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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!
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!
18 thoughts on “Ask Kate: Where Do I Go When I Haven’t Been Anywhere?”
Also check out The Green Tortoise! http://www.greentortoise.com/adventure.travel.html They are similar to Intrepid but a much smaller operation. I’ve been on a few trips with them (National Parks Loop from Yellowstone to Grand Canyon and Pacific Trek to Northern California) and they seem to hit all of the criteria you’re looking for –
lots of other solo travelers, and plenty of socializing
lots of hiking/adventure opportunities
AMAZING food, cooked by you and your tripmates (a highlight was vegetarian sushi in Yellowstone NP!)
definitely outside-the-box (some camping, some sleeping overnight while the bus takes you to your next location)
very, very affordable
Thanks for suggesting alternative tourist companies. Someone needs to do a round up of great websites.
Thanks, Liz! I’d never heard of them.
First of all, great news that you want to travel. Doesn’t matter how long its been since your last trip, the desire to travel is still burning.
I echo the thoughts of Kate, Central America, particularly Belize and Guatemala, is amazing. But as someone who is desperate to stay in Canada, and British Columbia, I have to say Christmas in Fernie is the place for you 🙂
Haha the first thing I thought as well was ‘awesome fiance!’ Good on her for getting one of the good guys.
I did a G Adventures trip in 2011 called Mayan Sun (Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico) that was awesome! It was my first international trip in many, many years (prior to that I hadn’t left NA since high school and I’m 36 now!). It was a good introduction to international travel but having the logistics taken care of. I have sinced travelled to Indonesia on my own, without a tour, but I’m glad I did this tour to kickstart my travel!
That’s great, Dana! Sounds like you and the letter writer have a lot in common.
Highly recommend Nicaragua & Panama!
Nicraragua was my first experience outside Canada & the US and had a great time.
Just returned from Panama in Dec and had a totally unexpected trip and made a lot of new friends!
Nicaragua is where I’d definitely go, Shaun.
Awesome suggestions! Small group tours are perfect for solo travelers who don’t actually want to travel solo.
And Central America is a PERFECT winter getaway from the US or Canada!
Thanks for all the great ideas, I have always wanted to see the Mayan Ruins and the tour you recommended seems perfect! Thanks Kate!
To me the main trick is – just get out there. Set your sails and go. Staying home and wishing is a waste of life. Far better to be out there making mistakes and learning. If you book a tour make sure they don’t make the bubble you will traveling in isolate you from the places you are supposed to be experiencing.
That’s one reason why I chose to feature G Adventures and Intrepid Travel — they definitely don’t keep you bubblified!
Very good suggestions and I do not think anyone could have provided a better answer to the question than you. Well done. Also nice of you to suggest some tour companies, these things always comes in handy when comparing prices and others things.
Thank you, Shalu!
The desire to travel never wanes….that’s why I never understand it when people don’t want to even leave their backyard! Great site!!
Having spent 7 weeks in Costa Rica, I strongly recommend it. It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with the best wildlife we have seen anywhere. And there is a heap to do.
Nicaragua is incredible, we loved our time there and echo the thoughts on a group tour! Our very first group tour was with gadventures in Peru and we loved it, a perfect introduction to travel and I’m sure a group tour in Central America would be just as good!