Summer is a great time to get outdoors and explore. But what if you don’t have a travel partner? A weekend excursion or an extended adventure alone is better than you may think and offers many benefits.
I’ve travelled to many amazing places by myself—New Zealand, Croatia, Mexico, Peru, and Australia—and I wouldn’t have done it any other way! There are two main ways to go about your adventure: An organized group trip or fly completely solo (or a combination of the two). Today’s post will provide an overview of each approach.
THE ORGANIZED TRIP
The “organized trip” isn’t what it used to be (getting bused from site to site, getting out only to snap a few photos). There are now tours organized by activity, destination, timeframe, and even gender and age, among others. One of the main advantages of a group trip is that all of the organization is taken care of for you and you often get to experience places and accommodations that are off the beaten path and typically not available for the general traveler. And if you pick the right trip, you’ll end up with like-minded people and most likely, lifelong friends.
In 2004, I went to New Zealand with Active Adventures, an organized adventure outfitter and it was the best trip of my life (I went on the Rimu trip). The trip consisted of two weeks of adventure travel bliss throughout the South Island—kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, and good ‘ole exploring. Our accommodations included two nights at a 60,000-acre sheep farm with spectacular views of Mt Cook and the beautiful cobalt blue Lake Pukaki. Our guides were organized, friendly, and resourceful, and made sure that everyone was taken care of throughout the trip.
An organized trip can cost more than traveling alone, but what you are paying for is the organization, knowledge and expertise of your guides. After the “organized” portion of the NZ trip ended, I spent a week on my own traveling the North Island. Combining the two trip approaches was a good balance of group camaraderie and exploring on my own.
You can forgo the organized trip and travel completely by yourself. Australia was the first trip that I didn’t use an outfitter. I went to the Australian Open for several days so my timeframe was more restricted. Travelling by myself I had the freedom to explore on my own and do what I wanted, but the organization and planning was all on me.
I picked accommodations that looked promising online, but if I had to do it over, I would have spent a few extra dollars to upgrade my stay in many of the places I visited. Companies like Airbnb, VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner), and Couchsurfing offer alternatives to the traditional hotel stay and may provide opportunities to interact with the locals.
Although I was by myself for much of the time in Australia, I enjoyed the freedom to explore on my own schedule—however, I did meet a few locals along the way who provided me with sage advice (and even bought me a beer or two). And thanks to Facebook, we’ve stayed connected and I hope to see them again. The below sections provide general guidance for choosing the trip that is right for you. Future blog posts will explore these topics in greater detail.
ORGANIZED TRIPS: CHOOSING THE RIGHT ADVENTURE
- Look for outfitters that meet your needs and interests (REI Adventures offers many great options)
- How active do you want to be? Are you looking to relax with a good book or are you interested in activities that get your heart rate pumping?
- How long do you have? Look for trips that meet your timeframe (you don’t want to spend half of your trip just getting there!)
- Decide on your destination (seems easy, but consider the time of year and what type of activities you’re interested in). If you want to spend time outdoors hiking, winter months and destinations probably aren’t your best options
- Look for reviews online about the trips you are considering
FLYING SOLO: HELPFUL TIPS
- Follow the suggestions above to choose the destination that’s right for you
- Once you’ve selected your destination, check out travel books from your local library to get a sense of area highlights and attractions, then go online for more details and start mapping out your itinerary
- Find out if reservations are required for what you want to do or visit (some popular attractions may require them)
- Select your accommodations: Use websites like Trip Advisor but don’t get too caught up or concerned with the bad reviews (most people don’t usually post positive experiences). Use the reviews as a general guide and look for consistency on similar review websites
- Make a general itinerary of your trip but be open and flexible when opportunities arise
- Connect with the locals. Don’t be shy—ask your waitress or hotel staff for suggestions—or even fellow travelers you may meet along the way
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Planning your trip and where you want to go can be an exciting part of the process. I strongly recommend every woman consider a solo adventure—however, be warned—once you do it, you may opt to leave friends and family behind on your next trip! I’m already thinking about my next solo trip—I’m considering Running Wild, a trail running adventure throughout New Zealand.
When I first started this post a week or so ago, I was by myself at my brother and sister-in-law’s mountain cabin near Mt. Hood. Although it would have been nice to have family or friends join me, the solitude was refreshing and I enjoyed my time alone.
Ladies—have you traveled by yourself? Please share your stories and tips in the comments section.