Interview: "I Took My First Solo Trip After a Breakup"
Your motivation for taking a solo trip is a highly personal thing. That said, I've talked to a lot of female solo travelers about this topic, and the reason for taking a trip alone seems to usually fall into one of three main categories:
Because you can't find anyone (or the right person) to travel with. This is how I got my start in the world of solo travel; I never planned to do it at all, but I couldn't find a companion for a big trip. I didn't intend to, but I fell in love with solo exploring!
For joy and empowerment. To prove you can do it, to challenge yourself, to try something new, to grow, or to celebrate an achievement in your life.
To cope. We travel to celebrate and we travel to mourn. It's not uncommon for women to take a solo trip (especially their first) after dealing with some kind of hardship or difficult situation: loss of a job, a stressful work or school situation, family challenges, or a relationship ending.
Today, I'm sharing the story of Sydney, an early-childhood teacher from Minnesota, whose motivation for her first solo trip involves a bit of each of these categories.
Sydney and her partner had planned a ski trip to Canada together—but when she realized the relationship was toxic and that traveling together wasn't going to work, she ended it and decided to travel to Canada on her own.
Not only was this her first solo trip, but it was also the first time Sydney had ever left her home country—and all shortly after a difficult breakup. Here's her story.
Red flags in a new relationship
Sydney met her now-ex partner on a dating app, and things seemed to be going well at first. They got along at the start, so much so that they started daydreaming about taking an international trip together. He suggested a vacation to the beaches of Costa Rica later that year, and they also discussed crossing into Canada that winter to do some skiing.
Traveling abroad is a big undertaking for any couple, even those who have traveled out of the country before and have been together for years. Travel has the potential to bring out sides of yourself and your partner that you've never seen before, and it's been known to make or break even well-established relationships.
So Sydney was apprehensive—not only because she and her boyfriend had only been dating for four months, but also because this trip would mark the first time she'd ever left the United States. It was an awfully big milestone to check off her list, especially with someone she wasn't sure about.
"Things were great at first," explains Sydney, "but then I started noticing some red flags, and found out he just wasn’t right for me." She knew that taking a trip with him would be a mistake, and realized that things weren't going to work even if they continued to date at home. "I knew I didn't want to travel with him because of how I was being treated," she says. So not only did she call off a potential trip with him, but she called off the relationship altogether.
A solo road trip to a new country
Sydney had already requested the time off work for the trip she and her partner had been in the process of planning. Now that she was single again, she knew she wanted to seize the opportunity to travel outside the country for the first time anyway.
Less than two months later, she found herself on the road to a solo ski trip in Thunder Bay, a town in northwestern Ontario, Canada.
Sydney didn't want to forget about the ski vacation she and her partner had discussed just because they were no longer going together, and she knew that spending some time alone after the breakup would do her good. But those aren't the only reasons she decided to go alone. "Whether I was dating anyone or not, I had always wanted to go on a solo trip somewhere," Sydney tells me. "I knew it would let me do what I want, when I want, and enjoy time alone. As much as I love traveling with friends and family, I thought it would be nice having that time to myself."
So in the end, Sydney's motivation for taking her first international trip alone covers all three categories listed at the start of this post! She used solo travel to reset after a tough experience, to celebrate her abilities and enjoy the many benefits of exploring alone, and simply because she didn't want to give up on a trip she was already looking forward to just because things didn't work out with her partner.
Sink or swim: How Sydney's first solo trip went
Including an overnight stay in Duluth each way and then three nights in Thunder Bay, Sydney's trip spanned five days. Traveling alone by car can be intimidating, especially for your first trip alone, but Sydney said she'd do it again in a heartbeat. "I loved the freedom to stop if I needed to or wanted to along the way," she tells me. "It was just nice doing the things I wanted to do when I wanted to do them."
Once she arrived at her destination, her experience only got better. "It was nice staying in a popular tourist destination by myself," she explained, since it meant she felt safe and that there were always plenty of other travelers to befriend. "I definitely met some new people in the hostel I stayed at," says Sydney. "It was also easier to talk to people while I was by myself, because I was more personable than I would have been with a significant other." (*I LOVE this observation of Sydney's! It's so true that it's often easier to make friends when traveling alone than when traveling with a friend or partner. You're more likely to put yourself out there and be your authentic self when it's just you!)
Even the little things brought her joy and a sense of empowerment along the way. "This trip was definitely a confidence booster, because I had never eaten out, gone out to get a drink, or done an activity I wanted to do alone before. So that was awesome!" Sydney jumped into solo exploration with both feet, and found joy and pride in making all the decisions for herself and taking the leap to try new things alone.
"It was also easier to talk to people while I was by myself, because I was more personable than I would have been with a significant other."
"A solo trip is definitely healing."
I love Sydney's story because she took a challenging and upsetting life experience and turned it into a major positive. She asserted her independence by driving solo across the border to a new country, which she'd never done before. She embraced meeting new people and making friends simply by being herself. She delighted in the power of making all the decisions on her own, and took joy in every aspect from driving alone to dining alone.
"It was just nice doing the things I wanted to do when I wanted to do them."
When I asked Sydney if she had any advice for someone who has just been through a breakup and is nervous to try solo travel, she said "My advice is to GO. A solo trip is definitely healing after a breakup. You get to learn how to be alone and really focus on you!"
"You get to learn how to be alone and really focus on you!"
Raise your hand if you're inspired by Sydney's story! 🙋🏻♀️If you're considering solo travel yourself but are nervous to take the leap, I can help.
I've traveled to 36 countries, 17 of them solo. Based on my experience, I created an online course to inspire, equip, and empower women to travel alone too! Learn more about Solo Travel 101, here. Scholarships available—contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.