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How to Travel Solo

Advice for setting intentions, writing your own rules, and packing with purpose so you can discover the restorative power of traveling on your own.

JUST THE THOUGHT of dining alone in a restaurant used to stress me out. When traveling for business, I’d go out of my way to share meals with colleagues, even if it meant talking about work the whole time. When on a yoga retreat or attending a destination wedding, I’d almost always opt for whatever the group was doing, making decisions from a place of insecurity instead of honoring my needs.

But parenting through the pandemic changed my definition of a dream vacation. Now, all I want to do is be alone. I find that solitude is a much-needed respite from responsibility and the most effective antidote to being overwhelmed. If you live alone or work from home, you might be thinking, “I already spend plenty of time by myself,” but traveling solo is decidedly different. Being on your own, especially when you’ve chosen to be, is often the gateway to self-discovery and restoration. Here’s how to make the most of your solo travel.

Set an Intention

It’s easy to feel daunted by the laundry list of logistics involved in organizing even the most relaxing of vacations. Setting an intention for your trip before making reservations will help you spend your time more mindfully. One simple way to clarify the purpose of your travel is to visualize your future self coming home after an idyllic retreat: How do you feel? What qualities come to mind? Once you’ve identified the physical and emotional state that best describes your desired return on this self-investment, you can then filter every decision — from where to stay to what to bring — through this lens. My last solo trip, for example, followed a stressful stint at work that left me feeling disconnected from the physical practices that usually keep me levelheaded. With the intention of getting out of my head and back into my body, I decided to stay at an inn with a best-in-class wellness center so that I could curate a mini retreat of group fitness classes, integrated treatments, and healthy meals.


Write Your Own Rules

Although a change of scenery goes a long way, old habits die hard. Establishing a few simple rules that support your intention will help you disconnect from the responsibilities and routines of your day-to-day life. Let’s say your goal is to recover from burnout after a long sprint at work: You might set boundaries around when and where you can use your phone (no phones at mealtime is always a good start). If your aim is to return rejuvenated, consider committing to a daily practice of yoga, surfing, or an afternoon nap.

Pack With Purpose

Vacations are an opportunity to indulge, so by all means, bring along the fancy face mask you’ve been saving or the never-worn resort wear hanging in your closet. But be sure to prioritize items that align with your intention. If your aim is to stay off your phone but you don’t own a separate camera, consider purchasing a disposable one to document your adventures. Traveling alone also presents an opportunity to revisit hobbies that have fallen by the wayside (writing? bird-watching? sketching?), so bring along your pens and binoculars, but be sure to maintain realistic expectations for what you’ll be able to accomplish during your leisure time. As someone who once brought four hardcover books to a weekend getaway, I can assure you that less is more; the alternative can leave you feeling as if you’ve fallen short.

Stay Curious

Mindset might be the most important part of any adventure. When things inevitably don’t go according to plan, we can either stew in disappointment or embrace the unexpected. A few years ago, in an attempt to sidestep the seasonal depression that usually sets in midwinter, I planned an elaborate beach vacation only to have it rain the entire time. Naturally, I was disappointed at first, but after a few days of practicing yoga and meditating under a bamboo roof with a storm as my soundtrack, I found myself returning to the old adage that life doesn’t always give you what you want, but it almost always gives you what you need. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more well-rested and -read after a week away, and I still reminisce about those epic afternoon naps. A simple ritual for cultivating a positive mindset while traveling is to end each day by making a list of the things you’re grateful for. The more we notice and celebrate the small joys of life, the more fulfilling our experiences become.

It’s important to remember that even our time off is susceptible to overscheduling, over-socializing, and social-media rabbit holes. If you’re craving a reset, plan a solo trip and surrender to the self-inquiry that solitude creates. In the words of the writer Joseph Campbell: “Your sacred space is where you find yourself again and again.”

Our Contributors

Jenn Tardif Writer

Jenn Tardif is the founder of the mindful collective 3rd Ritual, a certified aromatherapist, and a writer. A devout student of Taoism, yoga, and mindfulness, Tardif is a firm believer that wisdom lights the path to well-being, and has made a lifelong commitment to share the teachings with anyone curious enough to learn more.

Pia Riverola Photographer

Pia Riverola was born and raised in Barcelona and currently lives between Los Angeles and Mexico City. With an acute eye for detail and color, she creates captivating imagery across the genres of fashion, still life, landscape, and architectural photography.


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