Traveling solo if you are a woman is not for the faint-hearted. It is a test for even the most independent of spirits but if you have ever done it before you know that it is well worth doing it at least once.
A word of warning – you must thoroughly enjoy your own company because that is all you will have for the many, many hours that you will be away. This experience is not for people who fear that people are staring at them as if they are the biggest loser on earth if they eat alone at a restaurant. Spoiler alert, you are likely to be eating alone, most if not all of the time. So you need to be at peace with solitude. Either that or you need to have the gift of the gab and the ability to pick up friends along with your travels.
I have traveled solo twice and I find that your choice of city can really make or break the whole experience. I like the cities to be compact and manageable; with plenty of sights to see but not so many that you don’t feel as though you have seen everything you wanted to by the time you leave. Verona and Lisbon perfectly fit that criteria and I had the most amazing time in both cities.
I am a pretty easy going person but I find that the biggest difficulties you get when traveling with others is people often have different ideas about what they want their holiday to be like.
When travelling solo you can prepare for feelings of pure joy at your ability to decide what time to start your days, where and when to eat, how long you want to spend poring over artwork in museums (or not), and whether you want to get around by foot/tram/rail/bus.
I am a big walker and can easily stroll across cities by foot for days at a time from morning through to nighttime with the occasional food stop. This hasn’t always gone down well with travel companions who aren’t up for such a walking-heavy holiday so when I get a chance to do whatever I want I get ready for my perfect holiday jam – walking, eating, reading, sleeping.
My days traveling solo in Verona and Lisbon were filled with blissful walks through bustling town squares, climbs to stunning lookouts spanning as far as the eye could see, meandering walks through picturesque gardens, with the sun beating down on me as my spirit was nourished and relaxation set in.
To beat solitude I had a never-ending soundtrack of my favourite music playing in my ear, punctuated by rest stops spent reading memoirs and essays by the likes of Norah Ephron and Diane Keaton. Their voices kept me company, as if I had a friend telling me funny, personal stories over a cup of coffee. So in a way I did have a companion with me, but one that had no demands whatsoever about what we should do everyday. Perfect company!
While I don’t mind eating alone, it became a bit of a dire situation on occasion. First there was the time that I attempted to get served at the restaurant of a popular site in Lisbon and was ignored, then told they were closed (they weren’t). I guess they just didn’t want a single lady cramping their style.
Then there was the time I was seated and then approached by wait staff who were somewhat concerned, telling me that they ‘don’t get many single women dining alone,’ followed up with recommendations about a music festival happening out of town ‘filled with young people’. Boy oh boy, I must have really been coming across as Sally no mates.
What these people didn’t understand was that I had made a conscious decision to travel to their city on my own, that I had planned my days there meticulously, and that I was having a ball being in my own company.
The memories of those solo holidays are positively dreamy. Awkward solitary meals aside, they were two of my best travel experiences and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.