Ask Kate: Where Do I Go When I Haven’t Been Anywhere?

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Costa Rica... No artificial ingredients!

I usually try to answer general travel questions in Ask Kate and not get too specific to one person, but this particular question was so fitting for first-time solo travelers that I thought it would be a great addition. Hope you enjoy!

Hi Kate,

My fiance works many holidays and was on midnights for the whole Christmas break right up until New Year’s. I’ve been with him for 3 years and have no kids or family of my own that I’m close to, my parents are long passed away. So there is no going “home” for Christmas for me.

I told my fiance who will be working the same holiday shift again this year 2013, that I want to go away by myself this Christmas. He is very supportive and well travelled himself. He’s already encouraging me to start saving up if this is what I want to do. I’ve only been on two “big” vacations my whole life – Ft. Myers, Florida in grade 8, and Puerta Vallarta for 2 weeks in 2001. I’m well overdue! (Although my fiance and I may go on our first big trip together before my solo Christmas trip).

Can you recommend anything specific as a first trip for a female (early 30’s) who is not single?

  • I want to meet people/mingle.
  • I love dancing.
  • I’m adventurous and enjoy sightseeing/hiking, but a bit of a chicken when it comes to water and heights. Although I love being in the water.
  • I like trying different foods and am not a picky eater.
  • We just bought a new house, so my trip needs to be somewhat affordable – and quite safe.
  • It should be somewhere warm since my solo trip will be over Christmas and possibly New Year’s Eve. I am Canadian and live near Toronto.
  • I don’t want to do Mexico, or Jamaica… or Asia (I’d rather read about Bangkok, lol).
  • I want to be a bit out of the box if possible.
  • I’ve never been on a plane for longer than 4 hours and that freaks me out a bit too, especially since I would be by myself.
  • I also saw in your blog that there are vacations to learn specific skills like cooking, etc. That sounds interesting too.

From your travels, can you recommend anywhere specific for what I’m looking for as my first solo trip??

Absolutely.  Halfway through reading your letter, I knew the answer: a group adventure tour in Central America.

Central America is warm in the winter, an easy journey from Toronto, and filled with lots of adventures! It’s also diverse — you’ve got jungles and beaches, volcanoes and cloud forests, Mayan ruins and indigenous cultures.

Many first-time solo travelers decide to travel on their own, whether backpacking or traveling in a more upscale fashion.  That’s great for a lot of people — but since this is your first trip in 12 years, I think you’d get a lot more out of a trip with a group.  It’s easy to spend a lot of your first major trip worrying about logistics or meeting people.  A group trip allows you to let them take care of that stuff while you kick back, relax, and make friends.

While there are plenty of great tour operators out there, two that I recommend strongly are G Adventures and Intrepid Travel.  Both of these companies are great for adventurers of all levels, they’re very conscious about sustainability and responsible travel, and though they’re popular with solo travelers wanting to make new friends, they’re not wild meat markets like some group tours can be.

Here are two trips worth checking out:

G Adventures’ Costa Rica Quest: 9 days in Costa Rica.  This trip includes the volcano at Arenal, Monteverde cloud forest, and beach time at Manuel Antonio National Park.  Costa Rica is the most popular travel destination in Central America, in part because of its beauty and diversity, and it was the first destination that I thought of for you.

Intrepid Travel’s Land of Belize: 8 days in Belize and Guatemala.  This includes the Caribbean hideaway Caye Caulker, the jungles of San Ignacio, and the Mayan ruins of Tikal.  My friend Amanda of A Dangerous Business recently went on this trip and loved it!

Can you make the trip a little bit longer?  Consider one of these:

G Adventures’ Essence of Nicaragua: 11 days in Nicaragua.  This trip includes the colonial towns of Granada and Leon, plus time relaxing on volcano-strewn Ometepe Island and beach time in San Juan del Sur.  Nicaragua is relatively undeveloped and the most up-and-coming country in Central America, as well as the cheapest — the time to go is now.

Intrepid Travel’s Costa Rica & Panama Discovery: 13 days in Costa Rica and Panama.  This trip includes the cities of San Jose and Panama City, as well as the beach enclaves of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Bocas del Toro, and Santa Catalina, as well as the colonial town of Boquete.  Both my mom and sister loved their trips to Panama, and this beach time is a great antidote to the Canadian winter!

And one last thing — congrats on landing a wonderful fiancé!  It’s so nice to see someone encouraging his or her significant other to travel solo.  You lucked out with that one!

Want Kate to answer your travel question?  Email kate [at] adventurouskate [dot] com with the subject “Ask Kate” and perhaps yours will be answered next week!

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