I sprung for my first solo vacation exactly two years ago: A week biking through Provence in April. The idea itself was first planted in summer 2009, after reading Seeing Provence From the Slow Lane on my dad’s couch, fresh into my first unpaid internship and my final summer break before college graduation.
That 2016 bike trip was my first vacation on my own. I haven’t had another long solo trip since. But I know I’ll do one again. Until then, I’ve adopted parts of the solo trip — albeit in smaller increments.
I believe solo time keeps us sane. Whether through an afternoon at home or a long vacation, recharging my batteries works best when I’m spending time with myself. This has become especially important since Joe and I left Brooklyn last year to travel full-time, while we work full-time. We both still face the stressors of a long work day, last-minute deadlines, laundry and dishes to do. We’re facing new stressors too. Navigating a foreign language day in, day out. Finding new apartments each month. Meeting new people with each new place.
What I should say is, solo time helps keep us sane and less focused on the stressors — so we can be more focused on learning, growing, exploring. Joe will find gaming communities to play Star Wars: Destiny with. I’ll get a membership at a local gym or studio. I’ll visit a nearby museum while Joe runs through the main park. Etcetera.
So when Joe decided to attend Modena Play, a tournament for game geeks, I jumped at the chance to take myself on a weekend getaway.
Enter, Parma. The (small) city is an hour train ride from Bologna, our home through April. It’s packed with culture, thanks to the reign of Napoleon’s wife Maria Luigia as Duchess of Parma. Parma is also home to parmesan cheese and parma ham, or prosciutto.
Done and done. I jetted off to Parma last Friday. (Well, not jetted. I took the wrong train and doubled my travel time. But who cares! I was by myself and had nowhere to be.)
Rest, read, eat, write. Repeat. I put my feet up at B&B al Battistero and truly never wanted to leave. I will forever dream of owning a corner apartment off a winding town road like Patrizia’s.
I tore through Homegoing over an al fresco drink, at the Parco Ducale, and sitting along the main piazza. I filled my notebook in those same places. I ate my fill of cheese, tortelli, and coppa sandwiches. I walked until the soles of my feet hurt.
I returned both refreshed and exhausted in the best way. Joe did the same. We reunited Sunday night over takeout pizza and wine in paper cups, catching up as the next week at home approached.
Have you ever traveled on your own, whether for a small or large trip? What has your experience been? I’ll end with some of my favorite reading on the topic. I hope they kick off the idea for your next adventure, solo or not.
- My dear friend and former colleague Kristin has launched a blog for female solo travelers. Check it out for anecdotes from her solo time living in Peru and France, as well as practical tips.
- I’ll always return to this article as vacation inspiration. The imperfections of a trip are what make it so magical, n’est pas?
- The ultimate solo traveler: the New York Times hired a reporter to visit the 52 places places to see in 2018 — all in one year. Reading her updates is a whirlwind and an adventure, all without leaving my couch. Start with her first stop: New Orleans.
- Nomadic Matt, a popular blog for full-time travelers, shared 10 common fears of traveling alone.
- Travel + Leisure’s best countries and best American cities for solo travelers.