A while back, someone on Quora asked,
How do I celebrate my birthday when I am all alone in my life?
Here's my answer:
Take a solo vacation. At 27, the best possible trip you could do is probably a solo one (probably especially if you're traveling while female). You'll meet tons of new people every day -- trust me. (If you're concerned about your social skills and/or ability to meet new people, I'd recommend reading The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism before you go. It'll teach you skills you can use personally and professionally to attract and connect with more people.)
If you're afraid of being lonely when you travel alone, don't be! A three-hour friendship with someone you meet while traveling can feel more meaningful than a convenient one you have with coworkers and neighbors.
Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here's my scooter... hop on the back and go to an amazingly beautiful place with me maybe?
Leave your phone and computer behind -- chances are you're just going for a few days, anyway. Devices will only distract you or get you robbed. And don't use GPS. Go get lost, then ask people for directions. John Steinbeck said it best in Travels With Charley: In Search of America (which everyone should read immediately) when he wrote, "The best way to meet new people is to get lost."
Seriously. If you want to read thegreatest travel book of all time, this is it.
You'll either end up exactly where you intended... or someplace even better.
On that note, you don't always need to plan out your whole stay. Go with an open mind and ask people for suggestions. Lonely Planet will give you some basic background information and tell you where the guy who wrote the book went for lunch... but asking real people to share their suggestions and experience is how you'll make the most friends and see the best stuff. (Want to know more? Check out 8 Super Awesome Ways to Make More Friends While You Travel.)
Thunder Mountain Park, a terrifying roadside attraction in Imlay, Nevada, is a place we might never have found if we didn't ask...
I'd also recommend avoiding mainstream places, like Spain or Jamaica or Italy. People there don't usually want to meet you. They want to sell you stuff. So get off the beaten path, to a place where locals will see you and ask, "Why are you here?" "Will you practice English with my child?" "In America, do people really X?"
Or pick a destination that offers a certain type of adventure you want to try -- like camping, surfing, scuba diving, music, museums... or whatever. When you're focused on an activity,you'll be present and mindful and too busy to feel alone. And you'll meet other people who are doing the same activity. Who knows what will happen from there?
(As an aside, don't be afraid to travel in the off- or shoulder-season. I lucked out and got great weather and solitude on a recent shoulder-season trip to Torres del Paine, Chile -- a place that can be a bit of a zoo in the peak season. I also managed to rent a condo for a month in St. Thomas, USVI... for about the price of a week during peak season. All I had to do was check-in on the verge of hurricane season. It rained for about five minutes most afternoons, but was otherwise perfect.)
Not too shabby, amirite?
Keep a journal. Write down every single detail. Collect contact information of the people you meet. (It's not weird. Just do it -- everyone asks for contact information while traveling. If you really need a reason to ask for their info, say it's so you can share photos later. But seriously. Just ask.) Otherwise, you might forget.
And bring a lot of SD cards so you don't have to stop and delete or upload photos. Put some pictures from home on each card. Several times, someone I've met while traveling has asked to see pictures of my home or family... and I haven't had any. It made me feel like I totally dropped the ball on the whole cultural exchange thing.
It's fine to upload your travel photos online, but I would recommend waiting till you get home. Being hyperconnected will take you out of the moment. When you're not present, you won't be happy. And when your photo doesn't get as many "Likes" as you expected, it's going to sting. Just stay present. (Though if you can upload photos and stay present, more power to you.)
Finally, if anyone tries to tell you you have to go somewhere for several weeks or months in order to "really travel," they're wrong. If they need that long to have an experience, it says more about them than anything else. Just go with whatever time or budget you have. Dive right in. Be fully present and fully authentic, and a week or two (or longer! or shorter.) will be plenty. Trust me.
Traveling alone is truly awesome -- and if you're feeling alone in life, there's no better time than the present. Eventually, you'll want to travel with friends
Because all lovers have matching pink swimsuits with moose on them.
But for now, you should feel free and empowered. You can do exactly what you want, when you want, where you want -- without compromise. Without having to talk it over with your significant other or the group. You are completely free.
Enjoy your 28th. :)
PS: Because the world is a big place and choice overload is immobilizing, I'm going to start you off with a suggestion. Book a cheap flight to Mexico City. Spend a day or two exploring. Then take a night bus to Oaxaca (the city). Explore the city and some of the ruins around it. Eat cheese. When you've had your fill, take a bus to Puerto Escondido. You can get a private room with an ocean view for about $20 a night. Hike, surf and make new friends before continuing your journey -- either back home, or wherever the wind takes you.
Alternatively, I know a guy who flew directly into Salina Cruz (a four-hour drive south of Puerto Escondido) and attended a week-long surf "camp" at Oaxaca Soul Surf. When he wasn't surfing, he hiked in the jungle, explored sand dunes and chilled with fellow surfers. The waves here are point breaks, so the guides can cater to many skill levels. I hear it's a blast.
PPS: You might also want to check out Travel Hack: Do What You Do At Home While You Travel. It's another post about making friends while you travel.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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