By Harriet O’Connor
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there is a desperate urge for those of us without a partner to get as far away as possible from all those faintly nauseating festivities. But rather than feeling despondent, why not regard being single as the most incredible opportunity to travel? Relish the independence, freedom and ability to change your mind on a whim. Although travelling alone can seem slightly daunting and overwhelming at first, your confidence will grow exponentially. Solo travel will teach you how to be more resourceful and appreciate your own company. Fundamentally, it will put your life into perspective. So, put down the tissues and tub of Ben & Jerry’s and start planning. Think about the kind of activities you will be doing, make sure you budget appropriately, and get insurance that covers you for everything you’re doing. You can’t always sit around and wait for someone to go with you…
A European city break is a perfect way to escape the tacky Valentine’s Day monstrosities and anonymously immerse yourself in a vibrant new culture. The best part? You are free to do exactly as you please without having to take anyone else into consideration. Roam around historical sites, daydream in art galleries and museums, join a walking tour, go shopping, sample local cuisine, or simply set up in a café to watch the world go by. Although prime European cities such as Paris, Rome and Prague are notoriously romantic destinations, do not let this stop you from enjoying all they have to offer. It doesn’t take two people to eat a macaroon or toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Alternatively, you are guaranteed to have a fantastic time in cities such as Copenhagen, Berlin, Dublin or Amsterdam without a S.O.
Fully embrace your independence, step outside of your comfort zone, and use this time for yourself to make a start on The Big Travel Bucket List. Trek to Machu Picchu, tour Patagonia, explore the temples of Angkor, discover the Cinque Terre, trek through the Himalayas, experience the sunrise over Bagan, see the wildlife in Namibia, visit the salt lakes in Bolivia, hang off the edge of the infamous Trolltunga cliff in Norway… The possibilities are endless. Who needs flowers, chocolate and teddies when you have the entire world to explore?
For a more low-key destination, take a break from the trials of the real world (glaring red love hearts included) and calm your mind on a yoga retreat. Exercise and listen to your body, nourish your soul and become totally attuned with yourself. We all know that self-love comes first, and a yoga retreat is the best way to replace old habits with new ones that support you in being your best self. Whether you decide to go to Cornwall, Spain or India, affordable yoga retreats are easy enough to find, and will help you see the world and yourself in a new light.
Take the train
A train journey gives you the chance to travel independently in a unique, slower way. Admire breath-taking landscapes in the calm and comfort of your own space, sit and ponder, read, chat with your fellow passengers, or simply enjoy the peace and moments of calm reflection. Discard your perception of train travel as the dull and cramped journey from Durham to London, and experience one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. From the epic routes, such as the trans-Siberian or the Ghan (from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs in Australia), to the luxurious Orient Express, scenic Marrakesh Express or Blue Coast Train (Marseilles to Miramas, France). An incredible train journey is an ideal opportunity to indulge your romanticism and nostalgia whilst spending valuable time alone.
Wherever you decide to go, make sure you read up on the country you’re going to beforehand or the neighbourhood of the city you’re staying in. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a wide array of advice for women travellers as well as information about what to do if you are a victim of a crime, crisis or sexual assault while abroad. For all of the latest foreign travel information, head to the FCO’s Travel Advice website. Follow the FCO on Twitter @FCOtravel, watch their videos on YouTube and add them on Facebook to get instant access on all of the latest travel updates.
Photograph: Pierce Martin via Flickr