I stepped out of the terminal building and took my first lungfuls of warm Spanish air. I looked up and squinted a little, the afternoon sun hanging low in the sky, waiting to reveal a sunset that would throw a charm offensive in my direction. I dug out my phone from my pocket to look at the map, and turned around to gesture at my travel companion.

Except there was no companion. I was travelling alone for the first time.

It was a reflex to discuss the next step of the journey with someone else. Working out strange directions and metro lines and buses together. Except this time, I had my own sense of direction to rely on. A little chill ran through my body. A thrill, a frisson of excitement. This trip, it was all about me.

Travelling Alone for the First Time

I was so nervous about travelling alone. In fact, until this year I’d never even considered flying solo. I’m in that position where I’m part of a couple, and we always spent our holiday days together. But over the past couple of years, my voracious appetite for travel started to climb higher than my husband’s, and I was left with a serious case of daily wanderlust.

So what’s a girl to do? Well, she plans a trip of her own, that’s what.

But I was seriously fearful. I’d written before about why I was afraid to travel alone, a mix of emotions about loneliness, what my family and friends would think, safety and bizarrely eating alone. Eating out feels like such an intensely social thing to do, and to do it solo gave me the shivers. And not in a good way.

Travelling Alone for the First Time

But I knew I had to conquer this fear. Firstly because I hate being afraid of anything, and secondly because I knew that if I wanted to fulfil all my travel desires I’d have to suck it up. I put it off all year. I was supposed to do something in April and as 2017 was closing out I knew I had to get this done.

It all happened really really quickly. An email dropped into my inbox about Ryanair’s flight sale, and before I knew it I had (within about 30 seconds) booked super cheap flights to Barcelona. So cheap that it would be criminal not to travel, whether on my own or not. I knew my husband wouldn’t want to go to Barcelona having been before, so there it was. I had six weeks to get my head in the game.

So it's finally time to go solo. Here's what it is like travelling alone for the first time.Click To Tweet

Travelling Alone for the First Time

And Barcelona felt like a really great choice for me. I had already travelled to Barcelona on three different occasions, and I had been desperate to write about it but my photography was so poor. It was like I had an excuse to go. I’m just going to update my photo collection. This line making me feel a little better at explaining to people who couldn’t understand why I’d want to go alone.

But Barcelona also felt safe to me – even though I hadn’t visited for 11 years, it felt familiar. I understood how things worked, roughly where things were and I knew about the pick-pockets on La Ramblas ahead of time (having been pick-pocketed myself there way back in 2005).

By the time I got to the airport, I was extremely excited. Nervous, but excited.

Travelling Alone for the First Time

So how did it go down? Well, in a word it was the most incredible three days I’ve spent all year. In fact, possibly in a very long time indeed.

It turns out, I’m living for solo travel.

I didn’t have to dance to anyone else’s tune, and as it turns out I have a pretty strong view of what I want to get from a city break. I could see more because I’m a pacy kind of woman, and I changed my itinerary on the go to suit where I was. I could linger when I wanted to, leave when I wanted to. I could take a nap when I wanted to (and yes, I wanted to) and I could wake up and go when I wanted to, catching the sunrise each morning.

It was so freeing.

Travelling Alone for the First Time

I spent lots more time investigating the back streets of El Born and Bario Gotic, seeking out little hidden things that I’d never normally bother with, and I wandered those back streets like the cat the got the cream I couldn’t take the smile off my face the whole time I was there.

There were challenging moments though. At first, I struggling with eating alone, and as I sat in my hotel room on the first night, I wondered whether I was actually that hungry and could do without dinner. I had to talk myself round and really force myself to leave and head to my pre-planned diner location. In general I had no issues with eating alone, and wasn’t treated any differently (duh), although in this first place I was shoved in a corner and it felt like I was the only solo diner they’d come across in a while.

But as I ordered that second glass of red wine to elongate the experience as I flicked the pages of my book, I felt like a queen. Like I belonged. I wasn’t rushing to get out of there – I was standing my ground and sipping my wine like that cosmopolitan jet setter that I am.

Travelling Alone for the First Time

I came prepared though, to make sure that I could really enjoy my time alone and minimise worry and doubt. It was my first time after all.

  • I booked a table for dinner for my first evening, meaning I couldn’t back out and meaning that they were already expecting a table for one so no awkward exchanges about dining alone. Not that I had any exchanges like that at all, but it eased my mind.
  • I booked on to a night food tour, meaning things were a little more social for me on my second night, just in case I was feeling a little lonely. I wasn’t but the night food tour was an absolute blast, and I’m glad I took advice from my solo travel ideal Beverley about what to do at night when alone.
  • I took my trust selfie stick and even though I felt like an idiot, it meant I could feature in my own travel memories from a photography perspective, and I look at these pictures and feel really happy.
  • I planned to go to familiar sights I’d already visited, and sprinkled in a couple of new to me attractions so I felt comfortable, but also like I wasn’t trying to repeat and experience I’d had with other before.

Travelling Alone for the First Time

Look, I know I haven’t conquered the world yet. I’m very aware I was only away for two nights in total, and travelling to a European city. It really isn’t Eat, Pray, Love or Wild. But it was a step forward, and I loved every second. It was the trip I never knew I needed. But I did.

Sure, I’m not going to always travel alone from now on, because I love to travel with my family and friends, but I’m so excited at the options this has opened to me. I can see some more solo city breaks in my near future.

If you are on the fence, try it – you never know how transformational it might be.

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Travelling Alone | Solo Travel | Female Travel | Travel Tips | City Breaks #solotravel #traveltips #travel

Travelling Alone | Solo Travel | Female Travel | Travel Tips | City Breaks #solotravel #traveltips #travel
Travelling Alone | Solo Travel | Female Travel | Travel Tips | City Breaks #solotravel #traveltips #travel

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  • I’ve traveled alone quite a lot this year and at first I dreaded it, but I’ve quickly started to love it. It feels a bit like a muscle that needs exercising! x

    • That’s such a good analogy – that means I must get out and do it again!

  • Jill Creighton

    I loved reading this. Reminded me of a trip I did earlier this year – https://www.midlifesmarts.com/solo-travel-and-being-20-again/ Go solo once and you’ll never fear it again!

    • Yep – I’ve definitely lost a bit of the fear factor now 🙂

  • Shirley Corder

    I have traveled alone twice from South Africa to the USA via England. Once I got used to the fact that I CAN DO THIS, I actually settled down and enjoyed myself. Thanks for sharing your experience. Eighty-year-old and her Walk to Freedom

    • Yes that’s absolutely right – I actually settled down and really enjoyed myself 🙂

  • maliblue mymind

    loved your post because i felt all those things in my solo trip to Prague (it was also my 3rd or 4th time in the city but on my own) and I am sooo glad that you had a good time in my city Barcelona, it always feels good to see people feel welcome and like the city.

    xx
    lau
    http://www.malibluemymind.com

    • Barcelona was the best – I absolutely love it!

  • Sheree Strange

    I love this!! Good on you, don’t underestimate the courage it takes to undertake these kinds of adventures that make us uneasy 🙂 Re: eating alone, I find the wine definitely helps!! Haha. It sounds (and looks) like an amazing trip for you, I can’t wait to see more of your solo travel adventures!!

    • Haha the wine did definitely help with my nerves! I can’t wait to travel solo again!

  • I still prefer to travel with my husband, mostly because we share the same wanderlust and we like the same things. So it’s lots of fun! Yet when he can’t, because I’m a freelancer and he isn’t, I go on my own. You’re right to say that it’s scary, it lets you out of you comfort zone, but I think your suggestion of choosing a place you’re familiar with as your first experience alone is brilliant!

    • It’s great to have the options of both right? Going alone and with someone you love!

  • Barcelona seems like good choice for our first solo travel trip. I’ve travelled solo a lot and am used to it. The only part I dislike is having dinner on my own.

    • Barcelona is a great destination for solo female travel – I was a bit unsure about eating alone and it does still feel a little weird but I’m getting used to it!

  • Kavita

    So wonderful that the experience was so freeing and confidence-boosting for you, the first of many future trips so you can feed your appetite for more more more travel. Great idea to go back to somewhere you had been before but knew there was more to see, that sense of familiarity would help combat the nerves.

    • I do definitely think the sense of familiarity helped in the case, but now I can’t wait to explore somewhere new on my own!

  • Adventuresfromwhereyouwanttobe

    Great post, I am in the same boat as you, I always travel with either my husband or as a family with our four children. I think If I did travel alone at first I too would feel a bit nervous. But hopefully I too would be able to embrace it.

    • I’m glad I gave this ago before we started a family because I think it would have been even harder to do it then – I hope you get a chance to go solo one day!

  • Hannah

    Travelling alone is liberating, once you’re over the shock of it. I have done it the other way round – I always travelled alone, and it was only later in life I travelled with friends / husband… which means it actually took a while to get used to travelling WITH people. I found it sometimes restrictive – as you say, travelling solo means you can do things when you want to! I hope you have many more enriching solo experiences!

    • Haha I can image the reverse shock of joining others on trips is quite something! I can’t wait to travel again on my own 🙂

  • That’s very interesting to read. I just moved back to Europe and I am so tempted by the cheap flight offers, just like yourself. I’ve been toying with the idea myself. Maybe next year I will do it too, although it feels unfair on my husband who I am sure would love to travel too but we can’t leave together because of the kids. Barcelona is indeed a wonderful destination, I am glad you enjoyed your time alone there. I was wondering how you took these great selfies without visible selfie stick, well done!

    • It is hard because I do adore travelling with my husband, but sometimes it is nice to do something alone – I hope you get to try it!

  • I am SO happy that you enjoyed your first solo trip! I still think about mine regularly, quite potentially the best week of my life! And congrats on getting good photos of yourself while abroad – a skill that I haven’t yet mastered!

    • It’s all about not feeling embarrassed with the selfie stick!

  • Great to read your story. I am in the same situation you are, but have yet to travel alone… Since I have a bit more time on my hand than my partner I should probably just do it and jump 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!

    • I hope you finally do it – I really loved it, and can’t wait to do it again!

  • Ellie

    Yessss girl! Travelling solo is an awesome thing to do no matter the reason – and eating alone is one of the best bits! Just gotta learn to love it, like you clearly did

    • I’m definitely getting more used to the eating alone part, it’s pretty peaceful!

  • Taylor

    Reading this post makes me so happy because I am such an advocate for solo travel! I have gone on multiple long term backpacking solo trips through Asia and they are been some of the best experiences of my life! So happy that you shared this 🙂

    • Thank you so much! I think even though I’ve only done one trip I could see myself becoming an advocate too!

  • FlyDriveExplore

    I haven’t travelled solo for a few years but did enjoy it, especially doing exactly what you want to when you want. Eating alone can feel a bit strange the first time but as you mentioned you do get to enjoy it.

    • I agree that eating alone was a little weird at first. But actually I’ve started to enjoy it a little!

  • Your travel is an inspiration. I still travel with my family but sometimes I think about going on my own. Thanks for the tips.

    • Thank you so much – I hope you get to try solo travel soon.

  • Sarah Poitras

    Congratulations! What a great post with good tips for those who want to try a bit of solo travel themselves.

    • Thanks so much, and I’m glad it has been helpful!

  • Paige Brown

    I’m so glad to hear that your first time traveling solo went so well! There are some really great tips in here for traveling solo as well. I remember when I took my first solo trip, one of my biggest concerns was eating alone too. If you bring a book, eat at the bar or stay open to meeting new friends it’s not bad at all!

  • Sara (Belly Rumbles)

    It is a pretty scary thing traveling alone for the first time. But I agree with you, there is a complete thrill to it as well, and that freedom!

    Clever move to go somewhere you had been before. Definitely has a safety factor about it.

    Totally not on the fence of solo traveling, I love it!

    • Haha, yes I was very nervous, but now I’ve done it, I feel great!

  • Rowena Li

    Yay congrats on your first solo trip! I absolutely loved my first one and hope you get to go on more soon!

    • Thanks so much – I definitely want more solo trips next year!

  • Great that you chose my hometown for your first travel solo (did not know that Ryan Air started flying to Barcelona). I have traveled solo many times, even a whole year around the world. Now I am in a couple but I still enjoy solo trips from time to time. Like you say, one of the worst parts of traveling solo is dining out but you found a great solution booking a night food tour. I will try it next time!

    • Ryanair has been flying to Barcelona from the UK for years, I first flew with them there a very long time ago, its definitely made it a more affordable and popular destination!

  • I already tweeted my appreciation for this – only commenting now because Disqus is blocked at my work! This post really resonated. I had travelling solo on my to-do list this year – it’s not happening because, um, I’m going to New York with my sister in a couple of weeks, which seems like a decent excuse. But it’s something I really, really want to do, and reading about your solo adventures has made my heart sing. There’s not a wanderlust gap as much as an income gap between my husband and I: he has to prioritise writing conferences with his travel budget, while I want to prioritise adventure. I’m so, so excited for whatever next year might hold. Thank you for this post! xx

    • I really hope you get a chance to go solo next year – genuinely it made me so happy to go somewhere on my own terms and it made me realise there was little to be afraid of! xx

  • Agreed – having my own timeline was the best!

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