Jaclyn enjoying her solo time in Sorrento, Italy
This summer I traveled throughout Italy for two months. As a 28 year old single female, I had many concerns before I left. I wondered -- how lonely would I feel throughout my travels? Is it dangerous to travel alone? What would I even do with all of my time?
Now that I'm back, working full time in Manhattan, I am excited to share some insights about traveling solo that I picked up along the way, so that others would feel more confident when considering a similar adventure!
1. Embrace it.
Embrace the uncertainty. Challenges will come up. No matter how much planning you do, you won't know what will happen next. Know that your plans are fluid, and you will be able to turn challenges into opportunities.
While I was in Cinque Terra, I found out the entire transit system was going on strike the day that I planned to leave to go to Florence. I had two options: Leave at 5 AM the next day and miss an entire afternoon in Cinque Terra (AND my trip to Piza), or miss a day I had planned in Florence.
There was no right answer. But, after making the decision to leave at 5 AM the next day, I rushed to do laundry and bonded with another female traveler who was solo as well. That night, we went to dinner and discussed some of the challenges that we were both facing. We shared tips for the rest of our adventures and had more fun than I could have imagined. We are still friends today.
2. Experience Something New.
Anything new is good. Whether it's journaling, eating alone at a restaurant, going to museums, trying a work out class in a language you don't understand, or eating something you never thought you would. How about a course? Photography? Writing? Cooking? Art? A new language? Do it just for the sake of doing something new, regardless of the outcome. This will probably take some vulnerability, but stick with it. Your senses will thank you for the new experience.
This summer, I signed up for a one week yoga retreat in Tuscany with Global Yoga Journeys. Five years ago, you couldn't pay me to believe I would be anywhere near a yoga mat - unless someone was cramped up against me on the subway holding one. I must have called the teacher about ten times before joining the trip to ensure that I would make it through the week. I laughed and cried on the last day of the retreat when I thought about all the concerns I had before signing up.
Spending time in the nature of Tuscany
3. Spend Time in Nature.
Nature has a way of reminding us how incredible the world is. Whether you find yourself on a mountain, near a lake, an ocean, or simply lying under a tree and enjoying the scenery. Do it.
After five weeks of making my way around Italy, I decided to go North to the Dolomites. I was alone, hiking in one of the most beautiful places in the world, yet I felt like the entire world was with me. Everyday was a new adventure and a new trail.
4. There are Absolutely NO "Should's!"
If there's only one piece of advice that you take from this article, let this be it.
Many people have gone to Italy, so when I chose it as my destination, a lot of friends had advice for me. Sometimes it was solicited, and other times it wasn't. Once I landed, I wanted to do everything everyone told me about, and that got me to one emotion - overwhelmed.
When I gave up all of the should's, I embraced many sites, tours, cafes, restaurants, museums, bookstores, and several other activities -- just not necessarily the ones I thought I needed to see. From the church of St. Francis in Assisi, to the University in Bologna, the Vatican, and many other landmarks. I stayed in 12 different cities and visited about 23. But, I didn't go to Venice or Milan. While others wondered why, I didn't. I went where I went, and I didn't go where I didn't go. This was my journey.
If you are one of those people who like following rules and needs a should, try this one: Follow your heart.
5. Journal. A lot.
Journaling allows us to process our experiences. Writing about our experiences could be like speaking with that best friend with whom we would love to share. Writing gives our brain time to get the words to explain what all of our senses are picking up.
Jaclyn recommends journaling on your solo journey
If you've journaled before, you know what I'm talking about. If you're new to journaling, you're going to have trust me on this. It's one of those things that is challenging to describe, but the results say it all.
6. Remember, People Like Feeling Helpful. Ask for Advice.
There were days that I spent alone this summer that were extraordinary, but sometimes by the evening I just really wanted to talk to someone. Anyone. And so I did! Watch out waiters and waitresses, if I caught you on one of those days, I talked up a storm over dinner.
I noticed that people love to give advice. During my travels, I asked for advice anytime I was intrigued enough to talk to someone. Often the advice was helpful -- an added bonus! A waitress I met in Bologna gave me helpful advice for where to stay in the Dolomites. She is coming to visit New York in a few months and I'm looking forward to hanging out with her here. I made a German friend who owned the B'n'B I stayed in in the Dolomites. He showed me the ropes of the trails and we have have stayed in touch as well.
I couldn't have known how extraordinary my trip would be. Even today, every time I feel stuck, I remind myself of the inner-strength I gained while traveling, and the next thing I know, the feeling passes.
Share your solo travel experiences below. What tips do you have for others thinking about taking a trip abroad on their own? Would you do it again?