Last summer I was sitting at the bar of a small restaurant in Creede, Colorado. I was alone, having a beer, and reading a book. A fifty-something waitress came to take my order for dinner and longingly said, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” I smiled and chatted with her a bit, but really I just wanted to say, “You can do this tomorrow if you want.”
This is not an article about the benefits of traveling alone. Yes, it is empowering to make all of your own decisions, it’s fun to order what you want for breakfast without judgement, and seeing only the sights in which you are actually interested is a real delight. But solo travel is a topic that has been written about endlessly, often by people who make me feel inferior for wearing practical travel outfits and having fewer Instagram followers than they do. So I won’t try to convince you that solo travel is worthwhile because I have no doubt that at some level, almost everyone can recognize the benefits of going somewhere alone. Rather, if a solo trip is something you want to do but just can’t seem to get it planned, here's how to act on your “I’ve always wanted to do that” feeling and take a trip on your own this year.
Decide on the purpose of your solo trip
Do you need to recharge? Is there somewhere you have been wanting to go and you’re tired of waiting on other people to go with you? Think about what it is you would like to accomplish on your trip. And yes, sleeping and reading is totally an acceptable answer. But make a real plan - the last thing you want to do is get bored and mindlessly watch cable television by yourself.
Make time to reflect
When you are in your normal environment, completing your daily routine, and exposed to your standard distractions, it’s hard to focus on anything other than the micro-events of everyday life. Traveling solo allows you to separate from those things and simply dedicate time to what’s happening in the bigger picture of your life. Not sure how to do that? Here are a few simple steps to help you clear your mind for some reflection:
Start off your trip with a specific activity that will allow you to kick back and enter into solo mode. This could be a great playlist for your drive, a reservation at a nice restaurant where you can drink wine and read a book, or choosing a hotel where you can order in and watch a movie. Whatever it is, plan to not look at your phone for a few hours and relish your alone time.
Once you’re in a relaxed mindset, it’s easier to separate from your fleeting thoughts and worries. Set aside some time to write down your general feelings on key areas of your life including health, relationships, career, money, hobbies and activities. How are you doing in each area of these areas? What is going well and what needs improvement?
Once you’ve put some focused time into thinking about these areas, start to identify anything that stands out to you. What are ways you can make adjustments or changes in these areas? Make a long, messy list of things you want to act on, improve or achieve.
Take a look at your list. Are there specific goals you can make to which you can fully commit? Create one clear goal for each area of your life, and write down the details of how you can achieve this goal. After your trip, take time to revisit these goals frequently and assess your progress. One of my personal favorite resources for identifying and creating both short-term and long-term goals is the classic best-seller Getting Things Done. It is not gorgeous or dreamy, but it’s an incredibly practical guide to, as you might imagine, getting things done. Buy this book and take it on your trip, or visit the website and read David Allen’s actionable tips.
Get some exercise
Nothing helps you think effectively like a clear and energetic mind, and exercise is one of the best ways to achieve this. Choose an outdoor activity like an easy hike or snowshoe, or find a yoga class. Even if you don’t exercise regularly, a simple walk will make a difference in your ability to relax during your trip. You'll probably sleep better, too.
Choose a destination that fits the needs of your solo trip
Think about the types of places you would enjoy, as well as goals for your trip. Do you want to be totally secluded or do you want an environment that’s a little more lively? Because I’m based in Colorado and Vandervie currently specializes in Colorado travel, here are three suggestions for Colorado solo travel destinations:
Chipeta Solar Springs, Ridgway
Ridgway is quiet, gorgeous, and a perfect spot for a solo getaway. Chipeta Solar Springs offers beautiful and affordable rooms, many with a private hot tub or jet bathtub inside your room. The resort also has a heated pool and excellent onsite restaurant. For dining, don't miss the incredibly delicious Adobe Inn and the new Provisions cafe, both walkable from Chipeta. Ridgway also has great access to cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
Boulder Creek Lodge, Nederland
It’s close to Boulder and Denver, but Nederland feels like a world away. Take the gorgeous drive up Coal Creek Canyon west of Denver, and spend some time strolling around Ned. The Boulder Creek Lodge is well-located in the middle of town. Head to Crosscut pizzeria for a tasty dinner and the charming Happy Trails for coffee. For some outside adventure, go to Brainard Lake Recreation Area just off the famous Peak to Peak highway. It’s particularly good for solo travelers because the trails are very well marked, and there are plenty of people around so you won’t feel alone.
Avalanche Ranch, Redstone
If you want to be alone in a cabin in the woods minus the creepy vibes, go to Avalanche Ranch. You’ll have plenty of privacy plus access to totally relaxing onsite hot springs. Fantastic restaurant options including Town and Silo are close by in Carbondale, about 15 miles from Avalanche Ranch. There are also several good snowshoeing trails in this area and great access to cross country skiing at Spring Gulch.