Though Stacy Schwartz is a born-and-raised New Yorker, the urge to quit her full-time gig to travel the world—alone—for three months struck her hard and she hasn't looked back since. Eventually, she started her own travel company, Ketanga Fitness Retreats
. One trend she sees emerging is Costa Rica, where people are kind and welcoming, and weather provides a healthy blend of ease and chaos, where both sunshine and rainstorms abound. Why does it make for a great solo getaway? One word: variety. "There are options to go to highly-visible, touristy areas or explore less-traveled areas depending on your level of comfort," she shares. Whether you stick to the shore or hike through the rainforest, pack an external battery pack because let's be real: you're going to kill your battery snapping pictures of monkeys, sunsets, rainbows, and more. Check out the Spanish phrases everyone should know
Mt. Koyasan Japan
To be fair, if you're going to make the journey to Japan, you should definitely see more than just one city, but one destination you should add to your solo travel bucket list is Mt. Koyasan, according to world traveler Shannon Ullman
. Sandwiched between Osaka and Kyoto, just a five-hour bullet train away from Tokyo, this small town is not only beautiful but offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here, you can stay overnight in a Buddhist Temple, experiencing the traditional rituals the Japanese are known for. "You'll sleep on a traditional floor futon and monks will deliver vegetarian meals and sake to your room. You can bathe in the traditional, shared baths, and take a guided meditation class in the mornings. If you really want to get in touch with yourself, this is the place to do it," she explains. Before you head to Japan, read these important etiquette rules for dining out
If instead of having your Eat, Pray, Love
moment, you're actually having an Under the Tuscan Sun
experience, pack your bags and venture to the Tuscan region of Italy. As travel agent Kimberly Hart
notes, this part of the world doesn't just offer beauty—and ahem, wine—but an escape that gives you ample time to think and unwind. When Hart made her way here for a getaway, she was able to book a stay at Cortona, which you will recognize from the film, and take easy bus rides to nearby wineries and small villages to sip and see. " I felt completely comfortable in these small towns walking around by myself as they were easy to navigate and people were welcoming, friendly and helpful. It was nice to return to a home base each day as well. There was plenty of shopping, eating and wine tasting in the small towns, and it was a leisurely trip where I could really soak up the culture," she shares. "The advantage of being on a tour was that I had the option to explore with other people during our free time if that was preferred or I could venture on my own." Brush up on these essential Italian phrases
before you go.
When you first consider the ombre waters of the Aegean Sea, you might feel swept away in the romance of such a transfixing oasis. But before you start whipping out those heart-shaped glasses and dream of a honeymoon, Kiersten Likkel from Cruise Specialists
actually recommends a solo trip to Greece. Specifically, Mykonos, which is known for a livelier nightlife scene with the same Instagram-worthy beaches. And Likkel should know, considering she's been to more than 70 countries before the age of 30. In addition to views and local wine worth sipping as you dance under the stars, Likkel recommends feasting on local Greek food—especially fresh-caught fish!—for a getaway you won't forget. Just make sure you're wary of your purse, as pick-pocketing is common.
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While venturing into the quintessential beauty of Switzerland might cost you a pretty penny, traveler and host Kelly Rizzo from Eat Travel Rock
says you definitely won't be disappointed on your solo trek. Not only is it easy to commute through various regions, cities and countrysides with a no-brainer travel system, but along the way, Rizzo notes you'll encounter many friendly locals and travelers alike. "The trains effortlessly get you around the country, so you can visit the different German, Swiss, and French-speaking parts of Switzerland in one trip if you wanted. This summer, I even took a scenic boat ride as part of the Swiss Travel System to get from Lucerne to Ticino in style," she explains. You'll want to read these tricks for getting over jet lag
before hopping on a plane.
Because it's not only a safe country that is happy to show a tourist around (and pass her a pint... or three), Schwartz says Ireland is a must-see for solo female travelers who want to adventure, but still speak the native English. Whether you choose a larger metropolitan area like Dublin or gamble and wander through the countryside, Schwartz attributes some of her best independent travel experience to this country. Worried about getting used to different customs and rituals while navigating? Don't be, Schwartz advises, and instead, take it as a challenge and keep yourself open to the possibilities that may abound. "Driving on the left side of the road may be a bit intimidating, so I loved signing up for a day trip to see the places that stood out to me. As a lifelong equestrian, I came across a stable in the Irish countryside where I was welcome to ride, eat, and stay. I think Ireland is a great stepping stone for newbies to solo travel from the U.S because of the lack of language barrier, the modern culture, and welcoming attitude," she shared. Find out why the Irish drive on the other side of the road
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
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As a growing digital nomad scene that's attracting workers worldwide, Likkel says Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon, might be a long-haul plane ride, but it's worth it to soak up the culture. Not only is it an affordable destination for a limited budget, but Likkel explains the Vietnamese people are quick to welcome foreigners and practice their English with anyone who will pause to converse. It also helps if you're a foodie who follows your stomach. "Wander the boulevards of this burgeoning city at your own pace, stop to eat just about anywhere your nose leads you, and treat yourself—over and over—to the wonderfully affordable and hospitable day spas throughout the city," she explains. As an added bonus? You definitely won't get lonely here: "You'll also find adventurous global travelers who are just as likely to strike up a conversation or invite you along to do something new," Likkel adds.
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...or really anywhere in Portugal. As a city that's proud of its heritage and friendly with their smile and their generous wine pours, you might not want to leave Iberia and head back stateside. For a solo trip that offers both cultural immersion and relaxation that's a short jaunt away, begin in Lisbon for the city experience and then to Porto to get swept away from the hustle-and-bustle. "Explore this gorgeous city at your own pace, taking as much time as you want to wander the hilly streets admiring the architecture and colorful tiling. Enjoy the bustling Douro waterfront atmosphere while sipping delicious port wine straight from the source," Likkel suggests. Portugal also made our list of places you need to go in 2018
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Schwartz says to hurry up and book your ticket to this Central American hotspot ASAP, as tourism is about to boom. A hop, skip, and short plane ride away from Costa Rica, Schwartz says this small country offers a unique cultural charm on a shoestring budget. "Bocas del Toro is a great place to start, with lots of adventurous activities, beautiful beaches, and hostels and hotels of all price points," she shares. Her only warning is that most tourists aren't American, but from other parts of Central or South America or Europe, so it's a great opportunity to expand your network and mingle with fellow female solo travelers who seek adventure on their own two feet, too.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
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Though it's a smart idea to be on high alert when you visit this region of the world, simply because pick-pocketing is a job here like any other profession, the beauty of Bosnia and Herzegovina can't be denied. As the region still heals from a war that only transpired a few decades ago, you will be amazed by the juxtaposition of new construction set against buildings that still have remnants of bullets and shelling. And outside of the cities, travel photographer and writer Tessa Juliette
says the countryside offers a stunning escape to a part of the world that is still relatively untouched by mass tourism. "The exchange rate is great and booking private tours is completely reasonable, making it an ideal location for solo travel," she says. If you want to continue your tour of this area, it's easy enough to find a ferry to Dubrovnik and set your sails through the many islands of Croatia, including Split, Hvar and more. Find out more places where it's fun to travel solo