After losing my husband and globe-trotting partner of 24 years to cancer, I knew I would travel again someday. At nearly 60, I was still a relatively young woman, and there was a lot of world left to see. But my trips to so-called ‘romantic’ destinations were history as far as I was concerned.

While we all know the produce section at the local market can be romantic if you’re with the right person, as a newly single woman I would have sooner gone to Chernobyl than to a tropical beach, a glittering European capital, or one of those charming inns nestled along a country road somewhere.

As much as I had always loved traveling to those places, I assumed they were now strictly off limits.

The Big Surprise

So, no one was more surprised than I was to find myself on a flight to the Big Island of Hawaii not long after my husband died, having agreed to spend a week housesitting for a girlfriend.

Surprise quickly turned to dismay when I opened the front door of her magnificent beach house, all wall-to-wall glass, smooth linen, and ocean views – there was even a hot tub bubbling away on the deck.

How could she? I made a mental note never to speak to her again, then scanned the fridge to be sure my so-called friend had at least left me plenty of ice cream and wine. She had.

Turns out, I had a ball. The balmy breezes, spectacular views (from the bedroom, no less) and soothing water made for perfect lazy days spent reading, swimming, and napping.

Change of Heart

I rented a car and took myself on little adventures each day: an artists’ market in Kona one afternoon, hiking to a spectacular waterfall the next. My beach house was the perfect home base, and the very atmosphere that makes Hawaii ‘romantic’ is also liberating: it’s warm, easy, and relaxed.

No pressure to answer the phone, respond to an email, or fight with the credit card company that no longer wanted my business after my husband passed way. I could do and be anything I wanted, and it was heaven.

Since then I’ve been to Paris, Mexico, and the California wine country on my own. I also went on a solo safari to Africa, which is by many accounts the most romantic place on earth.

Every trip was an adventure: a mix of joy and yes, a touch of wistfulness. But any passing sadness was offset by the fun of it all.

Do you love ‘romantic’ destinations but worry they aren’t worth going solo? You might be surprised! Here are 5 tips for learning to love them in a new way:

Keep an Open Mind

Go into it knowing you might love it, or you might hate it, but you’ll probably have moments where both of those emotions apply.

Don’t worry if it’s not all rainbows and unicorns on your first try. Simply accept it for what it is: an experiment that may have unintended consequences, some of which will surprise you. Then do it again.

Start Small

I jumped into the deep end of the ocean – figuratively and literally – with my Hawaii trip. A safer bet for a first-time solo travel could be a nice little weekend getaway within driving distance: a boutique hotel somewhere lovely – a beach, a mountain village, a country inn.

Force yourself to have a glass of wine in the evening, go to a local restaurant or the neighborhood movie theater. Soak up the atmosphere and enjoy knowing you are actually “doing the damn thing.”

Choose the Destination Wisely

I love the tropics, so I tend to go for beach places that are generally considered romantic. The trick is choosing a destination that is beautiful but also offers a lot to do if you feel like it, such as Hawaii.

It’s also this combination of factors that appeals to a diverse set of visitors: old and young, singles, couples, and families, which means your solo status is not broadcast news.

This is in stark contrast to, say, Tahiti, which is incredibly gorgeous but doesn’t offer a ton to do other than swim, snorkel, and, well, you know. (There’s a reason it’s one of the world’s top destination for honeymooners. Avoid!)

Keep It Simple

Choose a no-pressure destination. Personally, I don’t want to go someplace with so many famous attractions I feel compelled to cram them all in before I leave or risk feeling I missed out. But wait, I love Paris!

My solution is simple: I go back. I saw the major sights on my first trip, thus no pressure on my second. If I feel like going to the Louvre again I can, or the Eiffel Tower, or Les Deux Magots.

However, I am equally happy to simply walk to the local patisserie for a pastry, a coffee, and a morning of people-watching from my little corner table.

A Tear or Two Is OK

Let’s face it. You’re going to get a little weepy from time to time. It happens to me regularly, whether I’m traveling abroad or watching Netflix at home. But wouldn’t we all rather be stretched out on a hammock strung between two coconut palms, banana daquiri in hand, when the moment hits?

And when it does, just remember – it will pass. Before you know it, you’ll be gazing back at that sparkling blue sea, a contented smile on your face and not a honeymooner in sight.

What ‘romantic’ destination did you visit solo? Was it a positive or negative experience? If you haven’t yet done it, where would you like to go on your first solo trip? Please share your stories, funny or touching or both!

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