Top Trips for Solo Travelers
When it comes to travel, few experiences offer the inspiration for self-growth and discovery as does the act of hitting the road solo.
To be sure, the prospect of arriving in a foreign country all by one's lonesome is intimidating. But traveling on your own automatically opens you up to new people, places and experiences in a way that is not possible when you're buffered by the safety net of a travel companion. Any experienced solo traveler will likely tell you the same thing -- you may start your trip on your own, but you'll rarely feel lonely along the way.
In countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, local women are quick to approach single female travelers with offers of hospitality (a home-cooked meal or an invitation into the home, perhaps), which simply wouldn't be the case if you were traveling with others. The result of such experiences is a far richer travel experience, with the added bonus of boosting your self-confidence and pushing personal boundaries along the way.
In general, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are very popular destinations for women traveling solo. In cities such as Amsterdam and Dublin, you won't have to deal with the language barrier while making your way around (Dutch people speak English like it's their first language). And Australia and New Zealand are countries that are made for backpacking and solo travels, with affordable bus and train coverage, extensive hostel networks and outgoing populations of travel-minded people.
Just because different cultural norms and expectations for female behavior apply in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, don't rule out a solo trip to a country that may be considered more of a man's domain.
One of the most colorful and calamitous countries on the planet, India is not for the fainthearted. And it's a common mantra along the backpacker circuit that once you've traveled on the subcontinent, you can make your way with ease anywhere else in the world. In fact, India, with its cultural riches and deeply spiritual framework, is one of the most rewarding destinations for solo travelers. There's even a growing trend of Indian women traveling alone in their own country, thanks to increasing economic independence. And if you hunger for companionship with like-minded Western women, consider settling in for a while at retreats in spiritual centers such as Dharamsala and Rishikesh.
In many parts of Marrakech, the vibe is almost European, and fellow travelers abound. The Moroccan king's progressive crackdown on hassling in the markets here and in cities such as Fes, Tangier and Casablanca also means you'll encounter far fewer safety concerns than would have been the case just a few years ago. The seaside city of Essaouira, a three-hour bus ride from Marrakech, is one of Morocco's most laid-back and beautiful destinations.
If you're still hesitant, consider pairing solo travels with a few days as part of a group tour with other intrepid women. Walking-tour outfit Country Walkers offers a women's adventure tour that takes in Kasbahs, Saharan sand dunes, the High Atlas mountains and indigenous Berber villages. Plan your activities for daylight hours, as most Moroccan women retreat to their homes in the evening, with Western-style nightlife and promenading really only playing out in cities like Marrakech and Casablanca. Remember to respect local culture by keeping your arms and legs covered with pants, long skirts and long sleeves as most Moroccan women do (a head scarf, however, is not necessary anywhere in the country).
For most women thinking about traveling solo in Europe, the plans usually involve a Eurail pass and a packed itinerary that keeps them moving from well-touristed countries such as Spain and Portugal to France and Italy. For something unusual, set your sights on one of Europe's lesser-visited locales and slow down your itinerary to dig deep into Iceland's allure. Make no mistake -- you're going to spend some serious kronas here, as Iceland is one of Europe's most expensive countries. But when it comes to natural attractions, such as magical glacier-wrought scenery and healing hot pools, balanced with cool urban fabulousness in cosmopolitan Reykjavik, Iceland's diversity is a Euro chart topper. For serious pampering, book into the Blue Lagoon, where healing waters pool in lava rocks in surreal Icelandic surrounds.
After touristy Thailand, Vietnam gets kudos as the most female-friendly travel destination in Southeast Asia. So friendly and curious are the Vietnamese people, it's even relatively common to see single Western female mothers traveling alone with young children. The language barrier is rarely a problem in big cities and larger towns. With more and more Vietnamese learning English from a young age, you're likely to elicit countless invitations for a drink so that an eager student can practice English with you. The biggest challenge traveling alone in Vietnam is reconciling the abject poverty in some of the most beautiful mountain villages, such as Sa Pa, home to indigenous hill tribes. If you're inspired to lend a helping hand during your vacation, consider signing up for volunteer work at an orphanage with the Global Volunteer Network.
The Lost Girls share their picks for adrenaline-rushing trips.