up in a pub, drink, and eavesdrop.

The best piece of advice I got for traveling solo is to never look lost. Even if you have no idea where you are, walk with purpose and don't look worried or distracted, then duck into the nearest shop/restaurant/church to consult your map or phone. Don't pull out a map in the middle of the sidewalk! It's like holding up a sign saying, "I'm a tourist! Rob me!"

monicamcl

This is SPOT ON. Not feeling like you're dragging someone along is one of the greatest feelings ever.
I started out being sent to other countries alone for my job - and while there I had to actually interview people, agggh! - so that quickly got me over any initial qualms, and created an addiction. I'm a big fan of cold and boats, so I'm currently obsessed with Scandinavia. They're particularly great countries to go to on your own; they're very safe, and the people may seem less outgoing than those in say, Italy or Ireland, but they're really friendly. (They're also very clean countries, which stands out when you come from Philadelphia.) I still have to get to Finland, but I loved Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and Iceland is the best place in the world. Seriously. The BEST. SO not kidding.
The only recurring problems I've ever had on my own were with airport security. Women traveling alone can sometimes be drug mules - particularly if your destination is/was somewhere south - so I think they give us a second look. I ALWAYS get pulled out of line and searched, but there have been times when that's gotten me out of a much longer line, so it's not always a bad thing.
I was also once escorted off my plane by two armed Carabinieri in Rome and taken to a tiny room deep in the bowels of the airport to be interrogated by around 15 soldiers and black-suited men about the contents of my checked luggage. My bag contained three antique jewelry hammers for my dad. They let me go after what seemed like a hour, but WTF? (My dad framed the hammers on top of an Italian flag, and they're now hanging in his garage.) And once, coming back from Denmark, I was interrogated at Heathrow because I had a piece of narwhal horn (a gift for my brother) in my carry-on. I got out of ivory smuggling charges because I still had the receipt from the antique shop where I'd bought it. I really need to stop buying things for people.

miwome

@monicamcl Man, karma really works. You didn't do anything wrong, and you're fine, whereas my dad, who once tried to get a Persian rug into the States, STILL has that on his record and gets shit for it to. this. day. Sanctions, you know.

BUT ANYWAY, really I am interested in any specific thoughts you have re: Scandinavia, because my family is trying to plan a trip there for the summer. Somehow the planning of this has fallen to me (even though I am the WORST PERSON because ugh, planning), and so I'm trying to figure out which spots in Norway* we really need to hit and which we can miss. Did you have any total favorites/letdowns? Things you wish you'd done a different way? If you happened to know of a really good boat tour company for fjording around, that would be extra awesome.

*Outside of Norway we're only gonna hit Stockholm and Copenhagen; Norway is really the focus.

Thanks!

highjump

@monicamcl Finland is so great. So, so great. Suomenlinna is the most beautiful place I've ever been: http://www.suomenlinna.fi/en/

monicamcl

@miwome Oh, your poor dad! I was seriously sweating it about the ivory, and thanked god I had done my homework about the documentation. Customs in Copenhagen and Philly didn't bat an eyelash, but they were all over me at Heathrow. Ugh!

As for Norway - yay! Good for you! That was my favorite place after Iceland. I didn't have a lot of time, so I spent the majority of my stay in Oslo, and then took the train out to Bergen for a couple of days. I'm a big museum person, so that was my main objective, and there are so many museums in Oslo that it's ridiculous. Definitely do not miss the Bygdøy peninsula; it's a quick ferry trip from the Oslo harbor, and that's where the boat museums are - you can see the Viking ships (AMAZING), the Kon-Tiki, and even walk around on the famous polar icebreaker The Fram. For sailing around, I mainly just took ferries. If you're going to be in Oslo for a few days or so, definitely buy an Oslo Pass - it'll give you free admission to museums and public transportation (and also save you from waiting in line!). You can usually buy one from your hotel.

The Munch Museum is also definitely worth seeing, and it's right next to the botanical gardens, which I wandered through on a rainy day and really enjoyed. And there's also The Vigeland Park, which I was kind of blah about - it's a big sculpture garden featuring the work of one artist. The work - big, heavy, monolithic-type figures - wasn't to my taste, so I would give it a pass if I ever went again. You can see what you think: http://www.vigeland.museum.no/en.

As for Bergen, there wasn't all that much to do there other than soak up the scenery, but it was worth it. The town is full of colorful little buildings nestled among the mountains and water, and it really is a great place to kick back, have a cup of tea and breathe the incredible air.

monicamcl

@highjump Oh my god, I am DYING. That looks amazing!

miwome

@monicamcl Thanks so much! I was thinking about barely spending any time in Oslo, and it sounds like that's not a good idea. Gah, there are so many places to see and we only have so much tiiiiime! #bestproblems

As for my dad, well, he knew he was smuggling. I mean, the whole thing was pitched to him by the guy who sold him the rug, but there you go. It's not like he's in jail or anything, he just can't get on the "fast-track through the airport" list and things like that (OH POOR BOO-BOO).

monicamcl

@miwome I'm a major art museum junkie, so don't mind me! If you're pressed for time, you could do Oslo in a day, skipping the Munch museum and whatnot. The city's main drag is called Karl Johans Gate, and it's just a few blocks up from the harbor. So you can have a cup of coffee at the cafe of the Grand Hotel (where Ibsen and Munch hung out daily), get the feel of the place with a quick wander of the nearby streets and shops, and then catch the ferry over to Bygdøy. I think the number one must-see is the Viking Ship Museum; the workmanship of those boats is amazing. Seeing them was the main reason I went to Norway; totally fulfilled a childhood dream!

miwome

@monicamcl You are a font of helpfulness!

highjump

@monicamcl It is like being in Middle Earth or something! And you get to it in this adorable little ferry and you will understand why everyone wanted to conquer this place - it is GREAT.

megatherium

Copenhagen. I picked up an incredibly cheap flight on Iceland Express and spent a week in September doing nothing but what I wanted. Copenhagen doesn't really have a lot of tourist attractions (the statue of the Little Mermaid was on loan to Japan and seriously, I don't care anyway) so I didn't feel like I needed to be anywhere. I rented a bike and biked ten hours a day all around the city. Everyone is incredibly friendly and speaks amazing English, so it was easy to make friends for when I wanted guides/companions. Copenhagen is also completely safe (seriously, the Danish warned me about the "ghetto" and it was like one block long and had a liquor store and some graffiti) so I wasn't worried about being mugged when I asked for directions. A really good starter solo vacation for a young woman.

One thing I do bring (though don't always use) when traveling alone: a fake wedding ring. I know, I know, but it does help keep a certain kind of creep away and you can just slip it on when you want to use it and stash it away whenever.

The Silver Lining

@megatherium I'm heading to Copenhagen for the first time this weekend! Any thing off the beaten path I should see/do?

packedsuitcase

@The Silver Lining Yes, please, suggestions? I'm actually going to be living there this summer and have a few friends, but could use tips on fun solo weekend-type adventures.

monicamcl

@The Silver Lining I really liked the Øregaard Museum (http://oremus.dk/165). It's in suburban Copenhagen, and you can get there by bus or train (or cab if you're feeling flush). It's an old estate - early 1800s - and they have a great collection of Danish landscape painting as well as interesting temporary exhibits. A new exhibit featuring surrealist photography by Lee Miller just opened last week.

Tragically Ludicrous

@The Silver Lining One of my Danish friends insisted I go on a boat tour when I visited Copenhagen, and you know what, it was pretty awesome!

megatherium

@The Silver Lining I hooked up with some locals a couple days in and they encouraged me to do two "touristy" things: visit Christiania, a little outpost of hippies across the river that's sort of lawless and fascinating (read about it before you go; the history is amazing!) and this thing called the Round Tower in the middle of the city which I loved because the view is out of this world. Avoid wearing really blowy dresses up there, though, because the wind is crazy. But you can see Sweden! Food: the best place I ate was a French-Tunisian place called Kamel's Spisehus (http://www.kamels.dk/). I avoided The Best Restaurant In the World (Noma) but did visit Nimb Bar (I'm kind of into cocktails) and discovered that Danish fancy bars and less fun that American fancy bars because you sit in a chair rather than sitting at the bar and talking to the bartender. I love bartenders. The other thing I'd recommend is look up if there are any plays happening in the Rosenborg Castle Gardens while you're there -- I was passing by and stopped to see an outdoor production of Othello, and it was awesome.

Mostly I just cannot recommend enough that you rent a bike and bike around all the time. Oh, and I found out that the Danes sort of resent the fact that Hamlet represents them to the English speaking world and if you mention Elsinore they'll tell you why it's important and historic and why Hamlet is stupid.

monicamcl

@megatherium Hahaha, you are so right about Hamlet! I drove up to Helsingør while I was there, and got lectured BIG TIME when I stopped for lunch. And then I had a panic attack in the dungeon of Kronborg (a.k.a. Elsinore) Castle; where they have a cell that's shaped like a triangle, with iron bars on one side. The idea was that they would keep moving the bars back into the cell, so finally the prisoner was forced upright and unable to move, trapped by the two wet stone walls and iron bars. I don't normally get freaked out by stuff, but I got outta there pretty damn quick.

The Silver Lining

@megatherium All of these comments are making me SO EXCITED to leave! I just need to turn in this 4500 word paper first. Remind me why I went to grad school again?

Also, is the Carlsberg factory tour worth it?

karion

I haven't found solo traveling scary - I have a harder time wanting to share my travel time with anyone. I have taken entirely too many trips with folks who don't travel like I do - and being beholden to their shit has made me knee jerky about wanting to go anywhere with anyone.

One of the most important things to remember about traveling alone is that you alone are responsible for you. I know that sounds Captain Obvious, but surprisingly, it isn't always followed. You shouldn't count on anyone telling you that you have had too much to drink, or that they will watch your purse, or that they will walk you to your hotel. Those are all entirely on you, and really knowing that before you go will make all the difference.

atipofthehat

@karion

Yes, and don't bring a purse. Or don't put important stuff in it. Use a hidden travel wallet for passport, ID, bank cards, and whatever cash you don't need for that moment.

LilyMarlene

@karion OH GOD YES.

I just came back from a teeth-gritting month overseas with my in-laws, who are complete and utter liabilities (waving passports and massive wads of cash in front of the gentlemen selling fake Louis Vuitton on the streets of Florence, yelling down the street that "I AM GOING TO THE ATM RIGHT NOW TO TAKE OUT ALL THE EUROS I NEED FOR THE NEXT THREE WEEKS", refusing to learn a word of the local language, getting pissed off because nobody speaks English and SPEAKING LOUDER to get their point across to people who've already established don't/won't speak English), and refusing to take an iota of responsibility for their own safety because my partner (their son/brother) and I would just have to get them out of whatever trouble they got themselves into. And who were prone to saying things like "This museum (the Louvre) is shit", and "Once you've seen the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower, you've done everything there is to do in Paris." I'm gonna stop there, because I could go on like a burning fuse, then explode. In-laws. <3

About three days after returning home, the entire left side of my face swelled up and I couldn't open my mouth without a huge amount of jaw-shattering pain. My doctor's verdict; at the age of 32, I have arthritis in my left temporomandibular joint (jaw hinge-thing), probably triggered by extensive jaw-clenching. My dad got arthritis at a fairly young age (but in a normal place, like his hands), so I probably had it coming anyway, but...for fuck's sake.

So, yeah - traveling with others who don't travel like you do can not only make you knee-jerky, but jaw-locky. Avoid!

de Pizan

@LilyMarlene My stepdad was on vacation in Brazil, and had one of those hidden wallets...but at an internet cafe he just carried it and put it underneath his leg while sitting at the computer. He accidentally left it there, with over $900 in cash (naturally didn't recover it). It helps to actually wear it I guess.
This is the same guy that when my sister had lost her wallet in the states with less than $100 in it and no credit cards, he wouldn't let her live it down for years.

themegnapkin

I love travelling alone. Best is with one or two friends, but I've never not had an awesome time travelling by myself - through Ireland, Budapest/Czech Republic/Austria, France/Spain, and Turkey. If you find it daunting, then start somewhere you speak the language, and work your way up to more adventurous travel. Stay in hostels to make friends, stay in hotels if you're looking for alone time (also, sometimes hostels have private rooms, so maybe stay in hostels for alone time, too).

annierebekah

I did Istanbul by myself, but cheated a little because I'd already been (and will probably go again. And again, and again, and again. Swoon!). I did a lot of (light) day-drinking and (heavy) day-eating and can think of nothing so pleasurable as parking at a meyhane with a book and eating like ten different mezze by one's self. It's a nice city to be alone in. I couchsurfed with a nice lady on the Asian side in Kadıköy, but I'd also recommend any of the hostels in Taksim (way funner area than Sultanahmet). Everyone should go there because it's the most beautiful city in the world. Also, I was actually pretty surprised at how little street harassment I got, barring annoying tourist touts who are so easy to ignore anyway.

swirrlygrrl

@annierebekah Tips tips tips!! I am off to Istanbul (and other parts of Turkey) solo in April. I haven't been in 15 years (and kissing foreign boys is not my primary goal anymore), so it'll feel like the first time.

all the kittens in the club gettin nipsy

@swirrlygrrl @annierebekah yes, Turkey!! Highly recommended. I did Istanbul and a bit of the Mediterranean coast when I was 19 (and this was almost 10 years ago) mostly solo. I cheated sometimes because I had family in the area. I didn't really get hit on, possibly because I was tall and skinny and that's not the Turkish man's idea of a cute girl... I got more attention in Italy than Turkey. There was definitely no harassment, which everyone in the US is all pearl-clutchy about.

My mom (who traveled around Turkey by herself, and with me as a baby) taught me this tip: if someone gets creepy, just ask any older lady for help (probs using sign language). Old Turkish ladies are so badass, and are always ready to jump in and defend a girl's honour. I have seen them unleash really frightening tirades of obscenities at men who were being creepy. This is probably a good tip for any of the Mediterranean countries, actually.

- Also, if you're going into the villages, dress somewhat modestly (no miniskirts) or people will be weirded out. Unlike in the city, where everyone is wearing tiny skirts and the highest heels.
- If you are white and know two words of Turkish everyone will think you're the absolute best, ever.
- Watch out for bag snatchers, especially in the tourist areas. My mom's rule was "the bag is always in contact with your body" and it served me well. The only place I was almost mugged was Ireland.
- Eat ALL THE STREET FOOD, deal with the consequences later.
- Turkish ice cream! Fried smelts at the dockside! Iskender donair! Oh man I am so hungry.

annierebekah

@swirrlygrrl Will ditto @100kb and say to watch always for cool old Turkish ladies, they def will keep their eye on you. I was pleasantly surprised, actually, by how respectful most dudes were. I'm coming from Egypt, where even if you do something innocuous like ask for directions you're liable to be annoyed and harassed if you don't carry yourself the right way, whereas in Turkey dudes were really, really good about helping me out and then leaving me alone. True about the modesty, also, but prepare to be shocked by how scantily clad fashionable Istanbul ladies are. My favorite eating/drinking establishment is just off Istiklal and is called Çukur Meyhane (easy to find on Google) and the dudes there are sooo nice. Also really good vintage/record shopping both on Istiklal and in Kadıköy.

And, ditto @100kb again: Eat all the street food. The guidebooks will tell you not to eat the midye dolması (stuffed oysters off the street)? Don't even listen because they are SO. GOOD.

miwome

@100kb I concur with eat all the street food. EAT ALL OF IT! And Turkey is great for vegetarians, if anyone's wondering.

Interesting that you got almost no harassment, though, because Istanbul by myself was the worst I've ever had in that department, in a lifetime of travel. Maybe your Turkish DNA protected you some? Or maybe it's just super-different outside of the city.

Megasus

@miwome Good to know. The new Assassin's Creed has only strengthened my desire to go to Istanbul, and I am trying to convince my sis to go and she is vegetarian (and I am mostly).

Amberquills@twitter

@annierebekah If you have the time, may I recommend Izmir? If Istanbul and Izmir were sisters, Istanbul would be the flamboyant, brilliant but loud type, while Izmir would be the quiet, yet witty book nerd. Seriously, it's a beautiful province with nearby beaches, attracts the intellects of Turkey, and has some great ancient ruins. Plus, it's not as crowded by tourists.

miwome

@Megan Patterson@facebook Word! This is a fairly decent rundown of what you'll likely find in your average cheap restaurant--send it to your sister!

I was talking to a couple of Turkish family friends the other night who were waxing absolutely poetic about Turkish vegetarian cuisine, but I have the feeling to get at what they're talking about you either have to spend more money or work a little harder to get off the beaten path. All depends on your priorities.

all the kittens in the club gettin nipsy

@miwome I'm sorry to hear you had such a bad experience! Actually guessing that you look more Turkish than me, I'm only Turkish-by-adoption... I look German and I'm almost 6' tall. I got hit on in Ireland & England by drunk "yobs", in Rome by Africans, not at all in Turkey. Maybe Turkish men just don't like tall girls?

Also, just FYI Istanbul fashion's slogan is "shiny, tiny, tight" or more accurately, "shinier, tinier, tighter than the Italians, goddammit." Bring some heels if you are expecting to go out and party in the city, otherwise you'll really stick out as an American. Complete opposite of the countryside.

miwome

@100kb It wasn't entirely Istanbul's fault. I'd already been traveling for three months and had reached the stage of feeling Constantly Gross; I had gotten very, very comfortable in Syria and was suffering from progressively worse reverse culture shock (Beirut was overwhelming enough after Damascus, so Istanbul was like being slapped in the face, repeatedly); and, I was thoroughly disoriented by the fact that Turkey isn't Arabic-speaking.

Like, I knew that, but I was so used to being able to use my (then-excellent) Arabic as currency that I felt really vulnerable to all of a sudden not be able to speak at all without immediately outing myself as a Vulnerable Tourist. And everybody did think I was Turkish and so would just address me in Turkish, which only freaked me out even more.

Basically, I should really go to Istanbul again when I'm in a better state!

redheaded&crazy

I had my first solo travel experience last year! Went to Cuba, highly recommend, would go again! Cuba is pretty much extremely safe, especially if you just stay on the all-inclusive resort. I know it's not an option for everybody, which is too bad.

nofunnybusiness

@redheadedandcrazy Great rec! I'd just add that Cuba's pretty safe no matter where you stay (resort, pension, etc.). Tons of guards/police positioned throughout the major parts of cities to make sure tourists don't get scammed by jineteros and (consequently) don't want to return to the island. Best if the one traveling can speak Spanish and has some idea of how much general services (housing, cabs, etc.) should actually cost.

miwome

@nofunnybusiness Yup. Never been to Cuba, but generally, places with highly authoritarian governments are super-safe for tourists. Syria was the same way. (Not so much now, obviously.) Also seconding knowing how much basic things should cost: I find the Lonely Planet books can be really good on this front, although talking to a local is best, of course.

whatsherface

@redheadedandcrazy I went to Cuba last fall with family and was surprised at the number of people who were there solo! I was totally encouraged to try it out myself and might go for it later this year.

LilyMarlene

@redheadedandcrazy Ohhhh! I wanna go to Cuba in the next year or so - can any of you recommend a place to stay? And what's the deal with these jineteros characters?

redheaded&crazy

@LilyMarlene i've always stayed on the resort when in cuba so i'm afraid i can't comment on these jineteros types but I will say - cayo coco for chilled out beaching, varadero for party partying, is what I've heard kind of. I've only been to cayo coco

and you should consider staying in an adults only hotel. although i guess there are pros and cons to both. i went to a super coupley resort and had to contain my exasperation at people fooling around in the pool, but for me that's still more manageable than screamy babies ....

whatsherface

@LilyMarlene I've been to Santa Lucia, which was pretty quiet and not very close to much if you're planning on going off-resort, so better if you want to lie on the beach and get through a suitcase full of novels.

I have also been to Varadero, which had a lot of solo travellers and several party options if you wanted to get off the resort and hit some local bars/clubs. It was a pretty great time and I'd probably head back there if I were to go back alone. Lots of resort options too. Hairpinner beach meet-up anyone?

Katie Scarlett

I like traveling alone in countries where I don't stick out at all and can pretend I'm local. Because of my fair/ruddy skin and red hair, that basically means Northern Europe and nowhere else. When you're traveling alone, you're more inconspicuous and also you're not really talking much so no one (or few people) have to knows that you don't speak the language/have a very thick American accent. I try to also wear a very blase look on my face as if I'm totally over everything I'm looking at, even though inside I'm actually DELIGHTED! I don't know why, but I LOVE when someone comes up to me and starts speaking in the local language because they assumed that of course that's why I speak too or asks me the time or directions or something. I FOOLED THEM! Endlessly thrilling to me.

Tuna Surprise

@Katie Scarlett

This has happened to me on more than one occasion in Germany when traveling solo. I look German enough and have an H&M based wardrobe so I really blend in. One time a guy tried to ask me something in German from behind me but I ignored him because I speak no German. He than ran in front of me and started waving his hands at me and talking. When I told him I didn't speak German, he says to me in English: "Really? Are you sure?"

packedsuitcase

@Tuna Surprise I was in Vienna and in line at a coffee shop, and some guy came in, looked confused, and asked me a question in German. I thought he was maybe asking if the line I was in was the line for coffee, so I just said, "Ja," and he smiled and got in line behind me. He didn't seem upset when he saw people leaving my line with coffee, so maybe that was right?

Also in Vienna, I was ice skating and fell on my butt in a rather dramatic way. I got up, and somebody was speaking rapid-fire German to me. It took me ages to convince him I didn't speak German and only spoke English. Once he figured that out, he just said, "Spectacular!" and kept laughing.

Not sure if those were at all related to your story, but I felt the need to tell them.

Terrifying Wife-Avatar

@Katie Scarlett THIS. I am obsessed with "passing" and can manage it pretty reliably in Europe (short brown hair, fair/ruddy skin, hazel eyes). In Vienna during a rainy week this past summer I walked around with my black raincoat and a cheap plaid tote bag and believably impersonated an Austrian Lady of a Certain Age (judging by what others of the type had going on, at least). In France people think I am British for some reason? And I guess I look approachable/knowledgeable because I am frequently asked for directions. Joke's on them: depending on the country/city I am either lost, don't know the language, or both.

Jenny Nelson@facebook

I just got back from traveling solo in Thailand, and if you like beaches, good food, and friendly people, I HIGHLY recommend it. I was in Koh Lanta for 5 days (short vacay, but I'll take anything I can get), and I hear Chiang Mai is also worth the visit. Totally do it -- traveling alone is fun and relaxing!

hungrybee

@Jenny Nelson@facebook Thailand, yes. For more Southeast Asia and beaches, Vietnam solo also a great choice. Easy and friendly and safe.

miwome

@Jenny Nelson@facebook Chiang Mai is indeed amazing. I also highly recommend Luang Prabang in Laos to anyone heading to SE Asia, though I don't have a good sense of how safe it is on one's own (was with family). The place is full of Buddhist monks, though, so...I feel pretty good about it?

Amberquills@twitter

Can anyone recommend any travel blogs or magazines one can contribute to? It doesn't have to pay, I would just like to get my foot in the metaphorical door. Being dual national, I can provide a lot of local information about various Turkish hotspots.

melis

@Amberquills@twitter No, definitely insist on getting paid for your work! (Shh Edith stop reading this, you know you guys don't count)

melis

Ugh this is SO off the point of your original statement but, you know, read this.

Amberquills@twitter

@melis Thanks for the link. I have to admit I'm pretty confused between the advice I get saying "Stop being so demanding first-timer, just be grateful to have something published to add to your portfolio" and the advice you're giving. I think I'll stick in trying to find paying gigs.

Much appreciated!

melis

@Amberquills@twitter You absolutely should! It's positively absurd to ask you to be grateful for performing unpaid labor. That's not to say there isn't a glut of would-be online writers, or that you should expect swaths of doubloons and pearls and silken materials in exchange for a 750-word piece on your feelings about airport food, but services = payment.

Amberquills@twitter

@melis I now have the mental image of receiving a small treasure chest full of jewels from a pirate. Thanks again for the encouragement!

oh, disaster

I've always been really intimidated to travel alone, so I'm taking this article as a sign that this is the year of going on a big trip by myself. No excuses, self!

madge

@andrea disaster yes yes y'all!

madge

@andrea disaster yes yes y'all!

miwome

@andrea disaster Do it! It can actually be a huge confidence builder, discovering that You Can Handle It. I came back from three months overseas happier and surer of myself than I'd ever been in my life. (I could tell because I suddenly started to be able to call my parents on their shit. It was pretty cool!)

Steph

@andrea disaster Definitely do it! You won't regret it, I've never met anyone who has.

oh, disaster

Thanks for the encouragement! I think I'll start small with a long weekend trip in a family time share (not having to pay for lodging is a huge plus). I don't quite have the money for an overseas trip right now, but hopefully I will in the next year or so.

redheaded&crazy

also it's great not to be sharing a room with someone in the event that you are seduced by -- wait is this terrible advice because don't bring strangers from foreign countries back to your hotel room?

but is it not better to go back to your own room rather than to their location, wherever that may be??

so yes, i think my original point stands. awwww yeahh vacay fling time!

miwome

@redheadedandcrazy Yo, I have had my Foreign Flings, and I am alive and unharmed! Awww yeah.

packedsuitcase

@redheadedandcrazy I always went with them. I basically have a rule that I don't like people I don't know to know where I sleep. Why this doesn't also mean I am unwilling to go to a strange location with dudes I want to sleep with, I'm not sure, but it doesn't.

cherrispryte

I've done a lot of Poland and a bit of Austria by myself and they were both delightful.

highjump

@cherrispryte Where/what do I need to eat in Krakow? This is the most important, followed by what to see and where to stay. Oh! Also important: what brands of vodka to drink?

The Lady of Shalott

@highjump I was going to say "Ahhh, go visit my relatives!" but then I thought that you probably would not enjoy delicious food as much if it was accompanied by a tirade about keeping the house clean, how ungrateful and awful other family members are, why everything costs so much these days, why you haven't settled down with a nice Polish boy yet, how much they miss the old Pope, and endless, endless, endless, endless, endless rounds of gossip about people you have never met and never will.

So the answer to the vodka question is "all of it," clearly.

highjump

@The Lady of Shalott Wait, that sounds amazing. I am a Clean Person (mostly), other people are terrible, everything costs SO MUCH, I would love to settle down with a nice Polish boy as long as he is not an alcoholic and can tolerate my preference for Russia, the old Pope was rad, and I am an insatiable gossip. When can I come?!

The Lady of Shalott

@highjump ......are you my cousin?

cherrispryte

@highjump I completely forgot that I left this comment and haven't been checking it for replies, so sorry!
Krakow is one of the most beautiful cities ever. I've only been there as a tourist, not lived there (unlike Warsaw, where I could babble for paragraphs about specific kebab stands and nightclubs etc) but really, most of the fantastic times I had in Krakow involved going into Old Town and wandering side street upon side street and up and down alleyways and picking a random bar in a basement and settling in for the night.

So Vodka. You must try Zubrowka, because the knockoff stuff they sell in the US is bullshit. It's a flavored vodka, and is delicious by itself or with apple juice. Luksusowa is a good mid-line vodka, as it's a potato vodka, like it's more expensive cousin, Chopin. Poles also have a bad habit of putting a few pumps of fruit flavored syrup in their beer, which is sometimes delicious and sometimes disgusting, depending on your mood for the evening. (Piwo sokiem, or "beer with juice" is what it's called, but it's more like grenadine that they're adding.) Do not drink Spyritus.

Obviously, get some pierogi (I distinctly remember this place being fantastic: http://www.podaniolami.pl/) and the ice cream in Krakow is amazing as well. There are several delicious kebab places, though they don't have websites. :) Other food you must try includes koleta (pork cutlet), gołąbki (meat and grains wrapped in cabbage), and barszcz z ushkami (beet soup with tiny dumplings) When I was there with my sister in 2008, Krakow had just discovered vegetarianism, (pronounced weg-it-ary-ON-ski) so most places you'll go have a meat-free option, but seriously, Poland likes its pork products. Eat them.
Oh! Krakow is the home of bagels. They are hilarious looking, and sold from carts and kiosks. Eat them.

Stay in Old Town if you can. There are lots of decent B&Bs and hostels in/near Old Town that are reasonably priced.
As for things to do ..... hoooo boy. There is a ton to do in Krakow itself, but also there are lots of bus companies that will take you on half day or full day trips to interesting places within an hour or two of Krakow.
Depending how rad you think the old Pope was, you can take a bus trip to Wadowice, his birthplace and first church, where there is now a museum.
You can also go to Auschwitz/Birkenau, which is something I think everyone should do, but also it can be intense and, well, no pressure.
My personal favorite is Wieliczka, a salt mine/museum that is pretty damn awesome, if you like places where you can lick the walls and see larger-than-life statues of the Polish Pope carved out of salt.

WIthin Krakow, there's Wawel Palace (complete with giant fire-breathing dragon statue), the Jagellonian University, St. Mary's Cathedral (which has lots of dead Polish royalty entombed) and the Kazimierez district, which was the Jewish district of Krakow. Hundreds of years of complicated history all over the place.
Oh also if you read The Trumpeter of Krakow when you were a kid, that's a thing that still happens.

Best of all, however, there is the Sukennice. It is simply one of the best places in the world. It's a huge indoor bazaar in the middle of the Old Town square, and is full of stalls selling amber, wood carvings, traditional clothing, cheezy tourist t-shirts, and every other Polish thing you could possibly think of. And stuff's cheap - sterling silver and amber earrings for well under ten dollars, hand-carved wooden chess sets for twenty or thirty, etc.

Ugh I want to go back so badly. Feel free to email me (cherrispryte at gmail) if you have any questions. There are really few things I like more in the world than talking about Poland.

fizberry88

Am thinking about doing some of Indonesia or Malaysia solo in September...anyone know any ladies who have solo'd in that part of the world?

thistornado

@fizberry88 I spent a few days in Ubud, Bali by myself about 5 years ago (I'd been travelling with a friend who had to leave before I did). I found it delightful, except for one moment while I was hiking when I thought someone was following me, but I tend to get nervous when I'm alone in nature. I don't know about the rest of Indonesia, but I think solo travel in Bali is just fine.

Steph

@fizberry88 I haven't been to Indo but I know a few people who have and had good experience. I solo-ed in other parts of SE Asia and found it to be amazingly safe. People there are pretty respectful and kind in general.

mbmargarita

One of my favorite travel tips I picked up from my mom... Whenever she travels she keeps a travel journal from that trip, where she writes in thoughts and observations, pastes in ticket stubs, sketches the views... When you travel alone and don't have someone to turn to and say "this is awesome!" write about it in your journal instead.

Oh, and collect friends' addresses before you go and send them postcards from your trip! Everyone loves to get postcards.

squid v. whale

Watch Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, but only post-travel so you don't get your hopes up :)

LilyMarlene

@squid v. whale I love those movies to death...though if I were Julie Delpy, I would have found me a swarthy, sexy Greek instead of whinging bloody Ethan Hawke.

miwome

@LilyMarlene I did find myself a swarthy, sexy Greek, and he was kind of a disappointment in some respects. (Not in the sexy respects, though.)

Tuna Surprise

I've traveled alone to London, Paris, Provence and Munich.
The advice so far has been good. My only addition would be to book a 'day trip' to fill in some down time and guarantee some interaction. It also gives you time to relax from being the person in charge.

Viator has some good tours (the reviews are usually reliable) - look for the small tours so you don't get stuck on a bus with 60 people. Trip Advisor generally has good suggestions as well.

thistornado

@Tuna Surprise I agree that group day trips are a good way to break up the alone-time, and particularly recommend group bike trips for this purpose, so that you're not stuck on a bus at all.

Titania

@Tuna Surprise I actually do the same thing but even within a city--Context Travel (http://www.contexttravel.com/) is my favorite: I usually book an introduction tour for the first day I arrive (if you're taking a red-eye, planning one of these is a GREAT way to stay awake and beat the jetlag, just make sure you allow extra time to get to your hotel) or else the first full day, to help me get oriented in the city. Then I'll do one an evening event if they have one available--I sometimes get sad not having anything to do at night, since I usually don't feel safe drinking in bars by myself, and am not a huge drinker anyway. I did a wine-tasting and food-pairing one my last trip and it was great; it was one expat who was living there, and a couple about my age, so I had a little social interaction to break up the alone time.

Megasus

I did a group tour by myself when I was 19 from Madrid to Rome, along the Med. It was nice because I got lots of time on my own to do my own thing, and I enjoyed that part, even though I wouldn't go back with that particular company again (it had more to do with accommodations and food than anything else), so that is an option. I have to agree that Florence is wonderful, and really nice to walk around. Rome, less so. I also quite liked Madrid and Barcelona, but don't go there if you're a vegetarian. I have also been to Tokyo with my sister and it was great, and she's been to Okinawa by herself. It helped that she spoke the language a bit, but it's not too hard if you don't. I was always telling her what flavours certain food was, and she was like "HOW DO YOU KNOW!?" and I was like "Dude, there is a picture on the package!". Tokyo is ridiculously easy to get around too, which is nice. You can see a lot, and there are also tour companies that do day trips as well, which is something we did to like, see the main sites. I would highly recommend that.

thundertheft

I solo'd five days in Death Valley earlier this year. Each morning, as I headed out into the desert, I would make a note of my general plans and leave it on my bed - that way if I ended up missing, there would be something to trace. At the end of the trip, I collected all of the notes and added them to my travel journal.

Macabre? Maybe. Efficient? Absolutely.

miwome

@thundertheft You sound badass.

MadKey

I've traveled solo here and there (never for too great of an extended period of time - no more than a week) and have always met people with whom I've shared an afternoon, or a good conversation, or a drink. So you're only really alone if you want to be! I think it's often easier to meet new interesting voyagers when traveling solo, if that's something you want to make part of your trip.

emilada

So here's a question! San Francisco. As much as I'd love to, I don't have the time or money to do an international anything right now, but the hotel I work at has several locations in San Francisco (all over California, actually) and they offer discounted/comp nights for employees. I feel like it'd be good because it's still in the US, but a city I've never been to, and it would be my first legit vacation alone. Thoughts?

thebestjasmine

@emilada It's great! You should come here! It's a totally easy city to get around in, you won't feel out of place at all, and there's a ton of great stuff to see. Plus, there are LOTS of great restaurants that have bar seating, so you won't feel weird or out of place dining alone. And join the SF pinup group!

emilada

@thebestjasmine Best time of year? I just started here, so it won't be til May at the earliest. I'm in Arizona, so if July is good, weather wise, freakin count me in.

thebestjasmine

@emilada Absolute best time of year is September or October -- that's when the weather is warmest and it's least likely to be foggy. But really, anytime is good, and April to November is likely to be not rainy. It can be a little chilly in July (bring sweaters, no matter when you come!) but is still a totally fun time of year to come!

emilada

@thebestjasmine Chilly? July? WHAT IS THIS SORCERY.

Limaceous

@emilada Yes, the fog rolls in and it is quite cold in July. (You can always spot the tourists because they're walking around in shorts and newly purchased Alcatraz sweatshirts, shivering.) September is the most dependably good weather (sunny and warm), but May can be lovely, too. Of course, if you want a cool break from Arizona, you might enjoy the City in July.

Megoon

@emilada Mark Twain (this is possibly bogus) has a line, "the coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco," or something like that. But the city is great; you should go!

nocomment

@thebestjasmine @emilada I just went this weekend and met Jasmine! It's a great city to do alone. Lots of museums and restaurants and activities, and the BART is easy to manage. It's the hills that were the biggest challenge.

Insecurity Millefeuille

@emilada I live in Arizona too. When I visited San Francisco last July, the highs were in the low 70s. And there was rain and fog! I absolutely loved it. It was great to get away from the summer heat.

Diana

@emilada

San Francisco is wonderful! If you'd like to visit when it's warm out, your best option is September or October. It's not that SF doesn't *have* a summer, it's just later than the tourists think it is.

1. Whenever you decide to come, join the SF Pinup Group and let us know - we'll plan a pinup to coincide with your journey! God knows we don't need a big excuse to get together at a bar. ("There are a lot of you and you drink a lot"- bartender in SF)
2. Don't rent a car unless you're planning to travel outside of San Francisco. Driving in SF is absolutely insane and public transport will you get just about anywhere you want to go, for everything else just take a cab. It's not worth your sanity or money to try driving. You'll end up going down a one way street and/or getting a ticket. As much as I love to complain about BART and MUNI, it'll definitely get you where you want to go.
3. Don't spend all your time in Union Square! I don't know why tourists spend all their time there! It's just a big bunch of stores that you have back home! We all have Internet shopping now, you really don't need to go in the big Macy's. And there's not really any reason to waste your time in Fisherman's Wharf except possibly if you want to tour Alcatraz.
4. The best, cheapest, most convenient and hassle-free way to enjoy the Bay is actually the ferry! Go to the wonderful Ferry Building on a Saturday, eat absolutely everything at the farmer's market, then pay 7 bucks to ride the ferry across the water. THERE'S A BAR ON THE BOAT.

Anyway once your plans/dates come together talk to the SF facebook group and we'll help you pick out places to eat/visit!

miwome

My Thoughts as a Frequent Traveler (beware, for I'm about to write you a novel):

If I'm going somewhere where I speak the language fairly competently, alone can be super fun and super awesome. You make all kinds of weird pals-for-an-afternoon and get great stories. Of course you need to be careful about who you trust and how far to trust them; I've found my instincts to be nearly impeccable, so trust yourself. Of course, while you're trusting your people instincts, obviously trust your "this is sketchy" instincts; you know how to do this, because you are a smart lady!

However, if I don't speak the language, I prefer to be with someone. Especially in a place where there's a seriously high level of street harassment (COUGH ISTANBUL I'M STILL MAD), it's good just to have someone to Ignore Them with and help keep you from getting worn down. The key is that it's definitely possible to GET somewhere alone and still find a companion or series of companions; at parties, hostels, the breakfast room at a hotel (faaancy), even at tourist sites or in the immigration line. If you can get access to an expat community then you are seriously golden, because expats are super interesting people, usually, and they can be an amazing resource in terms of how best to get a feel for the place and appreciate what it has to offer. (Also in terms of, say, trying to get a pint of White Russian for two dollars. I did not make this up.)

This is a good time to mention that if you know anybody who has or might have any connections to places you plan to visit, ask them to put you in touch! It can be a welcome relief to meet someone who's expecting you and who's been vetted as not-creepy by your social network. Also, their expecting you by a given date serves as a sort of check-in to make sure you're alive. (Make sure you have contact info so you can let them know if you change your plans, though! An unnecessary Interpol manhunt can really ruin a vacay, amirite?!)

In conclusion: Travel! Have fun! Be (safely) friendly! You already know how to be safe; just do what you do a little more warily. Consider bringing a jar of peanut butter or similar if you're prone to homesickness. AND EXTRA SOCKS. Okay, get outta here before I start tearing up.

thebestjasmine

@miwome Yes, totally! Post on Facebook and ask if anyone knows anyone in X country -- it's so fun to be able to see life there from the perspective of a local, and it's also great if you're homesick because then you can talk to someone that you at least have a sort of connection with.

miwome

@miwome Looking at some of the other comments, I should clarify that this is coming from the "seat of your pants" school of travel, and I in no way mean to imply that that's always the best way to do things. Actually booking tours and things scares the crap out of me (COMMITMENT), so this is how I like to do it. (I once walked off a plane with nowhere to stay at like 7 pm. It worked out fine.) That said, booking tours and such (it's so off my radar I don't even know what WORDS to use! Ignorance!) might well be easier on a human traveling alone. Do you!

thebestjasmine

The awesome thing about traveling alone is that you can do whatever the hell that you want to do without feeling guilty about it or like you're dragging someone along or stopping someone from doing something. Sit at this cafe and drink wine instead of going to that museum? YES! Go to a super expensive restaurant and just order appetizers and dessert? Sure! Etc. The difficult thing about it is that it can get lonely and you can get too much inside your own head, but I find that people in general are friendly if you sit somewhere by yourself and look willing to talk. I've never felt in danger by myself, but I do tend to take many fewer risks when I'm in an unfamiliar place than when at home (cab at night instead of subway, especially when I'm not totally sure where I'm going, etc.)

My biggest advice is to scan all of your key travel documents (passport, any visa, any credit card phone numbers that you'll need if something gets stolen, etc.) and email it to yourself as well as your mom/boyfriend/sister and print it all out and have it in your suitcase. That way, if you do get stuff stolen, it will be much faster to get it all fixed.

miwome

@thebestjasmine The advice re: documents is huge. For USians, it's also worth maybe joining STEP, which is a State Department thing that basically just puts you on their radar. You can let them know when you're going or moving somewhere, so they send you all the alerts and whatnot for that place (if relevant), and the embassy there can get in touch with you and an emergency contact. In the event of a lost passport or similar, the embassy can also help you much faster because they already have most of the info in the program.

Here it is! I just joined, and it makes my parents soooooo happy.

BoBeah

If you're doing Italy, the Almafi Coast (Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii, Capri) is stunningly beautiful. Naples, however, is the only place I was ever afraid traveling in a small group of girls. Go in, get a pizza (worth it) and get out. Don't be by yourself in the train station at night. Instead go stay at this place in Sorrento - www.mamicamilla.com. We booked it totally randomly, arrived in the middle of the night to find a sort of dilapidated, magical fairyland of a villa compound that THEN turned out to be a sleepaway cooking school / hostel run by a retired famous chef and his family. BEST. STAY. EVER.

Berlin is my favorite, favorite place in the world - I found it exceptionally easy to navigate on my own. It has the perfect balance of art / culture / nightlife / music / history / amazing food / friendly people and all the dudes are strapping and bearded. Everyone speaks at least a hint of English, and is totally willing to help if you need it.

...annnnnd heading to Kayak.com now. Just to check.

atipofthehat

@BoBeah

If you travel on the the Almafi Coast...

Don't drive! (It's been years, and I still haven't recovered.) Though the road seems to have improved a bit.

missupright

@BoBeah BERLIN BERLIN BERLIN. My best thing about being back in Europe is that I can seriously consider going to Berlin for a few days on a Gerhard RIchter-inspired whim. And also, HOW ARE ALL THE MEN THERE THAT BEAUTIFUL?

Diana

@BoBeah

Sorrento/the Amalfi Coast was one of the best things I ever did in my life, and I stayed at Seven Hostel which was extremely affordable but the fanciest, most luxurious place I've ever stayed in on my own dime. I still dream about everything about that trip.

Living My Best Life Far Away from the Hairpin!

@BoBeah @missupright Yay, I'm excited to hear good things about Berlin because I'll be there for a few days in May but no one I know has been there to scope it out beforehand for me...

ormaisonogrande

I've been to Spain, Austria, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Serbia alone and separated from my travel companions for at least a few hours in Japan, Mexico and Ireland. Here are my three biggest tips:

1) learn where street signs can be found before you go. They are not always on the corner where you expect.
2) try to look more or less "normal" for wherever you are. Don't get all decked out in travel-wear. Carry a regular purse that zips closed. Apart from not making you immediately stand out in a crowd, you will also feel more comfortable when you have to interact with people. Plus, I feel like if you look like you are paranoid about being robbed, people assume you actually have shit to be robbed of.
3) Ask questions and directions. If you're reading this site, you speak English and you are really lucky because English is the lingua franca. Not everybody speaks it, but *someone* will always speak it, and lots of those people will be awesome and friendly and will ask you if you want them to walk with you all the way to the museum entrance.

miwome

@ormaisonogrande Re: #2: YES YES YES. By the same token, try not to wear a lot of jewelry.

packedsuitcase

@miwome Agreed! Actually, I've found those Longchamps bags that everybody and their sister had a few years ago were my absolute FAVOURITE bags to travel with. The strap and the zipper are placed so that you can keep your thumb on it at all times, they're lightweight, and there aren't any outside pockets. Honestly fantastic travel purse.

Pitch Blease

I was literally in the process of talking myself out of a solo trip to Paris when I decided to take a Hairpin break and OMG am I so glad I did. This website is my spirit guide.

Brett Phillipson@facebook

@Pitch Blease Paris is a great place to be alone. Maybe it's the lack of private space (seriously, Parisian apartments are TINY) but people in Paris don't have a problem with being alone in public the way we seem to in North America. I went to bars by myself all the time when I was there. It was awesome.

Pitch Blease

@Brett Phillipson@facebook Such good news. I was scared of looking like a creep but hopefully I'll just fit in. Except for the whole french-speaking thing.

packedsuitcase

@Pitch Blease Paris by myself is what got me hooked on solo travel. Do it! Doooooo eeeeeeet!

missupright

@Pitch Blease Paris is my temporary adopted home. GO TO THE MARAIS AND THE CREPERIE THAT USED TO BE A PHARMACY. Go to the Marais and Florence Kahn's bakery. Anyway, PARIS IS ACE and the Marais is the best.

More battenburg, vicar?

@Brett Phillipson@facebook Exactly! I love Paris, and while I have had occasional experiences of Parisians (including staff in cafes) being a little aloof and non-communicative, I think the upside of the same characteristic is that I've never been harassed while I've been on my own there. That isn't to say that there aren't suburbs and the metro stations that serve them where you might not want to be on your own, particularly at night, but central Paris has aways been good to me. I love Le Clown Bar on Rue Amalot, near the Cirque d'Hiver - mmm, ham hock terrine with cornichons.

thebestjasmine

@Pitch Blease Yes to what everyone else says, Paris is the first place I ever traveled alone and it's GREAT. And yes yes go to the Marais, and read David Lebovitz's blog for other tips but especially go to the candy store off the beaten path that he talks about because it's AMAZING.

loudmouthedgirl

@Pitch Blease GO! Paris is fantastic alone. Just walking by yourself is amazing - there is always something fascinating to look at. One of my favourite discoveries was this tiny tiny store on Ile de la Cite that just sold fancy jams, preserves and mustards. It was the size of a closet and floor to ceiling dark wood shelves and so old-world amazing. And the jam was really good!

Pitch Blease

@loudmouthedgirl Booking this shit tomorrow. Thanks everyone!!!!

girl_talk

The Cinque Terre in Italy!

- Rent a room in someone's pension in Vernazza (don't bother staying in the other 4 villages, Vernazza is the most beautiful).
- Take a book down to the beach and nap and read and swim into one of the many grottoes that dot the shore and pretend you're Ariel.
- Gear up with some hiking shoes and plenty of water and hike the Roman-era trails that connect all five villages. I am in no way sporty but this was really pleasant and it looks out over the Mediterranean Sea!
- Eat the oven-fresh focaccia every day with some red wine.

Folks, this is where Pesto is FROM. Pesto.

nevernude cutoffs

@girl_talk I still have dreams about the frutti di mare and wine I had in Cinque Terre. (I literally just got chills thinking about it now) Best meal of my entire life.

Megasus

@girl_talk They apparently got flooded really badly last year, but I heard it was fine now.

planforamiracle

@girl_talk is there a particularly good time of year to go? One of my BFFs went with her sister and said it ruled.

ormaisonogrande

@girl_talk The pesto there is seriously better than pesto anywhere else. They have like, a different kind of basil. Seriously.

girl_talk

@planforamiracle I went in early-mid May and it was lovely! Warm but not to hot to spend all day hiking.

girl_talk

@ormaisonogrande It seriously is! I went to this little grocery store to pick up some for dinner and there randomly happened to be an American lady that lives in the Cnque Terre* in line behind me. I asked her what the secret is, why it's so light and pale green, and the secret (unsurprisingly) is to add way more parmesan and olive oil than you think you need. I tried that trick back home and while it still wasn't quite is good, it did approximate it much better than the dark green sludge that passes for pesto sometimes.

*I asked this woman how she ended up living in this little village and she said she visited during a study abroad in college, fell in love, and never left (!!!!!!). I can't even.

elizabee

I used to travel alone a LOT when I was single. I'm definitely a city person, and if you aren't this tip might not work for you, but I used to plan trips around concerts I wanted to see and things like that - so even if the city and I didn't get along (rare, but it happened)I'd have one really fun (and familiar, so kind of comforting) thing to do.

Brett Phillipson@facebook

I love travelling alone. So far I've taken two trips to France on my own (the first when I was 18 - oh, the stupid things I did on that trip), and it's been amazing both times. The only advice I'd give would be to choose a country where you speak the language if you're going to go alone. Not knowing what anyone is talking about is okay if you're in a pair or a group, but otherwise it can be scary and isolating. Also, I bought this leg wallet thing so I could keep my passport and money strapped to my calf. Not everyone is as paranoid as I am, of course, but keeping valuables both on your person and concealed (rather than, say, in your pocket or backpack) is always a good idea.

miwome

@Brett Phillipson@facebook Can I ask--when you need to get the valuables, do you like unstrap it in plain sight? Do you go to the bathroom to get out some cash and then proceed? I'm legitimately curious.

Living My Best Life Far Away from the Hairpin!

@miwome I have one of those leg passport holders (soooo sexy), and I find it most useful to wear when sleeping--which probably makes me about as paranoid as @BrettPhillipson@facebook. I don't normally use it during the day because, yeah, I don't want to look like a weirdo tourist ducking down, pulling up my pantleg and pulling out my cash/passport. Or I might keep my passport and extra cash in it when I leave the hostel (I'm poor), and then pull the bathroom move if I'm running low on cash.

Steph

YAY Solo travel! Now that I have a boyfriend who is a crazy travel person like me I don't get to do it so much, but I miss it. I've traveled solo through Japan, China, Laos and Cambodia as well as a couple places in Europe. It's so much fun.

I can be a pretty shy person and part of the reason I really like solo travel is that it pushed me out of my comfort zone and forces me to be sociable. That and there's nobody to judge me when I get like my 8th foot massage of the week.

Steph

By the way Japan is an excellent first solo adventure! It's super safe and easy to get around even if you don't know a single word of Japanese. People are very kind and I just really enjoyed everything about the place.

LilyMarlene

@Steph Yes! Exactly - I traveled solo through parts of Japan and have never felt so safe and looked after, even in decrepit hostels. The Shinkansen is a great (albeit, pricey) way to cram in visits to a lot of cities in a short amount of time, too.

thebestjasmine

@Steph Ooh, I have to say that I went to Tokyo with someone, and I would have found it totally overwhelming and scary if I was alone. Not threatening and scary, because it is a safe city, but there are SO many people there, and it's a pretty confusing city to navigate (the subways are not hard, but as soon as we got off a train we got lost over and over again). I also think that Japan is a much easier place to go be if you're Asian or white (I am not either).

Stiffy Byng

@Steph I wholeheartedly second Japan - I went with a friend at 19, and neither of us really knew the language, but we had the best time. It's SO safe - a friend lost her wallet with tons of cash and all her ID in a park, and recovered it, I left mine on a train and recovered it. People will leave you alone most of the time, but if you're looking lost with a map, someone will normally come up to help. The ex-pat community tends to be very inclusive as well, if you're looking for some company amid all the solo adventuring. Tokyo can be stressful if crowds stress you out - I always found that as long as I kept a peaceful state of mind and let myself be moved with the crowd it didn't faze me too much, but then I'm a small-town girl who loves everything about the city, so ymmv. There's also several more sedate, scenic areas easily reached from Tokyo by train, and there's always Kyoto and Osaka in the west.

Dilworth

I love traveling alone- especially in Europe. When I am by myself I have a tendency to drive myself nuts trying to fill up every second of my time, trying to make sure I get the most out of the experience, staying buy so I won't notice that I am alone. A friend had some great advice which is to stay somewhere that can function as your evening's entertainment. A hotel with a couple of pleasant bistros close-by and a nice bar in the lobby is what I usually try to find. I make sure to have a clear itinerary for the next day before I go to bed and wrap up my day at home base. Before I discovered this I spent a couple of exhausting trips traipsing around seeing the sites and then trying to to find the hippest night spot I could. Once I was able to give that up I've been having the time of my life!

HippityHop

Barcelona - beaches, Picasso museum, Gaudi, eating your face off in delicious food. Prague - most tourist attractions are in the totally walkable historical downtown, lots of young American and British expats to meet, great beer! I always felt safe in Prague, even though I was that expat who walked home drunk alone at 3 in the morning. Just keep your eyes out for pickpockets. The older part of the population don't really speak English, though. Also, I saw someone advised that you go somewhere where you look like the population. That's a good way to get used to travelling alone because you won't get hassled too much for sticking out.

highjump

@Svetlei Lazuri Does the older generation speak Russian? I am counting on using my really terrible Russian to speak to people in Prague this spring instead of learning Czech.

HippityHop

@highjump They do speak Russian, but I wouldn't recommend using it to speak. There is a LOT of animosity towards Russians, not only because of the past, but because a lot of the organized crime currently going on in the CZ is run by the Russian mob. I speak Russian, and I used it to understand what people were saying, especially good for food items, but not to speak. I just smiled a lot and learned a little Czech. Also, keep in mind that the most useful/frequently used phrases are VASTLY different in Czech and Russian. So, learn, please, thank you, you're welcome, hello, and goodbye in Czech before you go. Learn how the háček changes pronunciation and know this - Jedno pivo, prosim.

highjump

@Svetlei Lazuri Discouraging, but helpful. Will it help me at all that my Russian is clearly non-native? Any website recommendations or anything for learning Czech?

HippityHop

@highjump If you're sort of adorable as well, then broken Russian might work out for you. The young Czechs (think under 35), at least in Prague, pretty much all speak some English. Are you going to be travelling much outside of Prague? How long will you be there?

highjump

@Svetlei Lazuri I going to only Prague for four days. I am from the midwest and very non-threatening looking.

HippityHop

@highjump Girl, you will be FINE. You won't even need the Russian, except for knowing what food you're picking from the menu. Print out a decent map that has Mala Strana/Old Town/New Town/Vinohrady/Zizkov. If you like walking, you can get nearly anywhere in those places by foot. There are cheap hostels in Zizkov, but some people think it's sketchy. That's where I lived and it was fine. When walking in Vaclavske Namesti (Wenceslaus Square), especially at night, be aware of your surroundings and do not look lost. In Prague, street signs are on red plaques on the sides of buildings. You will get lost, there are lots of alleys and weird tunnel streets. Go to U Sudu and find your way to the lowest basement level, it's a crazy cool bar. The lower levels at Chateau/Chapeau Rouge are fun too. Eat at Cafe Louvre, The Grand Cafe Orient, Radost, and Cukr/Kava/Limonada. For more traditional Czech fare I loved U Sadu in Zizkov. The upstairs is smokey, but the downstairs has great atmosphere. Also, eat from the food carts. I miss the smazeny syr (fried cheese).

Feminist Killjoy

@highjump prague is lovely, probably the most friendly city towards tourists. i stayed at a hostel called St. Christopher's @ Mosaic House (look it up on Hostelworld) and it was cheap and THE CLEANEST MOST LUXURIOUS HOSTEL i've ever stayed in. nicer than a lot of hotels i've stayed in, in fact.

if you have an Android phone there is a czech phrasebook app that I found very helpful. Dobry den!

screwball cate

Funny how the more I travel and see, the less rapey the world seems to be. I think there is always risk of bad things happening, no matter who/where you are, but the whole OMG WOMEN CANT GO PLACES ALONE CUZ *you know* is kinda bullcrap.

LilyMarlene

@screwball cate Yeah, I get pretty sick of hearing that. Rape and other horrible crap happens everywhere (unfortunately), and living life like there's always a piano dangling from a fraying thread over one's head is no way to live at all. Whether you're in a parking lot in Peoria or pottering around Prague, just look out for yourself and others around you. It's the best anyone can do in this crazy world, really.

whatsherface

For those who might be hesitant to travel alone for the first time, as I was last year, I might suggest looking into a volunteer trip. It's organized so you don't have to worry about wandering alone (I get bored easily, even of my own company) and you are guaranteed to meet some incredible, like-minded people. It can be an amazingly rewarding experience and you are able to immerse yourself in the local culture in ways that you might miss out on as a typical tourist.

There are loads of organizations out there and ways to volunteer so do some research or talk to people and find out which one might suit you best.

Note: There will be some amount of 'work' involved if you go this route, and your friends/colleagues may not understand why on earth you would spend your vacation time doing so, but you will love every minute of it and come back with awesome stories. Trust.

nyikint

@whatsherface Any good ones to recommend? I'm looking at some and having a hard time separating the riff from the raff, so to speak.

whatsherface

@nyikin I just got back yesterday from my second trip with Habitat for Humanity and looooved it. I know it has its detractors but I think it's a solid organization and I like their methods. However, it's not the cheapest way to go if you're looking for budget travel but if you're Canadian (and participate through the Canadian side of things) you'll get a good chunk of it back on your taxes (which I know is not the point, but).

Bottom line, it's good hard work alongside families who really appreciate it and you don't have to worry about a thing while in country. I'm looking into other options as well (because again, price) but am at least comforted by knowing that it's a reputable organization and is not making a profit from me.

Mira

Traveling alone is the best. I've done extended trips in Ecuador and Peru, and shorter jaunts (connected to business trips, but still alone) in Kuala Lumpur, Accra, and Ho Chi Minh City. Highly recommend! In addition to being relaxing and exciting at the same time, it's also kind of empowering.

If you're alone more than a few weeks it can start to get a little lonely, depending on how well you speak the local language and how much you need to hang out with other people. I'm kind of introverted, so having a few weeks with only casual contact with other people=heaven. Traveling alone, especially without a phone, forces you to be in your surroundings, instead of analyzing them with your traveling companions and/or thinking about good pictures to take for FB or whatever.

My main advice for solo travel, honestly, is to blend in as much as possible, be polite, smile a lot, and avoid drinking too much. (Although it pains me to say so.) Like, a beer with lunch is probably fine, but the bar scene in another country is just not fun enough (IMO) to be worth the risk. (Although if I had more experience in developed countries, I might not feel that way!) Getting drunk in the tourist areas of Cusco or Quito, for example, is a great way to wake up missing your wallet and passport. And, possibly, kidney.

Mira

@Mira Oh and my other main advice: massive, dark (but not expensive-looking) sunglasses, which allow you to stealth-read street signs without anyone being able to tell you're being shifty-eyed/have no idea where you are.

HippityHop

Also, when she advises keeping your cash/i.d. on your body, that doesn't mean in your purse. I know those wallets that strap to your body are ridiculous, but I would just always wear pants or skirts with pockets, preferably if they zip or button on the skirt, and anytime I was going to be in a situation where I was more likely to get my bag stolen, i.e. a metro station, a crowded street, I would put my debit card/phone/keys/passport in my pocket. Especially the passport and a credit card.

More battenburg, vicar?

The first time I went on holiday without family/friends it felt enough of a challenge to be on a continent where I didn't know a soul, without also doing that all alone, so I went on a small group organised holiday - hiking and whale watching in Nova Scotia with the UK-based company Explore. There were about 10 of us and a guide, and I had a lovely time. Of course there were moments when I could have done with a bit more time to myself/would have liked to have lingered when the rest were ready to move on, but as a gentle, safe introduction to travelling solo, it worked well. Also, I did meet my husband on that trip, so there's that.

CheeseMonkey

Also, if you go to a place where you might see a play, dance performance or sit-down concert, then you can get a single ticket! I can often get the half-price/ day-of tickets, and get really good seats if I'm alone.

laurel

I don't want to be all pearl-clutchy white American, but what's up with travel in Mexico these dark days? Is the violence and chaos mostly in the border areas? I'd love to spend more time with the weird flora in Baja and want to go swim in the ocean somewhere warm.

monicamcl

@laurel I'm interested in this, too... I've always wanted to go to Taxco, but have gotten such dire warnings about being a woman traveling alone there.

redheaded&crazy

@laurel I also hate to be all pearl-clutchy but it baffles me that people consider Mexico a viable place to travel these days. I'm sure that it's safe enough, but, um, I think I'll pass on out of control drug wars

whatsherface

@laurel I just got back from Honduras, having no idea until yesterday that the UN pulled out the peace corps because the country is "too dangerous." Since apparently the situations are similar (drug-related murders, etc.) I would hazard a guess that you can totally have an amazing time in Mexico but just be smart about where you go. Stay away from known problem spots (duh), don't wear anything flashy, and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Or just go to some town far away from the big cities with no access to internet and then when you get home and your mom is freaking that you've been shot in the streets you can be all "I have no clue what you're talking about."

Mira

@whatsherface I thought Honduras was terrifying! (I was there in fall 2010.) I wouldn't go to Mexico either, honestly. Granted, I wasn't in the supposedly nice parts of Honduras - Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and some port city whose name I forget - but I'd never want to go back. I felt much safer in the Congo!

But I have friends who loved Honduras, so maybe I was just in the wrong spots? Where did you go?

thebestjasmine

@laurel Mexico is a totally fine place to go! I actually don't understand why people are so scared of it. Yes, if you go to border towns where there's a lot of the drug trade and to the bad parts of town, or to sketchy areas of Mexico City, there could be issues. But a lot of Mexico is based on tourism, and so if you go to tourist areas it will be just fine, gorgeous, and also pretty cheap. I went to the Mayan Rivera a few years ago and can't wait to go back.

whatsherface

@Mira I was in Santa Rosa de Copán and then Copán Ruinas, which are in the mountains three hours from San Pedro Sula. I felt very safe in both towns and loved my time there but I've heard that the bigger cities are not so idyllic (to put it mildly). Maybe I was just lucky but I didn't mind walking around alone and met other tourists doing the same thing.

Mira

@whatsherface Those were the only places in my guidebook that I actually wanted to visit! I thought about adding some time to my trip and going, but while I was considering it 19 people were gunned down at a factory in SPS (where I was at the time) and I was...sort of ready to just get out of there. (One of my co-workers flew into SPS a couple of months ago to find a body dump at the arrivals area of the airport!! D:)

I'm glad you had a good experience in Honduras. The ruins sounded amazing - I hope I'll get to go someday.

lasttoknow

@laurel I've gone to Mexico twice alone, and just this morning I was daydreaming about doing it again.

Both times I went to to smallish, gorgeous colonial towns with Spanish language schools and homestays. Dirt cheap, you learn the language fast, and best of all you meet other travellers who like the idea of learning about culture, and travelling with depth. The towns I went to were Guanajuato (pop 125,000) and Oaxaca (pop 250,000) and they were both fascinating.

(Dirt cheap means that in Oaxaca, two weeks of plain but private accommodation with WiFi, plus 27 hours of small-group Spanish instruction came to $330 USD.)

I had the best, best, best time, and I pretty much felt safe the whole time. Though I guess I should mention here that I'm a Canadian who can pass for a Mexican.

Next stop: San Cristobal de las Casas (maybe).

lasttoknow

Oh, and also: I don't know if there is such a thing as a town so small it doesn't have the internet. The smaller and poorer it is, the more people want/need communal computers. 'Net cafes are *everywhere*.

redheaded&crazy

@laurel a timely article proving us paranoid i guess :(

whatsherface

@Mira I'm sorry to hear about what happened to you and your friend. I now consider myself very lucky that I didn't face something similar and that I remained blissfully ignorant of what could have happened. I had checked the travel advisories before going but was assured that it was perfectly safe so I took that at face value.

@lasttoknow You're right...people had better cell and internet service in Random Farmer's Field, Honduras than I do here in Ontario. It was baffling. Unfortunately I just didn't have access to it since I was with a volunteer group and didn't have time to look for an internet cafe.

kaaaaaaatie-did

@laurel I backpacked through Mexico from Cancun to Mexico City for 18 days with my boyfriend and a freind (another dude). No, it wasn't solo, but it was my first time traveling sans parents and out of the country. I definitely feel confident enough going back solo. Palenque was the only sketchy town (the BEST ruins). I would not go back there alone. Mexico City has sketchy places (a classmate in college was in Mex City the same time we were and she was kidnapped. And she was born and raised in Mexico City. It's like any major town- watch where you go, and don't run around late at night). We almost always stayed in backpacker/youth hostels where there were plenty of people to tag along with for day adventures or going out. Mexico has been my best travel experience- great snorkeling, ruins, AMAZING cheap food, and a ton of like minded travelers.

smidge

This is what I get for actually doing work instead of reading the Hairpin, as I should.
Ditto to the loving solo travel. I was on my own in England and Italy for a while.
One thing someone recommended was that you make copies of your passport and keep them in separate places--keep your passport on your person, a copy back at the hotel and one with your parents/trusted friend back home. So if you get robbed or lose it there's a back up to prove you're a citizen of somewhere.
Also! If you want to tour some old churches but don't want to pay for it, see if they are having an evening service or something. I wound up with some free wine and canapes in London that way.

Mira

@smidge Yes to churches/religious buildings. They are among my favorite things to visit in other countries - they often reveal so much about a place's history. Way better to attend a service instead of paying to get in, plus, lots of them have amazing music and, as you mention, free food. (This is literally the only thing I now find useful about having grown up Catholic.)

smidge

@Mira Nice! Also, I didn't mean to sound uncouth--I really love churches and church music and such, but the free wine was a nice bonus.

Mira

@smidge You, uncouth? I just admitted to pretending to be religious in order to avoid paying a nominal entrance fee! (And also eat free food.) You are definitely winning in the class department.

smidge

@Mira I mean, Jesus wants people to feed the poor anyway, so it's a win-win-win :-)

tiny bookbot

I did a three-week solo trip that started in Prague and ended in Riga, and it was fantastic. A little scary--I'd never traveled alone for that long--but like other folks have said, I took care to blend in, which meant no jeans, no sneakers, and no backpack (skirts/dresses, boots, H&M scarf, and a leather or faux-leather handbag--bam, you look generically european). I got mistaken for local everywhere. I still got harassed a little--especially by some dude in Budapest who grabbed my hand and tried to pull me to him--but I didn't have any terrifying encounters. The thing is to be sensible: make sure several people know your travel plans and where you're staying, and be dutiful about checking in with those people. Don't make your arrangements at the last minute at any point--I checked travel routes and bought train/bus tickets in advance as much as I could. Make friends with other travelers, especially other women who are traveling alone or with another woman: Aussie and Kiwi girls were my buddies on a few trains and buses, and that was nice and very helpful.

Read hotel/hostel reviews before booking. I prioritized those that had high marks in the 'safety' category. Ask hotel/hostel staff about neighborhoods to avoid if you're walking alone at night--they are usually very happy to give you that kind of advice.

Otherwise, be ruled by your common sense. If you wouldn't do it here, then don't do it there.

CharethCutestory

I've done a fair amount of traveling the past few years, as a solo lady. I cannot express how much I love it. Maybe it's because I'm an only child or something, but I'm pretty comfortable alone. All the reasons mentioned in the article apply, especially seeing things at your whimsy. I once went to a Magritte museum in Brussels (lovely!), accompanied by a dude I met at my hostel, and when he took off after ten minutes of hovering and breathing down my neck while I took my sweet time looking at paintings (as long as I wanted! listening to aaaaall of the audio guide!), I was so glad I didn't feel that pressure any more. I was just in Malta over New Year's (also solo), and had an incredible moment. I was standing on a rocky cliff on the coast, a bit hidden from the other tourists, looking out at the Blue Grotto--I won't bother to describe what it looked like, but I will tell you that I truly experienced The Sublime for the first time ever in my life, and I cried. I broke down, hard. I was in awe and terrified by the beauty of what I saw, and I had complete freedom to react to it how I wanted. THAT is why I love traveling alone.
I will say, as far as practical advice goes, to just do your research. I love hostels ('cause I'm broke--not making much as an English teaching assistant here in Spain). Sites like hostelbookers show you ratings from former guests, broken down into categories like safety/cleanliness/etc. Pick a safe place. Pick a secure hostel, and check what people say about the neighborhood. You'll also be able to tell if the place facilitates meeting people. The place I stayed at in Malta was AWESOME--safe, clean, and a staff that went above and beyond. Quiet enough to sleep at night, but great for meeting people. I showed up alone and went out for New Year's Eve and a night of karaoke in a group of 11 people from several different countries. Paris was great alone. So was Brussels. As comfortable as I am traveling alone, I am also really sensitive to harassment of any sort (a little leering can bum me out for an hour or so and send me spiraling into a feminist rage), and I've been fortunate enough to not have had much trouble in that department. I'm currently working on plans to see Morocco, and I'm still unsure whether I'd be comfortable alone or not. It depends on what you want! The internet is your friend, and the world is yours to see!

supremeeditor

@CharethCutestory Heyyy I did that program too! I'm back now.

I'm also new to the hairpin, so I don't know how to message/if that's possible.

How are you liking the program?

CharethCutestory

@CharethCutestory Welp! I don't love it, can't lie. I am in Ciudad Real, though...a li'l city in humble Castilla La Mancha. At least Madrid's only about an hour away by high-speed train (which costs more than I thought it would!). I'm really in a mostly "meh" situation, though--my school is ok (just one issue with one class with a creepy teacher who doesn't even speak english well enough to do a bilingual class, and some general annoyance with how my schedule works out with carpooling to my pueblo...and I feel a general lack of consideration for what I want/need/am actually capable of...the kids are pretty good, though!). I'm lucky enough to be getting PAID (which more than I can say for some). I think this region is kind of grating on me, though. I miss my boyfriend (in the US) and am tired of people stating opinions as facts ("Spanish beer/cheese/food is the best!" *really?*), and questions like, "The food here is much better and healthier than in the USA, right?" "So, do you like Europe better than the US? But, Europe has so much more history and culture!" Haha...as you can probably tell...I'm not really into it. I think I counted Feb. 7 as my halfway point...
I know that when things are uncomfortable, though, some real growth and change is happening. So I'm trying to flow with it. And I do appreciate cheap vino and tapas...which I should go shower and get ready for!
Where were you? Since you're saying you're back now...did you do it last year, or did you leave mid-year? I know there a lot of payment issues, and it really just seems to be total chance--you can have an awesome school, get paid on time, and only work three days a week, or you can work for a bunch of bitches that act like you're a big baby for crying when they don't pay you two or three months in a row...

missedconnections

Traveled to Cambodia and Vietnam alone. Seriously had the best time, and I am pretty shy so most of it was spent solo. Plus there is a sense of "I did this all by myself!" accomplishment. The author is spot on with the biggest benefit - you get to do whatever the hell you want, whenever the hell you want. Want to sleep in and watch crappy movies instead of going to the Louvre? Shop instead of seeing another old church? Yeah, do that. No one has to know, even. In terms of safety, I just treat it like being in a slightly shady neighborhood and act accordingly. I kind of suck at guidebooks, so I just stayed at smaller hotels and asked the staff for recommendations. (One of the best parts of my trip: telling a Cambodian where I was from and trying to explain snow to him.) HAVE FUN!

HippityHop

@missedconnections

Shopping! OF COURSE. Ladies, please go clothes shopping in EVERY foreign country you travel to. Even if you're somewhat broke and all about H&M. An H&M in Frankfurt is wayyyy different from one in Seattle. Oh this? It's just from an H&M. In Germany. Or even better? Most countries have some brand they are famous for that is way more reasonable to buy there rather than here.

miwome

@Svetlei Lazuri I am a firm believer in bringing back at least one souvenir that's an object you love and will actually use in your life instead of sitting on a shelf somewhere being sad. Mostly this means jewelry, which is awesome, because you can be all, "yeah, I bought this necklace in a booth on the side of a hill in Lebanon, no bigs"

The Lady of Shalott

@miwome My mom's favourite thing to do is bring back Christmas ornaments as souvenirs. That way, her tree is full of awesome, pretty objects that they unpack and go "Oh, do you remember when we were here and got this?" and blah blah blah blah blah. And then they go away for a while so you don't get bored of looking at them!

Pocket Witch

@Svetlei Lazuri In Germany, T.J. Maxx is called T.K. Maxx (because of the way they pronounce the letter J, I'm assuming). I'm already planning to come home from this semester with a suitcase-ful more clothes than I leave with.

que_ridiculo

i traveled by myself from budapest to croatia to bosnia to greece, some berlin, vienna, and istanbul in there as well. being alone makes it much more likely that you will meet interesting people/get invited along to interesting goings-on with said people.

i second the advice above about blending in: don't wear jeans and sneakers and a backpack. you'll get mistaken for a local.

i used a tiny pocket sized notebook as a journal, and to write down subway stops, etc, so that i could covertly be looking at stuff without pulling out a giant guidebook or map or whatever.

also, couchsurfing can be used to arrange to meet up with locals! when in budapest, i had arranged to go biking with a local college student, for instance. and then staying in hostels guarantees you will have other people to accompany you on your tourist-y outings by day.

what i mostly learned on my long solo trip is that people are nice. i struck up so many conversations, was approached by friendly, curious people, was given good advice, etc. a big smile and friendly, upbeat demeanor will get you everywhere!

que_ridiculo

also while walking down a street, get your stony, unimpressed face on. it makes you look like you mean business/aren't lost and confused.

miwome

@que_ridiculo Yup. Even if you realize you are lost, do NOT look confused. Find a spot to sit down and study your map inconspicuously.

CharethCutestory

@miwome yes! I'm always sneaky with a map, and don't keep my camera out. I HATE looking like a tourist. I feel like there's a neon light flashing that says "I'm vulnerable! Steal my shit!"

Brunhilde

I'm so jealous of everyone in this thread! I want to travel places!

And then I realize that I'm fucking dirt poor and the only other countries I've been to are Mexico (Baja) and Canada (World's Fair 1986) and I've barely left the west coast and I hate my life and will be crying under my desk for the next hour if anyone needs me.

emmeli

I love this thread - and I'm glad I'm not the only person who, like @charethcutestory, has their day ruined by revolting low life men. That really gets to me, but I experience here in the US (DC, San Francisco, other cities) almost as much as I have traveling abroad (except in the Caribbean). I do not like feeling like an object, and I reallllly don't like how I can be having a perfectly fine day and minding my own business and some revolting individual finds it necessary to get involved and make me feel gross/unsafe/so fucking angry. I'm still dealing with how to handle this type of situation. I DO know that traveling solo as a female is WAYYY different than for men, and I always got really pissed when 20something guys I knew would be like "ohhh, that country is so laid back and chill and I did this awesome surfing session and went out drinking with these great guys and we shared stories all night long and blah blah" - mostly in places where women 1. do not drink 2. do not wear bathingsuits in public 3. are harassed, not invited over for bro chill time. That being said, a lot "locals" in various countries hold just as much contempt for this treatment as I do - people have told me in various places that these are the "street guys" or "lowlifes", and not everyone there thinks or acts this way (they're probably at work or with their families, not leering at any potentially female personage walking down the street). I do love traveling alone, though I haven't been able to for a few years now, and it's a completely different experience than traveling with friends, colleagues or significant others. I have much more time for writing/reading/being MELANCHOLY (basically the whole time) and never go out to bars or out to eat by myself. This is partly because I am the brokest, cheapest person you will ever meet, and partly because I have social anxiety about going out to eat/drink alone - I never know what to do. Do you read a book? Stare at the wall while chewing? The only other downside to traveling alone (aside from harassment protection and having fun going out/partying) is the cost. A lot of places have pensions/small hotels/private villas to rent, which are fun. It's really amazing and easy to find with the internet now (like the article says), but even guidebooks still have their place in less internet-savvy countries. I also love traveling by train, which is awesome solo, you have tons of time to think, watch the landscape, listen to music, knit, and often can strike up a conversation with your seat-mates. An incognito zippered handbag/messenger bag (that fits your camera, water, umbrella, valuables), a long trench-coatish style coat that can do in a rainshower, and comfy but not sneakers - helps me blend in in the European-type places. Going hiking and checking out parks, national parks, whatever is also a great activity - in some countries the city parks are just ridiculous and feature everything from beer gardens to full Japanese garden installations.

miwome

Oh! Oh. I forgot something random but fun. Something I LOVE to do in foreign countries, especially ones that have fairly different cuisine from the US, is stop by a major US-originating chain, like Dunkin Donuts. Seeing what different fruits they use or how they change the flavors of familiar forms is actually really interesting and can be a cool snapshot of how food differs around the world. So like in Beirut, they had special Coolattas that reflected the traditional drinks served during Ramadan; in Lima, there was a Coolatta that was purple-corn-flavored (OMG DELICIOUS); in Morelia, Mexico, the Burger King had, like enchiladas. It's fun and cheap and educational!

highjump

@miwome I know this is a common international travel complaint, but seriously Mcdonalds in other countries has exciting and delicious menu items I covet!!!!!

Tuna Surprise

@miwome
I still have pictures of my American Meal from a Burger King somewhere in Germany in 1996: a hamburger on a long hoagie roll, french fries and a miller genuine draft.

miwome

@Tuna Surprise That's awesome! I can't even REMEMBER what the deal withall the crazy donuts in Peru was, that's how off the wall and awesome they were. (One of the sketchier Dunkins I've been in, but wev.)

Sparrow Morgan@facebook

I'm gonna ditto the "look like you belong" advice.

I went to Paris alone, but before I left I dyed my hair black, and dressed in nothing but black, all long-sleeved tees and slacks and boots, and was able to traipse around being 5'1 at all hours with absolutely no trouble.

Sure, dudes offered to buy me drinks all the time, and one Armenian dude offered to walk me home but actually walked me home to his home (which was really creepy but ended up being harmless, and I stayed for dinner with his whole family)...

Whereas my sister, who is both taller and tougher than I am, showed up blonde, in jeans and sneakers, with a fanny pack, and got mugged in broad daylight on her second day there. Needless to say, she did not enjoy Paris.

It definitely was NOT my sisters fault that she got mugged, but I am gonna hazard that said mugger was looking for a target and just happened to see someone who registered as Obvious American Tourist, and went for her instead of one of the locals. People suck.

That said, still totally travel alone, because it is awesome.

Pocket Witch

Oh, this article and comments are so timely. A week from tomorrow, I'm going to the airport to fly to Germany, where I'll be spending the whole semester. I’m incredibly excited, and I’m not even scared yet, but I’ll probably get really nervous all of a sudden when it’s too late to do anything. That’s the way I roll.

But! I’ve decided I’d rather be excited than frustrated and fearful. Also, I don’t have to tell my parents everything I get up to.
I want to travel with friends or alone, and not be afraid if I am riding a train alone. Especially within Germany. I mean, seriously. (Ladies, is France horribly unwelcoming or rude to a German-speaking American tourist? To hear my parents talk, the people are downright hostile there, but I really, really wanna go.)
I want to take advantage of the fact that I can legally drink in Germany, out of curiosity if nothing else. I don’t want to get drunk, not with my track record of reactions to mind-altering drugs. I’ll probably see if there’s another smallish lady who wants to split a beer with me, so neither of us has to deal with a whole one.
I want to wear lipstick. I want to wear shorts where you can see most of my leg, not just knees and calves. These two sound frivolous, I know, but I can’t get away with it at home. Yes, I’m at college, but it’s in my hometown and I see my family very often. Overall, I like the closeness, but I intend to enjoy the distance I have coming.

Tuna Surprise

@comedy_of_customs

I went to Europe on a backpacking trip when I was 18 and ended up ditching the group I was with and traveling solo for a portion of the trip. I remember the thrill of drinking legally (see Burger King anecdote above)! For me, it was a great experience of growing as a person outside the prying eyes of my parents. Dress how you want, drink what you want and be free. If you feel nervous about experiencing new things, just take cues from the locals on how they dress and act.

I've now been to France several times (including solo trips) and have experienced exactly zero animosity towards Americans. And I speak maybe 200 words of French. I find if you are polite, kind and very generous with the smiles, people will go out of their way to help if you they see you struggling.

Just one more story. My sister was living in Paris for work last year and her job asked her to spend the day at a satellite office in the suburbs. She didn't know the suburban train system well and ended up getting on the wrong train with the wrong ticket. The conductor came through and started getting mad at her because she didn't have the right ticket. He didn't speak English and she didn't speak French. But a guy sitting in the row behind her got up and acted as a translator asking the conductor to give her a break. The conductor ended up letting her off and the guy told her how to get off the wrong train and onto the right one. See? People are really nice and even the worst case scenarios never turn out that bad.

Pocket Witch

@Tuna Surprise Thank you so much for this. I'm even more excited now :)

BattyRabbit

I have never ever traveled anywhere alone! I haven't traveled much of anywhere with other people, either - which is why I want to spend my spring break this year Doing New Things in New Places, Alone, Being Brave and Worldly and Grown-up! The problems are a) I'm poor! and b)I have social anxiety issues that can get pretty intense when I'm stressed. Is it totally a bad idea for me to try and go somewhere alone? Does anyone have any advice on dealing with Clinical Shyness, While Travelling? When you can't afford a hotel, how do you couchsurf when that involves so much social interaction?? Maybe I am full of stupid ideas.

feartie

@BattyRabbit Hostels are usually nice. You can feel a bit more sociable in them with others around, unlike in a hotel where people keep to their rooms, but there is no pressure to interact unless the kitchens are too small. Or it's a 'party' hostel (shudder). Just go to places that you can walk around quietly and still have fun - places with a lot of museums and galleries and pretty gardens. You can totally do it!

whateverlolawants

@BattyRabbit I briefly dated a guy who hosted Couchsurfers, and some of them kept to themselves. Some hosts are pretty easy to do that with. I'm sure some aren't, though. Maybe you could just be upfront and say that you need space and quiet. That wouldn't offend me if I was a host!

nomorecheese

I will be taking a solo backpacking trip to the UK this summer after I graduate, so GO SOLO LADY TRAVELERS!! Most people I have talked to have been super supportive or at least pretended to be interested, so I think basically only your sheltered super Christian mother (if you have one) will fret over the inherent vulnerability bestowed by your genitalia.

I think I may keep a blog while I'm there so if I do, I'll be sure to let the Hairpin know, I'd love to have people follow along :-)

feartie

@nomorecheese Would love to follow that! I'm a sucker for travel blogs (and I live in the UK - as do many pinners, so if you are looking for tips...)

stephanieboland

@nomorecheese Oooh, where in the UK are you heading? I can definitely pass on tips! :)

ReginaChristina

As someone that has lived in Cortona, where Under the Tuscan Sun is both set and was filmed. Cortona is pretty much like that. It is such a peaceful town and the people that live there are wonderful! But that's Cortona, not Florence which is a big city.

Mingus_Thurber

Two words: MONTREAL and DENMARK.

Both are wonderful, especially for first-time-solo travellers. Montreal has both walkable, fascinating neighborhoods and a good central transit system. Denmark as a whole is a hell of a good time, especially at midsummer, though it's expensive as hell. If you can learn how to half-pronounce rodgrod med flode (sorry, I can't do slashy-o's), though, you'll have drinks bought for you.

I really want to go back to Denmark and hike from the German border to the tip of Jutland one summer.

sparrow303

I love doing anything alone, really. Movies? check. Concerts? check plus! Haven't traveled alone yet (except to meet up with a friend in another city) but am looking forward to it eventually.

Diana

I traveled through four European countries (while living in Paris) on my own and it was almost the number one best thing I've ever done for myself. I've never come from a traveling family and who knows if I'll ever have enough money to go to Europe again, so it was critical that I feel free to do exactly what I want to do and not waste my time on other people's travel itineraries. I remember during our week long All Saint's holidays we were all traveling off, and I was going all over Italy by myself while a big group of ten kids were going to Greece. When we got back, I told them about all the adventures I went on, all the obscure historical sites I'd always wanted to see, the split second travel decisions, how I got to see absolutely everything that was important to me. They told me how much time they spent deciding where to go, and nobody got to do the things they really wanted, and most of them felt like they didn't experience Greece at all. My experiences were so positive I can't imagine traveling with more than maybe one person ever again. It depends on the kind of person you are and what kind of activities you enjoy, I suppose - if you're there to find exciting new scenes or fabulous people or whatever, hang out with the locals and travel with others. But if you're like me and you want to see museums, famous landmarks, and travel to places with personal value and meaning for you, traveling solo is absolutely the way to go.

1. DON'T GET DRUNK. Do not get drunk. Don't get drunk! Nooooo drunk.
2. Don't be an obvious fucking tourist. Figure out where you are going before you leave the hotel room or in the cab. If you need to ask directions, find a shop clerk, not a stranger in the street. Get one of those handy maps that come in turnable-pages (not huge awkward fold-out maps) - think Moleskine travel journals, so you can browse discreetly if you get lost. No fucking fanny packs! Hidden packs for money and passport are a great idea. Wear your bag slung across your body and resting on your front hip, or anything with a zipper on top.
3. Walk like you know where you're going, even if you don't.
4. This is something particularly critical for women, because it's something we are socialized not to do. IT IS NOT YOUR JOB TO BE FRIENDLY TO STRANGERS. You are not under any obligation whatsoever to see those people. Keep walking, don't stop and go somewhere, and if guys are hitting on you just act like you don't hear them and keep walking.
5. Guys will probably hit on you. It's great that some of the women above haven't experienced this, but I got hit on in really awful ways in every country I visited. Florence was by far the worst, but Paris was pretty awful too. (I had a guy tell me how much he wanted to take me away and fuck me - in front of my French teacher and my entire class, on a field trip.) After careful observation in Paris I really perfected my Bitch Face - a talent which serves me well to this day. Parisian girls walked FIERCE - they are going somewhere, it's none of your business where, and they don't have time for you. This proved to be an excellent defensive tactic. It is not your job to be nice. It is your job to be safe.
6. Most important of all: DO EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT TO DO, NOT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE TELL YOU TO DO. I didn't give a shit about the London Eye, but I spent hours (crying) in the British Library Museum. I didn't care about the Trevi Fountain, but I spent hours in the cat sanctuary at the Torre Argentina. That's the whole point of traveling alone - you don't need to please anybody but yourself. Have the confidence to follow your very specific dreams to their utmost during your visit. This might be the only chance you ever have to come to this place, so treat it as such and see all the places on your personal bucket list. Live your own life and nobody else's.

BON VOYAGE!

Bluebird26

Yes! I am pro-solo traveling. I studied abroad in Italy (in a group of 14 girls...it got dramatic entirely too quickly), and I took some solo trips while I was there. I mainly took them so that I could prove to myself that I could do it...and I loved them!
I did some weekend trips with anywhere from 1 to 3 girls from the program. The thing about traveling with just one person is that sometimes y'all can get on each other's nerves very quickly. And then what? You're stuck with them because you made the plans together! With larger groups, you have to bow down to what other people want to do. It sucks.

1. I hiked Cinque Terre alone (SO WONDERFUL!), and I didn't even feel bad asking people to take my picture. I didn't feel too much like a tourist. I did this when I was 21, so I was still in my "proving I'm independent to myself and others" phase. I so very much enjoyed eating alone. WIth a big group, we'd have to scour the menu to make sure there was something they'd like. Also, if you know some of the language, I found that people in Italy were extremely helpful. They'd help me with my pronunciations or phrases (I was really good at asking where the bathroom was). One waiter in Corniglia said to me, "My God! Your Italian is wonderful!" after he asked where I was from. It was such a great moment (no, I don't think he was hitting on me).

2. I also did Venice alone. I read in a tour book to not worry about getting lost in Venice because it's one island. You won't be too far away from where you need to be! So I just wandered around Venice and it was awesome. I like plans and looking forward to them, but I also like just chilling. I stopped in random places to eat (after weeks of making sure I went to just the right place, it was great to just eat somewhere! anywhere!). I figured out the water bus by myself. I did the whole train thing. I got a horrible sunburn. It was awesome.

I had the catcalls, but I really started just ignoring them (along with the gypsies asking for money). The worst--I found--were in the Americanized clubs. Guys there just really wouldn't take no for an answer. Personally, I didn't go to clubs alone, and I don't think I would now. I'm just not that crazy about partying abroad as I am about sightseeing and making real--memorable--memories abroad.

I think overall, traveling alone is one of the most empowering things I've ever done. I can't wait to do it again (whenever I save up $2k for a plane ticket...). Heed all precautions about money and passport safety--you really can't be too prepared there. I registered with the US online. I always had a copy of my passport. I kept the zipper of my bag to my front. I think something else to remember when traveling alone is to be vigilant, but not paranoid. I haven't seen Taken, but all the girls in my study abroad group were freaked out because of the movie. No one will ride on a scooter and grab your bag. They will take your shit if you give them hints that you don't know what you're doing. Don't look lost. Put on a mean face. Maybe memorize your directions before you leave (ie, know which metro stops you're using. Remember street names or a "2 blocks straight, 10 blocks left" thing) All these things have been said...GOSH I want to go back right now!

okeydokeyartichokey

I just got back from a solo trip to the Bahamas! I spent a week there. I've done some solo traveling before (moved to London and Egypt for school without knowing anyone in either of those places, although with school, you do get to meet people pretty quickly), and I spent a few days in Beirut by my lonesome (I wish I would have been braver there and explored more of the nightlife on my own since it's a really friendly place). But I consider this to really be my first solo expedition. Anywho! Back to the Bahamas.

Originally, I had wanted to go to a backpacker's dream island called Utila, off the coast of Honduras. I figured, what with staying in a hostel and all the other young solo travelers, it would be really easy to meet people to hang out with. But American Airlines was making it really difficult for me to get there, and it the Bahamas ended up being the cheapest place for me to go.

I was really worried, because the Bahamas is a place where people go with other people. Honeymoons, families, big groups of friends. Also, downtown Nassau isn't supposed to be the safest at night, whether you're a female alone or not. So, instead of staying at the cheapest place in town, I decided to stay at a mid-range resort hotel. This was important to me, because I had the option of eating at the hotel if I had to (since buses stop early and taxis into town were a bit pricey), and I could just roll out of bed and be on the beach in 3 min. I felt really safe the whole time (even when I did what the guidebook said not to do and explored downtown, alone, at night, sometimes in dark alleys, and followed a nice young man who said he'd show me a good place to eat). I signed up for a bike tour of the island, and another solo lady traveler was the only other person on the tour! So I had someone to eat dinner with. I met a couple other solos on the beach, and, really, if I hadn't been so lazy I feel like I could have done anything I wanted to do on the island.

When I'm traveling alone, exploring new cities on my own, these are some of the things I do:
-I keep my cell handy. I call someone when I feel like I'm walking through a dodgy place.
-I get my footing in the daylight, and find one taxi driver I trust that I can call for nighttime exploration.
-I try to look like I know where I'm going. This means, no looking at your map on the street. Memorize your route, walk swiftly like you know exactly where you're going even when you don't, and if you need to regroup walk into the nearest shop and do your map-checking there. Also duck into shops if you feel like someone might be following ou.
-I have a back story prepared. ie: My friend, b/f is at such and such place. Don't advertise you're alone unless you really trust someone.

That's all I can think of now. You just have to push yourself to get out of your hotel room, and to talk to strangers, and enjoy the solitude and ability to soak it all in without an annoying companion demanding that you go check out some boring fort or something.

Also, I took this book along with me. It's a collection of travel memoirs written by women who've travelled alone. It's inspiring. http://www.amazon.com/Woman-Alone-Travel-Tales-Around/dp/158005059X

vunder

@okeydokeyartichokey Utila is really fun for solo travel. I've been there twice and both times met people I really enjoyed, even had some people I stayed in touch with and who visited me in California afterwards.

vunder

There are like 355 comments on this thread, most of them talking about places and advice about traveling alone. All great!

However, does no one quibble with the "The Internet Changed Solo Travel" thing? Maybe I'm just old, but I've been doing extensive solo travel (all over Latin America, a bit of Europe, a few work trips to Asia) for nearly 2 decades (I was a travel writer for a while, otherwise a recreational traveler), and many of my friends are veteran travelers, and I don't think the internet has changed solo travel except to the degree that it has changed travel at all. It's a weird hook. I think women's attitudes about it have changed a bit, but I don't think that's about the internet except to the degree that you can go online and people will tell you how they did it and where they went - but you used to sort of get that from travel guides.

My only thing is that solo travel, especially backpacker type, was easier and way more fun when I was in my 20s than it is now in my late 30s.

whateverlolawants

@vunder Why was it more fun then?

sando

I loooove travel! [And so many interesting stories posted by so many interesting people.] I think the biggest question to ask yourself before planning a trip is, 'what do I care to do most while away?' If it's explore ruins, amazing modern architecture and museums, then head to Europe. If it's relax all day with books, sand, surf and cool breezes then head somewhere warm. If it's to discover a new culture, cuisine etc then go somewhere you've never been before. Or maybe find an eco-lodge or spa within your budget?

I had a lovely trip to New Orleans solo (pre Katrina but post 911). It was beautiful, relaxing, 4 star hotel next to French Q etc. I had read up on places to go/avoid. I loved the French Quarter and Garden District, signed up for a historic walking tour, and got my palm read in Jackson Square, went to flea markets, etc. And I always bring my camera, but I didn't for this trip for some reason. Oh well, the memories are with me still! =D

kiamaria

This is so timely for me. The should-I-or-shouldn't-I-plan-another-solo-trip-this-year-internal-discussion has been simmering over the last week or so

susieq

I travelled around the world for seven months in 2010- four of them on my own. Those four months included five weeks in India by myself. It. was. amazing. I seriously feel I can handle ANYTHING now. I felt so inspired- I still do. AND- I made friends all the time. Other travelers, locals, whatever. Do it. Do it do it do it.

Brit McGinnis@facebook

I'm interning abroad right now—solo! And I've been hoping this entire time that I'm not lame for doing stuff alone. :P Is there a social network or group for female solo travelers, just so I can feel less weird about this over time?

YFN Dentonista@twitter

Hi ladies (and gents),
I soloed Mongolia (where I worked and made friends), Beijing and Seoul, and sometimes Helsinki & London. What I learned? Have a book or magazine for dining. I hate eating alone, but with reading (or writing!) material, it's eminently doable. You CAN approach other folks (maybe even duos) for meals, excursions, whatever. Just strike up a conversation with that other solo-looking person on your tour and see if she’d like to grab lunch with you. You have a built in conversation, “So what are YOU doing here?”
Do you like to write? Then write about it – daily – in a journal or letters home to friends and fam. They want to know, and you get to re-live your day’s adventures and organize your thoughts.
Definitely take some kind of organized tour! As a ‘sophisticated New Yorker’, I was predictably dismissive of bus tours as sardine cans packed full of the lowest common denominator. (Forgive me.) Until I found myself with one day in Helsinki and an English-language bus tour available. I LOVED IT. Saw places I never would have, and became an instant convert. (I’ve bus-toured London, Seoul, DC, and even NYC, since). I totally recommend finding one, if available, and doing it as your first day activity. You’ll get the lay of the land and see some great things you may want to go back to, and some you don’t care about, but were happy to have viewed in passing.
Also, you might consider taking a class, any class – photography, cooking, yoga. The Internet will help you find what’s available and talk about a great way to meet people…
Finally, other cities’ public transit is TOTALLY doable, just take some time looking at the maps, and I know you can figure it out.
If all of the above sounds like a drag, think about going to a spa or a yoga retreat. You’ll have built-in relaxation time and companions.
No matter what you do or where you go, I know you’ll have fun. The fact that you’re even considering a solo-voyage tells me you can do this thing!

OoohI I also recommend reading, "Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World" and "Eat Pray Love".

KeLynn

Oh god, you guys. I haven't so much as spent a day in a strange city alone. I have only spent one night in a hotel room alone, and even then I got in at 10pm, and stayed at a hotel where other coworkers were also sleeping so I wasn't really alone at all.

Now I feel like a baby.

Gingerandjazz

If no one has suggested it yet, I highly recommend checking out couchsurfing.org, which allows you to set up home stays in almost any country. The people who host are almost unanimously sweet and friendly, they'll often take you around town and show you cool places you might have missed otherwise. I have fond memories of my host in Krakow taking me to a bar, introducing me to all of her friends, and all of us proceeded to drink our way through the old town. Such fun! And having a place to stay is a plus, of course.

whateverlolawants

@Gingerandjazz Yes yes and yes.

brista128

This is the least terrible sponsored post I have ever seen in the history of the Internet. And I have been on the Internet a good long time.

SoloMate Travel@twitter

Very true. It is refreshing to travel alone because you can really enjoy the destination for yourself. You aren't obligated to visit a certain site and your experience can be a much more fulfilling one.
http://solomatetravel.com/

whateverlolawants

"But sometimes, it can be so nice to NOT have to share a moment with someone, to NOT have to turn to your traveling companion and verbally acknowledge what you've just seen, but rather to selfishly take it all in for yourself. You can tell the rest of the world about it later, if you want. For now, it's just yours."

This is SO true. I lived in Ecuador for 6 months. I didn't know a SOUL there before I went. I'd never even met an Ecuadorian, to my knowledge, until I went to the Chicago consulate a week before. Several of my favorite moments there were ones spent alone, and some I've never told anyone about. I went there with the idea of blogging a lot, but I got tired of that quickly. I just wanted to live, to absorb everything, and to keep it inside. I told plenty of stories to my friends, sure, and I still mean to write some memoirs about it. But I concluded that some experiences are only for those who were there. Some are the reward for the hard work that you did to get to that moment.

kaka

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teredesa

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83103937@twitter

One of the many ways in which the internet has changed solo travel forever is how we plan our boarding and accomodation when abroad. I read this blog to stay up to date on the best travel destinations. I use CouchSurfing to meet friends abroad and to get a personalized tour of every destination.

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bekas

The internet hasn't changed just solo travel, but I read on the American Immigration Law Group that it has influenced the immigration legislature as well. Thanks to it, now it's possible to sue the lawyer or file a complaint against her if a have prove of all the mistakes he/she made.

harpist

I'm a 29 year old photo journalist. I travel around the world with a camera and a notebook, shooting pictures and writing stories. I wrote a great story that was inspired by last trip to Hawaii and the Honolulu airport shuttle service. I rely heabily on the internet to book my flights and lodging, and without it things would be much more cumbersome.

BlondG

There are so many challenges to face when travelling around the world. There is on major issue to deal with, as a man, and that is finding safety razors in some countries. Some cultures and their beliefs don't allow men to shave and that is quite an adventure.

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