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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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Photo by magicinfoto, via Shutterstock

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