Places to Take the Solo Trip of a Lifetime

Solo travel, like dining alone, is often intimidating until you try it. Once you book that trip for one that’s lingered on your bucket list since before the pandemic, you’ll realize it’s the opposite of lonely—it’s actually liberating. Sure, you backpacked for a week or two while studying abroad and know your way around Europe’s trains, budget planes, and hostels. But we’re not talking bunk beds and shared bathrooms here (unless, of course, that’s what you want).

Solo travel can be as simple as a cushy staycation close to home or as far-flung and lavish as a flight to the Maldives. And while changing careers or trying to figure out your next step in life is certainly a great reason to hit the road, you don’t need an Eat Pray Love situation to make it happen. Travel can be transformational in so many ways, but not every trip has to be a big “aha moment.”

The beauty of solo travel is that you’re not catering to anyone but yourself. This is the time when you should be selfish. Want to sleep in at the swanky hotel you booked in Paris? Prefer to spend the day cycling to beer gardens in Belgium? Want to change destinations and itineraries altogether? You’re the one calling the shots.

Seville, Spain
When I moved to Spain nearly ten years ago without knowing a soul, I panicked. In a country so famously social (the entire concept of tapas implies having friends to share them with), how would I get by? Luckily, I landed in Seville.

The south lives up to its stereotype as Spain’s more fun-loving, open, hospitable region. Social life here is a public affair—in the streets, in the plazas, spilling onto cobblestones outside the bars. One friend told me he lived in Seville for years and never saw the inside of his best friend’s house. This makes it easy to strike up a conversation with locals (if you can hold your own with the tricky Andaluz accent) or some friendly study-abroad types (if you can’t).

You don’t even need a plan: Just go outside and something will find you, whether it be a religious procession (there are so. many. religious. processions.), an impromptu flamenco show, or a crowd of strangers watching the Betis game in one of the bars on La Alameda or Plaza del Salvador. For a real challenge, visit during the Feria de Abril, when the entire city dresses up like it’s 1899 and spends a whole week dancing sevillanas and day-drinking in brightly colored canvas tents, called casetas.

Redding, California
If you talk to someone about Redding, they’ll likely remember the Carr Fire and the destruction it caused in Northern California. But, as is typical with wildfires, new growth abounds from the ashes, and Redding is blossoming. Sure, Redding isn’t the hippest place to hang on the West Coast, but it’s not trying to be. It’s a town big enough to allow you to explore alone, but small enough that if you stay for a week, you’ll make friends with three bartenders and contemplate real estate costs on the outskirts of Shasta Lake.

One of the most paradoxical things about Redding is this: You go there to leave it. The city is surrounded by some of California’s most beautiful and untouched nature. There’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest to the north, home of Lake Shasta; Lassen Volcanic National Park to the east, where there’s a ton of hydrothermal sites and the Devastated Area Trail; and Six Rivers National Forest to the west. I headed north to hike a waterfall loop—ostensibly four falls in one day. By the time my trip ended, I had visited seven. One of the most beautiful was Middle McCloud Falls, where the water is freezing, but swimming under the scorching summer sun while gazing at the behemoth of a waterfall pounding down around me was nothing short of spiritual. For a real adventure, head up to Hatchet Creek Falls and jump off a giant log into the swimming hole below. Just make sure you don’t get lost—there’s no service.

Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok is a “one size fits all” kind of place, a concrete jungle teeming with divergent personalities and crisscrossing travelers getting on in mellow symbiosis. Even for those who are socially shy or take a minute to get out of their comfort zone, it’s pretty effortless to meet people here. Friendly Thais will take you under their wing, and you’ll befriend foreigners you might not usually gel with, united simply by shared experiences—those WTF moments of navigating a chaotic hub that swings between electrifying and claustrophobic.

Show up to a bar opening or expat mixer, and a few beers or vodka sodas later you’ll be crammed in a tuk-tuk with a motley crew rattling off to a nightclub or afterparty. Years ago, as a tenderfoot tourist in Bangkok, I found myself adopted by a Thai celeb couple and their crew at a Lady Gaga concert, treated afterward to a night of VIP bottle service at what was then Bangkok’s best club.

Paris, France
Book a trip to Paris and friends will invariably ask, “Who are you going with?” Your perfectly acceptable response: No one. You’re about to binge on some of the world’s best museums, and catering to a travel companion can quickly spoil a wool-gathering stroll or long meditative sit in front of centuries-old paintings. Paris’ Museum Pass costs just 78 euros for six days of entry to 50 different sites. I only managed to hit maybe a dozen, including the Louvre, which alone would require all six of those days to see the entire thing. The city feeds you culture and beauty the way foie gras farmers feed their geese corn mash.

So, when you go, post up somewhere central and walkable. I booked a quiet apartment through a rental site called Paris Perfect, but if your tastes run more bière than Champagne, a no-frills one-room apartment runs a mere $40 a night on Airbnb (or you can go the hostel route, if you’re really on a budget). Then, soak up some of the architecture that makes Paris, well, Paris. The Rodin Museum, for instance, sits on the grounds of a grand, 18th-century mansion that the artist himself took over in 1911. Across the street, the Museum of the Army is housed in a palace Louis XIV built for his wounded vets. You’ve got dozens—if not hundreds—of similar spots to hit.

Wales, UK
If you’re seeking a setting for your next short story, jet across the pond to the Welsh coastline. It’s home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world: Barafundle Bay’s emerald fields, the colorful architecture lining the waters in Tenby, jagged rock cliffs at Presipe. Double down on the charm by staying at a bed-and-breakfast, or one of Wales’s many medieval castles like Bath Tower, on the northern coast. Some beach towns (like Shell Island) double as campgrounds, so you can pitch a tent and fall asleep to sounds of waves in the countryside.

Wales is a safe country overall, which is obviously a plus for solo escapades. The Welsh are also friendly and hospitable folk (just don’t call them British), so when you inevitably tuck into a local pub for a pint, making a new drinking buddy won’t be difficult—especially since English is their most-recognized language. Native Welsh is spoken in more rural areas, but good luck asking for directions to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (yes, a real place). –Brooke Sager

Athens, Greece
Greece is often reserved as a spot for a honeymoon or engagement, and don’t get me wrong, Santorini’s sunsets really are worth proposing over. But it’s not somewhere I’d want to spend a week doing solo yoga or fighting the crowds in Oia to get that postcard-worthy photo of the blue domed churches melting into the even bluer sea beyond. Baut I’ve always had a soft spot for stopover cities, those jumping-off points you pass through to get somewhere fabulous like a safari or, in this case, Santorini. Athens is often an afterthought. But given the disconnect between flights and ferries into and around Greece, you’re bound to spend at least one night in Athens, no matter where your final destination may be.

On a trip to Crete last summer, when a friend forgot to fill out her Passenger Locator Form—a COVID-related requirement that had to be completed 24 hours before—and had to rebook her flight, I found myself alone in Athens for two whole days. I stayed in the former artisan area of Psiri, which is now considered one of the more up-and-coming neighborhoods. I strolled the cobbled, winding streets of Plaka, the historical center that’s home to the Acropolis, sidewalk cafes, and traditional (albeit touristy) Greek tavernas.

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