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Iceland is the place to go when you need to escape reality and immerse yourself in nature. Though Iceland is small (about the size of Ohio) and has a population of only 320,000 people, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in stunning scenery. Iceland has glaciers, black sand beaches, volcanoes (130 of them) and hundreds of waterfalls, which give it a mystical, otherworldly feel that can make you feel like you’ve fallen into the pages of a fairy tale. And you won’t have to worry about running out of time to see everything, because during the summer, the sun shines nearly round the clock.
Why Go Solo: While traveling with a friend is fun, it can be distracting and sometimes hinder your ability to remain in the moment. Gossiping about a co-worker while traipsing across one of Iceland’s many fields of lava rocks or listening to a friend vent about her boy problems while wading through a volcanic hot spring, detracts from the experience and prevents you from fully appreciating your surroundings.
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The Spanish colonial town Antigua is the shining exception in an otherwise impoverished and crime-stricken country. Its cobble-stoned streets, bright-colored storefronts, towering cathedrals and tree-lined parks make it not only popular with tourists but with students as well. Antigua is one of the cheapest (if not the cheapest) place to study Spanish. For just two or three dollars per hour, students can receive private Spanish lessons from one of Antigua’s dozens of Spanish language schools, many of whose programs include a homestay, volunteer opportunities, excursions and even free salsa dance lessons.
Why Go Solo: If improving your Spanish skills is your goal, then full emersion is essential. Because many of the waiters and tour guides in Antigua speak English, it’ll be hard enough to find opportunities to practice your Spanish as it is. Having an English-speaking travel buddy around all the time will make it all the more difficult.
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South Korea is a small country (roughly the size of West Virginia) and has one of the most reliable and convenient public transportation systems in the world, which makes traveling cross country completely doable even for travelers on a tight schedule. The locals are eager to help foreigners and aren’t too proud or shy to attempt some English, should Korean prove too difficult for you to wrap your head around. Korean food is some of the healthiest and tastiest in the world and Korean culture, (with its fish pedicures and mud festival) is foreign enough to be fascinating to the average Westerner, without being overwhelming or threatening.
Why Go Solo: In an ethnically and culturally-homogenous society like South Korea, a group of foreign tourists can seem intimidating and unapproachable. Thus, if interaction with the locals is your goal and if you want to have a shot at gaining an insight into Korean culture, traveling alone is the way to go. You can couch-surf or stay with a Korean family through a homestay program, which is a lot easier to arrange when you’re alone and not part of a couple or a group.
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Ireland is a great pick for solo-travel newbies not quite ready for the culture shock of Guatemala or language barrier of South Korea. The Irish are a friendly, hospitable bunch and very approachable. What’s more, there’s no stigma attached to women drinking (as there is in more conservative countries), so female travelers can enjoy a pint in a pub and not worry about any unwanted attention.
Why Go Solo: With over 400 castles in The Republic of Ireland alone and a dozen art and history museums in its capital, Dublin (including The National Leprechaun Museum), Ireland is soaked in history. You can spend days wandering through castle corridors or the mammoth 135-year-old National Museum of Ireland. Because museums are primarily a solitary experience, they’re easiest to enjoy alone, when you’re not pressured to rush through an exhibit and can take as little or as much time as you want.
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The town of Tulum, Mexico (located 80 miles southeast of Cancun), is best known for being the shockingly-beautiful seaside backdrop of the ancient Mayan city, Tulum. In recent years, however, Tulum has earned a reputation as an idyllic location for yoga and meditation retreats. The eco-friendly cabana hotels bunched along the Caribbean Sea are primitive (there are no televisions and the electricity is generated from windmills) but that’s part of the appeal. Visitors to Tulum can partake in daily yoga courses and guided meditations or scuba through nearby freshwater caves.
Why Go Solo: Few other activities offer a bigger opportunity for self-reflection than solo travel. And a few quiet days spent journaling or meditating on a white sand beach can be a nice way to give yourself some space to de-stress and gather your thoughts.