Travel destinations for one
July 15, 2018 5:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some vacation ideas for a first time solo traveler. Where have you been that might be a good fit?

I've got two weeks of vacation time to use before the end of the year. My friends that I'd usually do a trip with have used their vacation already, so it looks like I'll have to go solo for this one.

I'm leaning towards a destination outside the US. This would be my first solo international trip, but I've done a couple solo trips inside the US before.

It needs to be someplace that's gay friendly (or at least where it's not an arrestable offence), for my own safety.

General details:
• I'm male, late 20s
• Would be flying out of the midwest US
• Time frame between 10 and 15 days, somewhere around August through October.

Some things I really enjoyed on past trips:
• The Outdoors: One of my favorite trips in the past was to Yellowstone, loved almost everything about it especially the animals.
• Museums: I love museums in general since it's self paced, quiet, and contemplative.
• Art: I've always had an interest in painting and a beginner's painting trip sounds fun or a place with good landscapes to paint would be great.
• Exploring cities: Loved trips where I could get a group tour from a local guide and then just explore the city for a bit on my own afterwards. I especially liked cities that were easily walkable for this.

Any suggestions that might be a good fit for me?
posted by Chicoreus to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
The Netherlands sounds like a good fit.
posted by MovableBookLady at 5:40 PM on July 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

posted by oceanjesse at 5:42 PM on July 15, 2018

Japan is great in the autumn (October), set up well for solo travelers, has great museums (esp. Tokyo), and would allow you to explore cities and outdoors alike, with the high-speed transit network (and cheap pass for foreigners) that lets you zip between them.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 5:52 PM on July 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you're feeling wary of going somewhere with a language barrier, I wholeheartedly recommend the U.K. I have taken many solo trips there (ok well not the entire U.K., just Great Britain, proving that unlike our president, I know the difference).

All of the things you enjoy can be found there, and it's so small*, you can do all of them within a couple hours easy train travel. I usually have to decide before I go wether I'm going North (York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Scottish Highlands and Islands) or South (London, Cambridge, Bath, the Cotswolds, Wales). That keeps the travel reasonable and allows me a few days in each place. Autumn weather is milder than you'll find back home, though, yanno, occasionally wet.

*I too am from the Midwest U.S. Our scale of "too much of a pain in the ass to get to" is calibrated entirely differently than the British.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:56 PM on July 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

I was all ready to say somewhere like Paris, but honestly I think you would like very gay-friendly Victoria, BC as your city base, which would then let you explore Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. I suppose as a British Columbian I'm a little biased, but while I've travelled abroad a lot and adore many non-Canadian destinations, Vancouver Island/the Gulf Islands have some of the most beautiful wilderness I've seen (great for painting landscapes). And, as a city, Victoria is very walkable--there are lots of good local history walking tours--and it's a government town so there are quite a few cool museums.

You would even have enough time to take the ferry and do a couple of days in Vancouver if you wanted, and you could go up to Whistler (some more beautiful wilderness) from Vancouver.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:57 PM on July 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

The Camino Frances would fit your time schedule most likely, and tick most of the boxes. It's also a great way to meet people.
posted by frumiousb at 6:08 PM on July 15, 2018

I asked a similar question a few years ago and ended up in Italy (Orvieto-Florence-Ferrara-Venice-Rome). I can't speak to how gay friendly it is though.
posted by kjs4 at 6:15 PM on July 15, 2018

Autumn leaves in Miyajima. With a rail pass, you could do a couple of days in Tokyo, and then make your way south. I did a temple stay by myself and it was fantastic.

Japan is gay-friendly in the sense that it is safe for tourists. There are some gay clubs and cafes that are not open to foreigners, so it is best to check English language gay travel guides instead of simply heading out to the nightlife area.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:39 PM on July 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

This doesn't seem to be a very difficult question to answer. Maybe Montreal or Rio de Janeiro?
posted by Borborygmus at 6:58 PM on July 15, 2018

It's hard to give more advice without knowing more about your specific interests, but...

Spain and/or Portugal. You could pick two cities that are nearish to each other and split a week-ish between them, then spend five or six days in nature. Loads of great art in historic, picturesque and highly walkable cities; beautiful, diverse landscapes in the countryside. It's easy to get around, especially in Spain. I can't speak for gay friendliness per se, but my impression is that it's pretty gay friendly, especially in the cities.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:20 PM on July 15, 2018

Canada (Montreal and Vancouver).

All of these are liberal-minded, safe places to travel as a solo traveler (of any orientation). Spendy, yes. But they will provide you with culture, interesting people, beautiful sights.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:02 PM on July 15, 2018

Thailand, if you want to go a little further.

It's easy to get around with English, and in general- it's a country used to tourists. It's beautiful and interesting. It's relatively gay-friendly. It has big cities as well as nature to explore.
posted by bearette at 8:20 PM on July 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Naoshima in Japan?
posted by huimangm at 8:36 PM on July 15, 2018

I'm a gay guy who sometimes travels solo. The UK is an easy destination, lots to do, and an easy jumping-off destination if you wanted to hit more of Europe. London - Paris - Berlin might be a fun itinerary. I would not do Iceland solo, just because I think the best way to see the country is to rent a car and we had to drive through some fairly gnarly storms while we were there (although it was December, so maybe you wouldn't have that issue). Reykjavik's one gay bar is hella cute, though. Australia, maybe? New Zealand is staggeringly beautiful, and if you've got an adventurous streak, the canyoneering is some of the most fun I've ever had. I visited Japan solo for four days and found it very easy to get around, despite not speaking the language. The gay bars I visited were smaller than my living room, and the patrons were politely confused by my presence. 10-15 days is a lot! Wherever you go, have a great trip.
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:46 PM on July 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Agree that The Netherlands is a good choice; its size means you can easily mix time in cities with time in nature. Amsterdam is a good starting point for museums, art, and gay culture; De Hoge Veluwe National Park is a good place to experience nature (and has a large art museum located inside); and there are lots of other cities for day-tripping, like Utrecht, Rotterdam, and Den Haag. The cities are pretty safe as long as you practice basic city awareness and pickpocket avoidance. It's also relatively easy for English speakers to navigate; most people speak English and most tourist-oriented websites have an English option.
posted by neushoorn at 3:40 AM on July 16, 2018

I went to Berlin a couple years ago (and even asked for, and received, a wonderful MetaFilter IRL birthday meetup!) and I think it ticks most of your boxes, except for maybe the outdoorsy stuff.

Berlin has incredible museums (I went to at least 2 a day while I was there for a week and still didn't get to most of them), tons of arty things, and lots of fun city things to explore.
posted by mostly vowels at 6:06 AM on July 16, 2018

In addition to Vancouver Island, I'd perhaps consider the Canadian Maritimes. (I'm planning a trip there myself in the fall.) The outdoors is spectacular - particularly if you like the ocean, and there are a ton of small museums, plus if you travel towards the end of your window you get the fall colours.

It's mostly smaller towns; Halifax is the main city with ~400,000 people and I suspect the best place for LGBT nightlife. However, 78% of regional residents agreed to the statement "I find it great that in our society, two people of the same sex can get married."
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:04 AM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nthing the Netherlands - tons of major art galleries and very explorable cities. They even have a massive art gallery in the middle of a national park that you can ride through with free bicycles (the park not the gallery).

10-15 days is a long time for one place (except Japan, where it's a minimum) - consider an 'open jaw' trip where you fly into one city (like Amsterdam) and out of another (Berlin, Paris, London). You can even fly to Europe with IcelandAir via Reykjavík, which includes a stopover in Iceland. So you can add on Iceland to any European trip for free, and fly into/out of different cities for less than a return ticket on most other carriers.
posted by Gortuk at 10:11 AM on July 16, 2018

Japan is everything you want and definitely both remarkably easy and charmingly exotic. It is also very good value: business hotels and hostels plus the railpasses can make it cheaper than almost any other developed country to visit once you get here. I’ve paid as little as $30 for my own room in a well-maintained business hotel near a train station in smaller places, for example.

With the traditional Japan Rail Pass you can plan an itinerary that starts in Tokyo, sets off west and ends in Kyoto before zipping back to Tokyo on the evening of the last day of the pass’ validity meaning you can make a seven-day rail pass last for a full ten days of vacation or more. Even just using the pass for a simple Tokyo-Kyoto-Tokyo return is cheaper than walk-up tickets and reserved seats are free. There is also a 14-day version.

You really can just get on just about any train and it is good value for multiple long-distance trips: for example, over seven days you could activate it on day one in the morning in Tokyo, use days two/three to get to Kyoto via somewhere lovely and quiet like Takayama, see Kyoto and do a daytrip like Nara on days four-six, and then use the last day to get to Hiroshima via a stopover at the amazing Himeji Castle, getting a flight back home from Hiroshima via Tokyo, or using the last day to come back to Tokyo stopping off somewhere en route like Kanazawa.

There are also cheaper passes that are region specific or route specific. The Hokuriku Arch Pass might work well for you as it goes via the quieter Sea of Japan side and is a bit cheaper than the full Japan Rail Pass while still covering the two main destinations of Tokyo and Kyoto. This one is excellent value for Kansai, the region around Osaka/Kyoto/Nara, for example.

Also look at JAL and ANA’s special fares for visiting tourists.
posted by mdonley at 11:59 AM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I haven't looked through all the comments to your post, but I'm surprised Spain and Portugal haven't come up more. They're absolutely beautiful destinations with lots of geographic and cultural diversity and beauty.

Both countries are, relative to the rest of Western Europe, very, very affordable. I'll speak more to Spain here - Barcelona and Madrid have some *incredible* museums and vibrant gay cultures (the whole country is extremely gay friendly) while the entire country has a varied amount of landscapes that are a painter's dream.

After you've explored the bigger cities, head to Andalusia (Southern Spain) for mountains, moorish architecture, and beautiful beaches or to the North East of the country for rolling green hills. Destinations in Portugal are really close if you get sick of Spain (doubtful that would happen). Everything is well connected by plane, train, bus and automobile so it's easy to get around.

I lived in Spain for a brief time and did all my travels solo - it's a great country to meet new people. There are so many international travelers and Spaniards tend to be really friendly. Tickets in September and October are also pretty cheap if you time it right! I hope you have a fantastic trip!
posted by dontevengetmestarted at 8:27 PM on August 14, 2018

I was in Portugal in June, specifically in Porto. I was surprised how expensive it was. Perhaps it was the Euro; perhaps it was the sudden rush of tourists in recent years, with sudden demand driving prices upwards; perhaps it was the poor showing of the Canadian dollar against the all-mighty Euro. Most likely a combination of all of the above.

All this to say that the prices that I saw (and paid) for food, lodging, entertainment in Porto and elsewhere along the Douro river were similar to the prices I had paid for food, lodging and entertainment with Swedish crowns in Sweden the weeks before. Shocking? Oh yes.

Gone are the days of the "affordable vacation" in Portugal.
posted by seawallrunner at 6:24 PM on September 10, 2018

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