Re-Discovering the Joy of Traveling Solo
When I first started traveling ten years ago, I always traveled solo.
I moved from New York City to London fresh out of college because the only thing I was certain I wanted to do with my life was be an ex-pat. I dreamed of having the ability to pop around Europe on the weekends. The problem was - I didn’t know a single soul in the U.K. I had left my family, friends, and boyfriend back in America, and I had only one co-worker. So I was faced with a dilemma: go see Europe alone, or not at all.
I chose to go alone, and it was the best decision I ever made.
I started booking cheap tickets to see the places I had always dreamed of visiting on weekends after work; Friday evening to the latest Sunday flight I could find. Expedia became my travel buddy! I’d research a flight, pair it with a reasonable hotel, pack my carry on, and head to Heathrow straight from the office. I did this every weekend for two solid months. Paris, Rome, Vienna, Bruges, Munich, Edinburgh… I got bit badly by the travel bug, and while I had initially been weary of traveling solo, I quickly realized that were some very serious perks to it.
Why is solo travel so amazing?
It builds your confidence.
I find it to be the most rewarding type of travel there is. Being on your own in a new place forces you to be independent, brave, smart, and savvy. It is the biggest confidence building thing I have ever experienced. You have to do all the talking, negotiating, and planning. Without someone to share responsibilities and depend upon, you have to learn how to navigate the place you are, make decisions, ask questions, and be bold. You have to get comfortable walking into a restaurant and boldly declaring “table for one, please!”
And once you do, it's incredibly rewarding and empowering!
It shapes you.
When you travel alone, you have more time to think, reflect, and let the place you are and experiences you are having really soak in. You will start to realize what you love, what makes you feel the most alive, what challenges you. The things you see, experience, and do impact your life, opinions, and worldview. You will come out of every trip you take having grown.
You get to be selfish.
Solo travel also allows you to be selfish, which I have learned is rare gift that you only have for a limited time in your life. When you travel solo, you call all the shots.
You and only you are in complete control of everything: the location, the schedule, the hotel, the budget, the restaurants, even what time to begin and end the day. Traveling with someone else means taking their desires into consideration and making comprises - and that affects your trip. When you’re alone you can do exactly what you want when you want.
I stopped traveling alone seven years ago and started traveling in different ways: as a couple, in groups, on retreats, holiday trips with family, bachelorettes, and weekends away with friends. I loved each moment of quality time and cherished making memories around the world with people that I love. But a little part of me always craved being out exploring alone. I’d wake up early to go on a solo walk around a city at sunrise, I’d stay out at the beach later when everyone else went in to shower. It was how I was able to really connect with a place.
I recently learned solo travel can heal you.
Earlier this summer, I went through a sudden and heartbreaking change in my life, and I felt a million devastating things - but the biggest one was lost. It had been so long since I spent prioritizing myself, that I actually couldn’t remember what I wanted, and felt like I had forgotten who I was in a lot of ways. It had been a long time since I made decisions, called shots, or planned my destination. I realized had to take charge of my future and start building it, but I honestly couldn’t remember what it even felt like to be in control of it. So I did what I knew helped me figure out who I was once before: I got on Expedia , and I booked a solo trip.
Portugal was a country I had always wanted to see in Europe but never made it to. As photos of tiles, tarts, and trams started to permeate my Instagram feed in the last year, I got serious wanderlust. I have memories literally everywhere in the world with different people…. but not there. So it felt like the perfect place to go travel solo once again, create my own, new memories, and try to remember what it felt like to put myself first.
It is so easy to plan and take a solo trip!
Expedia has always been my go-to source when I book travel. It’s one-stop shopping between their flights, car rentals, hotels, and activities, so it’s honestly the first app I open when I need to start planning a trip. When you have an account, you get points that work towards added savings, exclusive deals, and VIP perks at select hotels. I find they have the best deals and I love their mobile app because it keeps all my reservations organized in one place, and works offline! It’s the best way to keep your flight information handy.
I started researching flights on the mobile app as soon as I got the idea. Booking through the mobile app is not only super convenient, but earns you double Expedia Rewards points, so I highly recommend it. I started planning this trip on my phone while I uber’d to a meeting, and by the time I got there I had found flights that worked, and a charming hotel to call home.
Expedia has an amazing feature where you can add a hotel at a discount if you’re booking a flight. I found a hidden gem, that had butterfly wallpaper in the bedrooms, and took that as a sign for the perfect place to sleep during my own transformation. It was also located within walking distance from a gelato stand that I planned to spend every evening at. I researched and booked the two most important factors on my phone within thirty minutes, and then got to planning my days.
I wanted to do this trip like I used to, a long weekend jam-packed with activities. One of the perks of traveling solo is how quickly you can move and how much you can accomplish when it’s just you. I decided to spend two days in Lisbon, and allow for one day trip to Sintra to visit the beautiful palaces and castles there. I always like to pair a city with some kind of escape that feels different; and this combo is perfect.
When I landed in Portugal, my eighty-second country, and hit the streets solo, I felt a wave of empowerment, confidence, and awareness. I was completely in control. I woke up early every morning, fighting no one for the sink or shower. I wandered the narrow streets of the Alfama alone, stopping to marvel at the tiny doorways and every vintage tram that passed. I spent too long admiring the candy-colored tins of sardines in the historical canneries, and trying on pairs of leather gloves in a store that is unchanged from 1865. I went into every museum that I fancied on a whim, and stopped for too many coffees, and wandered with no real plan or direction, stumbling upon beautiful and delicious facades, foods, and faces.
While solo travel might seem a little scary, my experience around the world has been only immensely rewarding. And with the Expedia Mobile app, your itinerary and every resource you could possibly need is right at your fingertips. The app even has a helpful feature called hotel taxi card you can show your driver with directions to your hotel in the local language when you’re traveling internationally. I kept checking it throughout the trip to add activities, stay organized, and research new things. It’s the ultimate travel partner.
Do not be afraid, for any reason, to go out there and see the places that you dream of seeing. Don’t let not having a friend, or sibling, or spouse stop you. If you’re weary, start with a short weekend away somewhere nearby to home, and let that be the bait that hooks you. Travel does not have be far away to be enriching.
If you need inspiration on where to go, or how to plan your solo trip - Expedia just released their first Solo Travel Report, which is full of destination recommendations, helpful planning tips, and cool new insights on how American travelers navigate solo trips. It is an amazing resource for the modern traveler who wants new experiences and isn’t afraid to venture out solo, learn, grow, and getaway from ordinary life. Sometimes you just need to get away alone to really meet yourself.
You can even use the promo code SOLOTRAVEL On the Expedia mobile app for an exclusive coupon.
It was evening when I got to my hotel in Lisbon.
Where should eat dinner, I wondered, remembering that the decision was totally up to me. If I wanted to get six scoops of gelato and call it dinner, no one was there to judge me. But oddly craving salt instead instead of sugar, I walked towards one of Lisbon’s most popular restaurants. I navigated through a sea of couples and groups that were waiting outside for tables, and made my way to hostess stand.
“Hello! It’s just me… is there chance you have space for dinner?”
The hostess surveyed the restaurant, focusing her attention to an open spot right in the middle of the chef’s counter, and said,
“Table for one? Right this way...”