My Big Fat Solo-Cation in Ireland

As a housekeeping note, I’ve extended the giveaway on my last post until 9PM 11/17.

O'Brien's Tower Cliffs of Moher

I survived my first solo vacation.

It was everything I expected.

It was nothing I expected.

I found power not in getting on a plane alone to fly 3000 miles away to a country where I knew nobody; I found that strength in driving on the other side of the road. Alone. At night.

I found power switching hotels when the AirBnB I’d booked sort of on a whim didn’t work out for my goals (…of being able to walk to a pub.)

I found power not having a plan and allowing the days to take me where they may (no easy feat for a crazy New Yorker.)

When that meant returning to the Cliffs of Moher on a sunny day (even though I’d already been there two days earlier), I honored that.

When that same visit brought me to my knees in tears from beauty and grief, I honored that.

I spent a good amount of time enjoying my own company and curiosity, and I spent time frustrated with my own company, spiraling and reflecting on what I didn’t have in my life.

But I let that spiral pass, as they may. And it did.

Doolin Cave Preppy Runner

(Also, in a totally last minute decision, I realized I should probably bring some sort of raincoat with me…and, like, probably not a Burberry trench kinda raincoat, so I grabbed my 15-year-old ski jacket and took out the liner. Smartest thing I did all trip.)

The keys, I found, to a successful solo trip:

  • a journal. I’m a pretty introspective person to begin with, but good lord, a lot of feelings come up on a solo trip, and it’s nice to be able to get them down on paper and out of your head sometimes. I was hoping to reach some level of clarity on professional goals while I was there…but I actually found it on the 7-hour-flight home. WHY are flights so good for getting stuff done?! BRB looking for next flight.
  • a good book. Sometimes I talked to other people when I was eating, but when I didn’t, it was nice to have a book to keep me company. There’s only so much time you can spend attempting to memorize the labels on bottles in the bar…
  • sitting at the bar, rather than a table — that way I could talk to others at the bar, the bartender, etc
  • having someone at home to check in with when I was feeling lonely. Because, yeah. I was alone, so I did feel lonely sometimes. My dad called a few times, because I think he was pretty worried about me traveling alone after so much had happened this year, and I think he’s developing that same sixth sense my mom had — he called to check in just as I was starting to feel really sad and lonely walking down from the Cliffs of Moher, and I had a few friends who I think were equally concerned, and I checked in with them a few times, too.

But I’m proud of myself for doing this first solo trip, and I know I might not have had the guts to do this a year ago. This year has sucked, but it’s given me so much strength — and perspective. Traveling alone to another country (with no language barrier) is hard? Nope. Watching your mom die is hard.

Have you ever taken a totally solo trip like this? I’ve traveled alone on business or to a wedding or something, but that’s not the same.

I can’t remember if I’ve linked the piece I wrote on grief travel, but here it is if not. One of my favorite things Claire Bidwell Smith, my expert for the piece, told me in our interview: travel feels good during grief because everything in your life feels new anyway, so it can be comforting to experience those feelings in a place that’s new too, rather than a new reality in your same surroundings.

14 comments on “My Big Fat Solo-Cation in Ireland

  1. Carolyn M

    Yes; I took quite a few big solo trips when I was single. I went to Paris, Dublin, Edinburgh, and all over Germany on my own. It was scary at times, and lonely, but also incredibly empowering. In a weird way I was never really super excited about taking them — it felt like I was doing it to prove something to myself — but once I was there and in it I was always so grateful that I took the leap.

    Reply
  2. SOKPHAL

    I’m really proud of you for taking the leap and doing this solo trip. It seems like it was what your soul needed to help with the grieving process. While I haven’t gone through what you just went with your Mom…I know that the time will come with my parents, they aren’t going to live forever, so thank you for being real and sharing your thoughts here and in your IG stories. I actually love solo traveling – most of the time I end up meeting people and am hardly alone.

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  3. ACL

    I took my first solo trip earlier this year after my divorce was finalized. Divorce also results in loss, though different, and I found like the trip was a needed “re-set” for me. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I had similar bouts of loneliness and some ugly crying. Glad you enjoyed yourself, and thanks for the tip on sitting at the bar; I hadn’t even thought of that!

    Reply
    1. Theodora Blanchfield Post author

      Oh totally — I have a good friend who got divorced recently who’s felt the same about traveling. Divorce and death are incredibly similar in loss feelings, I think, in that you’re expecting your life to look a certain way and this person to play a certain role in it and that change is a huge loss/adjustment.

      Reply
  4. Gianna

    I love love love solo travel. In the past year or so I’ve done Paris, Croatia, Italy, Spain and recently a week road trip around New England. I am also prone to doing things in the city on my own if I can’t find anyone up for it (which, is like ALL the time my closest friends all do not live close anymore thanks to marriage and kids).
    I imagine with the year you have had it was difficult but kudos to you for taking the step!

    Reply
    1. Theodora Blanchfield Post author

      Damn girl! That’s a lot of awesome solo travel all in one year!! Has it been difficult in places where you don’t speak the language? That’s what I’m a little nervous about solo. Although I guess a lot of places also have a lot of English speakers huh?

      Also! I’m always down to hang out in the city 🙂

      Reply
  5. AmyC

    Traveling solo to another country sounds terrifying. So impressed by your courage and sense of adventure. Hope it helped heal your heart a little.

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  6. Heidi

    I am so glad to hear that you enjoyed your trip! I love travelling by myself and have done it often. I also moved to the other side of the world for a year by myself (Australia to Canada) without knowing a soul or having a job / clue. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Driving on the “wrong” side of road is always an adventure!!

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  7. Kayla

    I’m WITH you on the magical revelations on planes. I always look forward to long flights to LA for this bizarre reason. And then I’m disappointed if I don’t have a life changing revelation

    Reply
  8. cathryn

    I used to travel on my own all the time when I was young (like 20-25) and I loved it so much, it was so freeing and empowering. Then I met my husband and discovered the joys of travelling with him. So a few years later, I took myself off to Paris for the weekend all alone to see if I could still do it.

    I could still do it. I was still me. It was amazing.

    I love travelling with my family, I really do. I love sharing things with them. But travelling alone is badass. You did well.

    Reply
  9. katie

    You might hate me for this…but I’m considering a solo trip for me 30th birthday (it will also be my golden birthday) i had so many damn plans for how life would look at 30, and my life certainly will not look like i imagined. But ireland is up there for potential trip destinations!

    Reply

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