I’ve always prided myself on being independent. When I was a kid, I would go to sleepaway camp and summer programs by myself. As a teenager I traveled across the country to attend school in Boston without knowing anyone. And I’ve lived alone for the past eight years. But even though I travel alone for work all the time, the thought of traveling solo for fun has never once crossed my mind. Now, after trying it unexpectedly, I want to make solo travel an annual tradition.
The night before I was supposed to return from my Mediterranean cruise, my boyfriend texted me asking if I wanted to meet him in Paris. He had a meeting in France and given that I was already in Europe he thought it would be nice to have a weekend getaway. But since he couldn’t leave early, it would require me spending four days in Paris alone. Given everything happening in the world recently I was a little nervous. But I’m so happy I decided to say yes.
During those four days, I feel like I had an Eat Pray Love experience. I know it sounds corny, but I even teared up while I was at Musée Rodin because I was so happy. Don’t get me wrong, I was head over heels when my boyfriend joined me. But those few days alone truly refreshed my spirit. When you travel alone, you just do you. You don’t have to worry about anyone or anything except yourself and making yourself happy.
Here are my four tips for refreshing your spirit during solo travel:
1. Immerse yourself in a creative outlet.
I’ve studied art since I was in grade school. There is something so therapeutic for me about sketching and painting. It’s a complete release for my mind. I immediately found an art store in Paris to pick up a notebook and pencils. For two days straight, I sat at museums and cafes sketching sculptures, people and my surroundings.
If art isn’t your thing, try journaling, photography, reading or any other creative outlet that gives you a release. It’s also nice to be able to look back at what you’ve created so you can revisit a city from your own personal point of view.
2. Walk the city.
My first day in Paris I walked so much that I literally came back to my hotel with holes in my socks. And it was only my second time wearing the socks! If the weather allows, I think there is no better way to see a city than to walk it. Some days I would have a couple destinations in mind. Others, I would just wander aimlessly. It’s incredible what you stumble upon when you get lost. Plus, walking in your sneakers all day allows you to snack all you want without the guilt (croissants were my weakness!).
3. Put your phone away.
I’m always working, which makes it very difficult for me to enjoy my time alone. So I made a deal with myself: I wasn’t comfortable going out alone at night. So after dinner I would bring my computer downstairs at my hotel, and sit with a glass of wine returning emails and scheduling blog posts. During the day, I only allowed myself to take out my phone to photograph the city’s beauty and to look up places if I got super lost! Detaching from social media, even if it was only temporarily throughout the day, forced me to truly take in my surroundings.
4. Treat yourself to a lasting memento.
I was nervous that I would lose my new outlook on life the minute I returned home. So I wanted something to remind me of the way I felt in Paris. I full out splurged and bought myself a limited edition Chanel. I so rarely treat myself. So I figured it would be a constant reminder that it’s important to recognize your worth. Now when I look at the bag I smile and take a moment to pat on myself on the back for all the hard work that I do.
Of course, I’m not saying you need a designer handbag. Just find something that will bring you joy. When I studied abroad in London I was on a very different budget. My splurge then was a vintage brooch for 30 pounds (about $60 since the dollar was horrible that year!). I still love the pin it and it reminds me of that amazing year during college when I ventured off to Europe by myself.
Photos by Hana Lê Van
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