Every year, college students flock to tropical, beachy destinations for spring break with their friends. In 2018, 9.5 percent of spring break travelers flew to Orlando, Florida and 14.2 percent made their way to Cancun, Mexico for a sun-filled week. But instead of getting drawn into the stereotypical idea of a college vacation with tropical party destinations, consider trying something new and different: a solo trip. You don’t have to worry about your friends’ schedules. You control what you see, where you go and what you eat. It’s the ultimate dream, but the fear of being alone, unsafe and bored deters college students from this adventure.
It’s frustrating to be on a trip with family or friends where you get dragged to a boring history exhibit, forgo a peek into an interesting store because it doesn’t fit into the itinerary or miss out on trying a new food that you’ve been longing for. It’s even more unfortunate when a family trip takes you all the way to a destination that doesn’t interest you the slightest. When you travel alone, you can choose the destination and timing without working around anyone else. The airline you fly with and the hotel you stay in are decisions you can make completely based on your preferences.
My spring break trip this year was the first time I’d traveled solo. Instead of the typical Mexico trip with friends, I decided to fly across the country to New York City by myself. It was a trip I’d wanted to go on for nearly a decade. As time went on, I realized it was becoming difficult to organize time with family and friends to visit NYC, so I figured I’d just go on my own. It allowed me the chance to go to all the places I wanted to visit, eat all the things I wanted to eat and do it all at my own pace.
Spending time alone in a new environment forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone and experience new things. Our society stigmatizes being alone, but this trip allowed me to become more confident in my own skin and more comfortable with being by myself. While it was great to have complete freedom to make 100 percent of the decisions on my own, it was also a bit daunting — but I found embracing this agency to be one of the greatest ways to learn more about myself.
There has been an increase in solo traveling over the last few years, especially among millennials. Thirty-four percent of those who have already been on a solo trip say it’s one of their top five trips they’d like to go on again. The Google search for “solo female travel” grew 52 percent between 2016 and 2017, showing that the idea is increasingly intriguing to women. Additionally, Resonance Consultancy’s U.S. Millennial Travel Report predicts that one in every four millennials have a plan to travel solo within the next two years. Although some deem solo traveling risky and out of the norm, it’s only becoming more popular.
While there are so many positive reasons one may choose to go on a solo trip, it can also be dangerous if you don’t take safety precautions — especially if you’re a woman. However, there are ways to ensure that your trip is as safe and enjoyable as possible. First, when picking a place to stay, make sure that you’ve done research and read reviews on the owners and managers. Youth hostels and Airbnbs are popular among the college crowd, so if you’re going to be on your own, try and look for one that’s specifically for women or for college students. Try and get in contact with the other people you’ll be sharing a space with ahead of time, and maybe you’ll find someone to spend a day or share a meal with. Make sure to do plenty of research before your trip, and if you can, talk to people who know the place well. Before embarking on your trip, try and find out the places you should avoid going or things you should avoid doing. To be extra safe, check in with a family member or friend back home once every couple of days.
While it may seem oh-so-alluring to cave in and book that flight for a week of partying with friends, it can be even more rewarding to make a different decision — your own decision. Be brave and spontaneous, but be safe. Book a flight to your dream destination and give yourself space and freedom to live out your solo traveling fantasy.
Aime Fukada is an undeclared sophomore. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.