Every once in awhile, I receive email and Twitter requests from people for “best places to travel solo”. They’re looking to me for a shortlist of the “sure-thing” destinations where they’ll have a great solo travel experience. Sometimes, I even see an article make the rounds of social media attempting to come up with such a list.
I totally understand the desire to have someone else tell us, in a simplified “top 10” list, where we should go first when we’re new travelers. In a world full of choices, it does help to narrow things down. And I understand the desire of experienced travelers to help newbies by sharing their passion for their favorite places to visit. But I have to be honest: I don’t think anyone can come up with a list of “best places” that will work for every solo traveler.
My first solo trip was to London. My reason for going had nothing to do with wanting to try solo travel. I hadn’t read on a list somewhere that London was the best first solo trip you could take. It was London itself I wanted to experience, and if I had to go solo to do it, then so be it. I was an English major in school and a huge Anglophile. Many of the books I’d read up to that point of my life were set in England. So it made perfect sense that London would be both my first international travel experience as an adult but also my first solo trip.
That may not be the situation for someone else. Maybe you prefer tropical destinations. Or England’s literature and history may remind you of classes you found boring in school. Or it may not fit your shoestring travel budget. (Western Europe is more expensive to travel to than, say, southeast Asia or Latin America—unless you already live there and can get around by inexpensive regional airlines, trains or buses.)
Some people have suggested that Thailand is the best place to get your feet wet as a solo traveler. Not for me. Not only is it very far away from where I live (making it expensive and time-consuming to fly there), I would have been petrified to make my first solo trip to an Asian country where I don’t speak the language and haven’t the foggiest notion what the culture is like. (I never said I was the bravest solo traveler in the world.) That said, if you live in Australia, it’s a lot closer for you and maybe not as expensive to fly there. It might be a good first trip for you—especially if you’re on a shoestring budget.
If I wanted to, I could come up with a list of “top 10 best destinations for solo travelers” based on the ten destinations I have most enjoyed–but who’s to say you’d enjoy them as much as I did? As Shakespeare noted (in Hamlet), “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” You might have a miserable experience in my favorite destination, and vice versa. There is no “cookie cutter” list of “best places” that will make sense for all solo travelers. We are all too different in our backgrounds, tastes, and travel styles.
The “best place” for you to travel solo will be the place that you most want to visit—for whatever reason—not the places that someone else tells you that you should visit. It should be a destination that you daydream about, that calls out to you in your sleep, that makes you sigh wistfully just thinking about it. A place that gets you excited when you think about the possibilities of being there, walking its streets, climbing its mountains, or sharing meals with the locals who live there.
Maybe you want to travel solo, but you’re a little afraid. Maybe, in that case, the best place for you to travel would be another region within your own country, somewhere where you speak the language, or a place where you already have connections in case you need a safety net. Maybe you should try a cruise or an all-inclusive resort on a beach in the Caribbean or even Disney World. Hey, travel is travel. Do what feels right for you.
When people ask me which places are good for solo travelers, my response is usually “Most of them.” Even places that are famous for being romantic destinations for couples–like Paris and Hawaii–can be solo-friendly, so there’s no need to avoid them. Common sense will tell you which destinations aren’t great for solos—war-torn and politically unstable regions, countries that are enemies of your country, places that discriminate against women or the LGBT community (if you fall into one of those groups), that sort of thing.
Otherwise, it’s a pretty big world for the solo traveler to explore. So don’t let anyone tell you what destination is right for you, find your own “happy place,” and then do your research to learn the dos and don’ts of that region, figure out how much you need to save for your travel budget, and where you can meet other people if you’re so inclined once you get there. I truly believe that if you base your travel destinations on places you feel an affinity for and trust that they will be comfortable for you as a solo traveler (because they probably will be), your experiences will be much richer than checking off destinations from a list created by someone else.