My first solo trip was to Ireland when I was 19, a six-day vacation in the middle of working as an au pair in France for the summer. After several Guinness and live music filled days, Ireland had earned the a place as one of my favorite countries- it really is a beautiful, surprisingly rugged place with lots of good-hearted (and handsome) locals.
In in my mind, Ireland is the perfect first-time solo travel destination for English-speakers. Here's why:
a. There's a common language with kind, welcoming people, making it easy to communicate and get to know locals
b. There are oodles of fascinating ruins and sites, as well as great culture, music and general Irish-ness
c. Ireland's less expensive than other English speaking destinations such as as Australia or the U.K.
d. And it's a small, safe country that you can cross in 3 or 4 hours
That being said, I will admit that I didn't like solo travel right away, even in Ireland. Here is a ranty email excerpt from the beginning of my trip:
I dont really like travelling alone, mainly because you have to rely on making friends in order to have company. I like being able to walk everywhere alone but everything's twice as scary and expensive when you're alone. Like yesterday when I got in the car with a bunch of Spanish guys, which could've potentially gone very badly, I was scared AND alone which is far worse than just being scared.
But don't worry, you'll be fine. Just make sure to take some safety precautions: carry pepper spray, don't walk home alone at night (especially not with headphones!), don't drinking too much and be reasonably careful. And um, don't get into a car with a bunch of Spanish guys.
In my pre-blogging days, I was much less vigilant about taking photos- hence why I literally didn't take one picture of Dublin or Galway. But here is my coverage of the wonderful, windblown day I spent biking around Ennismore, the largest of the Aran islands.
A bike which was mode of transportation for the day as well as a source of frustration… Stumbling upon a Celtic graveyard… Stopping for some delicious fish chowder and brown bread…
Buying a Celtic wraith t-shirt and Claddagh ring…
Biking to Dun Aengus, a beautiful Celtic fortress ruin…
Overall it was a perfect day of solitude, blustery weather and a quiet kind of joy you feel when you've done someone really good for yourself, all on your own.
Also- before I left the island, there was a magical moment when an Irish boy welcomed me into his bike shop to escape the rain. After we chatted for about an hour he asked me if he could kiss me, and as I had a boyfriend at the time, I was forced to decline. Sadness.
Since then I have returned to Ireland twice. And I can safely say that all three of my solo trips to the Emerald Isle have been amazing.
So please, think about Ireland if you've never traveled alone before but might want to try. I promise you won't regret it- and maybe, just maybe, a cute Irish guy will pull you out of the rain. And in that case I implore you to give him a kiss or two.
For more of my Ireland coverage: A Grand, Google-Filled Weekend in Dublin's Fair City, My 22nd Birthday in Cork, Ireland, A Journey to the West- Dingle, Ireland, Dingle II: Irish Heritage and Craggy Cliffs, A Mini Irish Road Trip