Traveling with others can be a lot of fun, and let’s be honest, it’s definitely the most popular way to travel. But solo travel, especially solo female travel, has become trendy for a reason and it’s not just the great selfie ops (selfies are actually really hard to take solo, I’ve learned).
I get a lot of questions about my solo female traveller lifestyle — whether I get lonely or bored or feel uncomfortable a lot.
Those answers? All a resounding “no!”
Traveling alone isn’t a consolation prize; for me, it’s actually the pinnacle. Whether you’re taking a weekend trip within the U.S. or wandering across a continent, solo excursions can be incredibly refreshing and stimulating. Going alone has taught me a ton about myself, about my independence and what I’m capable of.
Once you start, it can be addicting. Here’s some of why I love moving through the world alone.
Last Wednesday, I landed in Minneapolis for the first time in a year.
And the first emotion I could identify upon my return to my adopted home of eight years was “weird.”
Obviously, I was more than excited to see friends and former colleagues, for a three-week summer stint on the precipice of returning to Central America.
But as the plane from Montréal, my previous stop, descended into the Twin Cities, I could only think of the last time I was in that air space.
It was June 28, 2018, and I was leaving everything I knew, bound for everything I didn’t. I was ready for this move, I thought. Weeks earlier, I had sold all my belongings — the things acquired over 32 years of life — left my job at the Star Tribune, said a tearful goodbye to the house that claimed so many memories, bid farewells to friends of a lifetime. I did so with so many dreams, with so much motivation. I’ve never felt regret.
But in that moment, in a left-side window seat in the back of the plane, I was struggling to breathe.
Montréal has been on my travel list for years because of its European culture and diversity, primarily. Why I didn’t assume that came with some of the best cuisine, I don’t know.
When the words “Montreal” and “food” pop up in the same sentence, you’re generally talking about three things: poutine, bagels and smoked meat. And while I like all three of those things in theory, none of them have the power to motivate me the way, say fresh seafood, perfect pho or epic pastas might. Poutine, frankly, sounds like something I might have come up with at age 12. Smoked meat …so like, pastrami? As for bagels, well, I was arriving directly from New York.
So what a surprise it was, then, on my first morning on the island city, when I procured a “tout garn” (everything) cylinder from the famed St.-Viateur shop, that I found myself wondering if I had ever actually eaten a bagel. Well, not a Montréal bagel, anyway.
Don’t get me wrong: I love New York bagels. The crisp exterior, soft interior is one of the perfect textures of all time. Or so I thought.
New York is a vixen. I keep traveling, but it still remains the most alluring place I’ve ever been, a city bubbling with palpable energy and spirit. It will entrance you with its buzz, awe you with its anonymity, lull you into private moments in the midst of a crowd, and community on a near empty street.
Aaaannnd the sticker shock can break your spirit faster than a 2.5-hour wait at brunch. Yeah, most of New York ain’t cheap — from the Did-I-Just-Buy-A-Designer-Handbag hotel prices to the $18 cocktails.
But the best part of the empire city is that is does both high brow AND low brow incredibly well; public parks and other free-admission areas are, for the most, as manicured as the top museums; many street carts are manned with professionalism and skill of a lauded restaurant.
You can spend a week or more here and stay on budget and live really well.
Let’s be honest: if you live in the U.S., travel — both nationally and internationally — is constantly threatening to break your budget and leave you with post-vaca woes. Partly thanks to our geographical location and partly thanks to an airline industry that’s completely out of control, flights can be really expensive! Most hotels are honestly nuts, too. ($400/night just to get some shuteye? Are you disconnected from reality??!) And transportation in a given place isn’t always much better. If you’re doling out $2,000+ just to arrive, sleep and get around, your whole travel plan gets squeezed — perhaps causing you to skip some of the actual, you know, SIGHTS.
That’s tragic. And really, really defeating. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to save some bucks on the logistical costs if you know how to work the system, play the points game (get loyal: with a credit card, an airline, a hotel chain, etc.) and SHARE SOME CODES.
Here are 13 of my own personalized codes you can use to cut the costs on your next trip. (Bonus: for most of these, I benefit too!)
Spending a weekend in Annapolis requires one, primarily, to use their senses.
Of sight — the heritage colonial architecture, the parade of American flags hung from businesses and residences, the sultry, boat-filled waterfront erupting with blazing sunsets, the pristine turquoise domes and lighted posts at the naval academy, all coalescing into a watercolor landscape from a painting you once saw.
Of smell — the scent of saltwater and magnolia flowers hanging in the air, the salinity of fresh oysters as they’re pried open, the richness of the tide’s other bounty as it’s simmered in olive oil and white wine and butter.
For those of you accustomed to following my journeys across the country and abroad, perhaps these last couple weeks have felt a little, well, boring.
After the better part of a year in Central America and a rapid-fire run through seven American cities, I’ve been holed up for almost two weeks in a small town outside of Pittsburgh. My Instagram — usually home to a blitz of cultures and experiences — has gone mostly quiet save for some work promotion, photos of my avocado toast, images of onions caramelizing in a pan. I’ve entered exactly one restaurant. I’ve barely left the house (of my dear friend that lives out here); to be honest, even if I did, there would be little to do.
And for someone with very little “normal” left in their life, I can’t really explain how meaningful it is.
Maybe thanks in part to Instagram — the king of presenting an idealistic reality — we tend to think of travel as glamorous, very expensive, maybe even unaffordable.
As someone who has made travel a lifestyle rather than an escape, I say there are a lot of strategies to buck those ideas and make adventuring fit into your regular budget. One of the keys to that, of course, is eating cheap. Make no mistake, that does not mean eating bad — in fact some of my favorite bites, the world over, have been for less than $10.
Here are 8 of my favorite cheap eats in Denver, Co.