“There is nothing like taking a vacation by yourself.”
Those words, uttered by a friend, are what started me on this whole journey. We were at a summer gathering, he had just come back from a month in Mexico, and I thought he was crazy. I could not wrap my head around the fact that someone would want to go on vacation alone. Who did you talk to? Why did you want to travel alone? What if something happened while you were away? That is not something I could ever do! It just didn’t seem appealing.
A month later, that all changed.
I had amassed so many vacation days that, if I didn’t start to use them, I would lose them. So, I scheduled two weeks off and I started to put feelers out—first with my family (who all had their own things going on), and then with my friends (who were in weddings, having babies, etc.)—to see who might want to join me. One thing I knew? I could not stay home for two weeks. The walls would start to close in, and I would need a vacation from my vacation. I had a choice to make – suffer through a two-week “staycation,” or go on vacation alone.
Since no one wanted to join me, I chose the latter…and started to plan.
First, Two of my highest priorities were comfort and safety. Which, to me, meant that I should gravitate toward someplace familiar. Wanting the ability to relax and enjoy my vacation, the idea of exploring unfamiliar territory by myself was not an attractive one.
The destination choice was easy. I decided on a road trip (from Boston) to two of my favorite places: Hilton Head Island and Folly Beach, South Carolina. I have been to both areas a number of times and have seriously fallen in love with them. Also, I knew there would be few tourists around during that time of year, which made them the perfect choice.
When I arrived in Hilton Head, I took a deep breath, and the realization that I was all alone set in. For the first time, in a long time, I could completely relax. There was nobody to answer to, nobody to check in with, and nobody to placate.
I love my family and friends, but group travel can be overwhelming. Sometimes, I like to be by myself. I like to not worry about who is showering first, or who needs the blow dryer, or fighting for a place at the mirror. So, the idea that I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, without having to worry about anyone else? It. Was. Great.
Next, I had one mission on this solo vacation: to spend as much time as possible on the beach. I would get up, dress, get an iced tea, and head for the beach. Somewhere around midday, I would get out of the sun and grab lunch. Later, usually around sunset, I would return to the room to shower. After regrouping, I would decide what I wanted to do for the night.
So, my only plan was to not make plans, and that is exactly what I did.
Hilton Head and Folly Beach have drastically different atmospheres, so my experience in each place varied. Hilton Head is a secluded enclave, catering to those close to (or already in) retirement. Although the experience may be different in the summer season, there wasn’t much going on when I visited, so I did not feel the need to leave the resort every night. I only went off resort for dinner a few times that week. It was incredibly relaxing.
Folly Beach, on the other hand, is a young, laid back, beach city, with a lively business district. My hotel was perfectly located, right on the sand and in the heart of downtown. Restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors, and surf shops line Centre Street, making it instantly inviting. I ventured out numerous times to partake in the nightlife. Everyone was incredibly friendly and gracious. By the end of the week, I felt like a regular.
Finally, when the trip was over, I was ready to do it again. I couldn’t believe how right my friend was (a point I made sure to share with him upon my return home)!
If the idea of going on vacation solo sounds appealing to you, make sure to follow these tips to ensure you enjoy your adventure:
First: Identify Your Priorities
Do you want to feel comfort and relaxation? Or do you want to leave your comfort zone and explore a new place? Do you want to meet a lot of people? Do you want to be in a secluded area? These are important aspects of your vacation to consider. So, you should decide how you want to feel on your vacation, before you decide where it will take you. One piece of advice: your personal safety should always be a priority. Make sure to be vigilant of your surroundings, wherever you are!
Then: Choose Your Destination
Whether it is your favorite place, or somewhere you’ve never been before, make sure that you are choosing your destination for you. Always wanted to explore Paris and visit the Eiffel Tower? Bon voyage! Want to see the Grand Canyon? Go for it. Don’t like to fly? Take a road trip. Either way, make this trip all about you. Do you things you want and/or love.
Finally: Decide on Exposure
No, I don’t mean the degree of SPF in your sunscreen. Being on your own can be daunting. How much time you would like to spend exposed to other people is completely up to you. Feel insecure about being alone and want to stay close to home for dinner at night? Want to sit in the hotel bar and meet people? Do you want to fly solo to a highly rated restaurant for dinner? Enjoy everything the nightlife has to offer? All of those things are up to you. They are your call. The amount of exposure you give to those around you is completely your decision.
Also, My solo vacation taught me two important lessons. The first was that I don’t need to have someone with me at all times. I’m a single girl. So, If I want to make things happen in my life, I shouldn’t and don’t have to “wait” until I have someone to share them with. The second lesson was to actually appreciate the peace and quiet I got from being on my own. It was a nice break from the constant communication, both personal and technological, that we all have in our every day lives!
So, the most important component for your solo vacation success is to choose the vacation that will make you most happy. Take advantage of this opportunity to do exactly what you want, for you. Do not let people, or their opinions, stop you from experiencing something that will make you happy. It isn’t about them, it’s about you, and that is all that matters.
This post originally appeared on Career Contessa, you can find it here: How I Traveled Alone (& You Can Too)!…