Our very own Colleen Dunn just returned from a trip to Spain and in addition to being her first time in the land of sangria and siestas, it was also her first time traveling abroad solo. After two weeks exploring Madrid, Córdoba, Valencia and Barcelona Colleen breaks down some tips for taking on a new city alone.
Set the Mood: Music has a huge impact on my mood so before the trip I made sure to load my iPhone with feel-good jams and girl power anthems. I’ve also been known to cry in public while finishing a sad book so I made sure my reading selections embodied the kind of trip I was hoping to have (which meant leaving Me Before You at home). I brought Wild by Cheryl Strayed for a strong dose of bravery and Where I was from by Joan Didion for a bit of home. Having books by two of my favorite lady writers along for the ride took all the loneliness out of flying solo.
Don’t Use Airbnb: One of my favorite parts of traveling is meeting interesting people and nowhere can you do this better than in a hostel. Airbnb’s are great for having your own space to cook and unwind when traveling as a couple, not so great for discussing Justin Bieber over beers with people from four different continents. Hostel World is a nice resource for booking which features photos and reviews from other travelers. If sharing space with strangers weirds you out, a bed and breakfast is a lovely option since many host happy hours that allow you to mingle with other guests.
Walk it Out: The first thing I did when I arrived in a new city was sign up for a walking tour. Not only did it give me the lay of the land and some much needed historical context, it also gave me something planned to do first thing when being alone felt a little daunting. Companies like Sandeman’s offer free walking tours all over the world and their local guides are also a great resource for restaurant recommendations and city tips.
Forget the List: It doesn’t matter how many lists the city’s best art museum is on, if you don’t actually like museums, you don’t have to go. The best part about traveling alone is experiencing a new place in a way that’s authentic for you. For me, that means tracking down the best coffee shops and stopping in every bookstore I see. Don’t get so caught up in crossing things off a to-do bucket list that you forget to leave room to explore a spontaneously discovered garden or hike up to a look-out point some people you met in your hostel are headed to.
Be Smart: There are a lot of articles about how to be safe as a women traveling alone and if you read all of them you will be convinced something bad is going to happen to you. I’ve never been one to wear a fake wedding ring or strap my passport to my torso. I think the only advice you need is to be smart. Always pay attention to your surroundings, make sure someone back home knows where you are and trust that funny feeling you get in your gut when something’s off. Soon you’ll find that being alone isn’t nearly as scary as you thought it would be, in fact, it’s pretty great.
Follow along with Colleen’s next adventure on Instagram @colleenadunn