Just because a destination is considered “romantic” doesn’t mean that you can’t experience it alone. It’s never stopped me.
I’ve traveled to swoon-worthy places such as Santorini, Bali, Positano, Zanzibar and Venice without a significant other — and without indulging in a few pints of Ben & Jerry’s while drowning in tears of despair and loneliness.
Sure, I could have waited around for Mr. Right to take me to these places. But that just feels wrong. Life is too short to wait around for a significant other to whisk you away to a gorgeous locale that you want to experience now.
Plus, it’s not as though locales famous for attracting lovebirds have a sign over them that reads, “For couples only.” That would be destination discrimination. Santorini, Bali, Zanzibar and Venice are beautiful destinations that everyone should feel comfortable exploring, whether coupled, uncoupled or consciously uncoupled.
While some women might shudder at the thought of traveling alone, period, much less traveling alone to a destination popular with couples who aren’t shy about expressing PDA, I’m here to say this: You can do it.
Yes, YOU. You can do it.
A lot of it comes down to attitude. If you step off the plane with your cutest carry-on, along with a whole lot of fear and sorrow, guess what? Your vacation in paradise is going to suck. Big time.
I’m not suggesting that traveling to romantic destinations solo is easy. Even after years of experience, I still require some mental-emotional preparation before getting on a plane to some sexy locale; but it also helps that I’ve learned things throughout my globetrotting career that help boost my confidence and make these journeys easier.
I want to share those with you. Here are tips that have helped me “survive” some of the most romantic destinations on the planet … alone. May they inspire you to book that dream tropical getaway of your dreams, confidently requesting a room for one.
Take yourself on a “date” in your home town.
Get comfortable spending time with yourself in public by taking a few simple solo excursions while still at home. Go to a movie. Have lunch at a restaurant. Visit a museum. Join a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, if you live in or near a city that offers those. These at-home adventures – and think of them exactly as that, “adventures” – will help boost your confidence that you can indeed do things on your own.
Put up pictures of your dream destination on your bathroom mirror.
There’s nothing like manifesting potential, no matter how “scary,” by strategically placing your dream and goals where you can see them everyday. I’ve found the bathroom mirror is ideal – as these images are the first I see when I wake up, and the last I see before going to bed.
Draw up a list of all the things you want to do in the destination.
Create a canvass of possibility that will PUMP YOU UP. Use the Internet to research your destination and create a list of all the places and activities that excite you – even if it all revolves around one beautiful white-sand beach.
Bring a journal, books, magazines, coloring books and music.
Pack the essential “me time” items that will take your mind off drama and make you feel good, perhaps even lull you into a meditative state. I’ve found a journal to be the most essential “thing” to pack. When I travel alone, all sorts of thoughts, epiphanies, musings and more bubble up – due in large part to the time being me with my mind, versus me being with somebody else. So many great self-discoveries happen while traveling solo, it’s great to document it in the moment, before they flutter away.
Use social media to befriend locals before you arrive.
Do a little networking online to see if anyone else you know, or perhaps someone they know, will be in the destination while you’re planning to be there. I always hit up Facebook and traveler forums to meet locals – this way, I don’t feel so “alone” once I’m physically in the destination because I’ve made a friend, or friends, in advance of my travels. I did this before a trip to Bali and made several new friends ahead of my trip that became fun “tour guides” once I was in the country.
Join an organized tour.
Group tours are fabulous ways to have “ready-made” friends in a new destination – whether they be through a vacation tour company that plans the entire itinerary (including hotels) or with an organized retreat. For instance, I experienced Santorini while on a yoga retreat with some 25 other people from around the world, mainly other solo travelers with whom I befriended once in the destination.
Don’t shy away from staying in a hostel.
Some of the most interesting and outgoing people stay in hostels because they foster community. And they aren’t just for “kids” anymore; I’ve stayed in hostels where fifty- and sixty-somethings are staying. The hostels of today have also evolved into ultra-modern boutique-style hotels. The key is to do a little research online first. I usually request a private room – most hostels offer these for an extra cost, which I find worth it just so I can have privacy at night.
Sign up for group activities.
If you’re flying solo in a destination (e.g. not on a structured tour), consider joining day excursions with local tour companies. You’ll be teamed up with a guide and other travelers with similar interests, and this can fend off any sort of loneliness you might be worried about. While in Zanzibar, I went of scuba and snorkeling excursions where I met other travelers (yes, some were honeymooners) who were amazingly fun.
Make friends with the lovebirds.
You will inevitably encounter couples in love. This may trigger feelings of envy, sadness, frustration, etc. I’ve found that the best way to combat this slippery slope is to befriend these travelers and learn their story. When they aren’t locked away in their private suites or over-the-water bungalows, they are usually happy to mingle with other travelers. I learned a lot from the couples I befriended while staying on the Thai island of Koh Lanta on my own — a few couples even invited me to join them for lunch and dinner, and I didn’t feel like an awkward Third Wheel at all.
Don’t ignore your feelings.
When those feelings of envy, sadness, frustration, etc., start to feel intense, acknowledge them. This is when the journal comes in handy. Steal away to a beautiful spot – you are in paradise, after all – and write about what you’re feeling. Then when you’re done writing, give yourself a slap across the face and remember where you are: a gorgeous setting that you need to experience. Wipe away the tears and go enjoy it.
Eat at the restaurant bars.
Eating alone can be intimidating, especially if you’re not used to it and especially if it’s at a restaurant crowded with couples. Here’s what I do: I ask to be seated at the bar. This way, I’m guaranteed to have a conversationalist in the bartender, or maybe even someone sitting next to me. (And yes, it’s “easy” to whip out the smartphone to stay preoccupied or just order room service – but that defeats the purpose of experiencing cool meals in your dream destination!) If the restaurant where you want to dine doesn’t have a bar, request a table against a wall. I like doing this so I can watch the entire room without feeling like I’m in the very center or it.
Brag to people about “taking yourself” on a romantic getaway.
You automatically become interesting if you confidently proclaim this when asked, “Who are you here with?” Practice it a few times in your home mirror before getting on the plane. It’s really empowering.
Remember your sense of humor.
Along the same lines, celebrate your position as an “anomaly” in the traveling world by having a little fun with it. Laugh about it, and you’ll find others smiling along with you. When I traveled to Bali on my own, I treated myself to one night at a luxury resort where I got my own personal butler. When he emailed me ahead of my trip, asking if there was anything he could do to make my stay special, I requested this: To walk into my suite to find a photo of either Brad Pitt or James Bond on my bed, as it would lift my mood into a fit of giggles and squeals because I was single girl traveling alone. He honored my request by including framed photos of both men. I still laugh about finding two Hollywood celebrities in my bed!
Keep the perspective that it’s an adventure!
Treat the journey as a fun odyssey where you will be in an amazing environment, meeting interesting people and experiencing new things. Each moment can be an “Ah-ha” moment because you are in control. There is no compromising, because it’s YOUR vacation – and that, my friends, can translate into one hell of an adventure that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Hopefully these tips plant a seed of inspiration. Let’s shatter the notion that exotic destinations are reserved exclusively for those in love with another person. Instead, fall in love with yourself in these places and make some amazing memories in the process.