Because this is your episode - where your equivalents of Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, and Chandler are all busy (yes, I made myself Ross - because if I had to choose, I am Ross). And so, you are leaving Central Perk behind and choosing to travel solo.
And lucky you.
Solo travel has its own special “je ne sais quoi”. A feeling of oneness with the world and the people who inhabit it - a giddy feeling of adventure and autonomy, a confidence in your capacity and your sense of self. However, despite the magic, it can also be accompanied by feelings of concern, worry, and much anxiety (yes, sometimes you will have to ask a stranger to take your photo!).
The key to solo travel is knowing how to be solo on days you want to be on your own and in community the days you crave company.
The key to solo travel is knowing how to be solo on days you want to be on your own and in community the days you crave company. And what is most essential to that is knowing yourself.
If you learn to listen to yourself, you will have a good sense of the days you want to be solo versus the days you want to find community. Solo travel is, at its core, an endeavour in self- awareness. Want to sleep in until noon, have lunch, and read a book for the afternoon on one of your days in Spain? Do it. Want to fill every moment with activities, not have a moment to yourself, and meet hoards of people? We support you.
The key is to remember that this is your trip, your journey, your experience, and the best way to actualize any life journey is to listen to yourself and honour what is best for you.
I'll give you a snippet of my experience.
I am a true extrovert. I am thoughtful and introspective but quite chatty (ok, I’ll admit it - I am very, very chatty). I enjoy a good game of intellectual tennis, and thrive in community. So when I have travelled solo in the past, I’ve enjoyed my time alone but also relished in the fact that being on my own allows me the opportunity to foster genuine connections with other travellers. Connections that I may not have developed had I been travelling with a friend.
When travelling on my own in Ecuador, I made two friends who saved me during my dengue fever scare and with whom I am still closely in touch with today - soul sisters as we call ourselves (that’s you my Ladies of Sea, Erin and Zaritha!). I also made special bonds when living in Bangkok, with remarkable people who I still call friends, as well as others I have met along my own travel journey. And sometimes, I've made lovely connections with people who remain a key part of my experience, but with whom I am no longer in touch.
So when you experience that moment when you crave community, seek it out. You can always find Travel Buddies around you, or through our app, so you can get searching for a travel buddy in advance, or meet a few while abroad! From the comfort of your bed, you can find any number of people eager to explore and journey with you. Don’t fret, the world is your oyster and that oyster is shared with other travel souls whose paths are just waiting to cross with yours.
There will be some days when you want to be on your own, which is totally fine - remember, you are the author of your own life and your own journey. I mean, this list even applies to people not travelling solo but need a “me” day away from their travel buddy (which is also totally OK, and encouraged!). So here is a list of awesome attractions to hit up when on your own!
Some of them can be seen on free walking tours of the city, and others can be found on Wandure where we have local, unique experiences you can choose from. And fortunately, many of Wandure’s experiences accommodate 1 person, so you can sign up solo and feel great! Also check out PlacePass.com, they have a remarkable number of activities to choose from to suit your travel needs - many of which can be booked solo. Be sure to check out their many activities in Barcelona
Having trouble figuring out how to schedule your day? Check out this incredible blog post providing you with a 48 hour itinerary for a magical time in Barcelona. With activities suggested to fill your day from the morning hours to lunchtime, to the afternoon, to the evening, you can easily follow the schedule and take a deep breathe - with this itinerary you will see it all without the stress of scheduling the day.
Barcelona is a beautiful city. It is filled with a genuine warmth and there is much to explore.
Architecture - Thankfully most museums, churches etc. are quiet places where you are not encouraged to chat - so being on your own isn’t at all worrisome! There’s an endless supply of opportunity to explore the architectural wonders of Barcelona.
The architecture tells part of the city''s story. The life of Antonio Gaudi for example is as fascinating a s his legacies. Short version: he was an architectural genius that insisted on dressing in rags, whose style as aptly been described as “unique, often imitated but never matched”. Check out some of Gaudi’s best works, such as the Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Casa Battlo, Park Guell, and Colonia Guell. There are plenty of experiences on Wandure that you can join to site-see these amazing works.
Stroll around the city and take in the wonder. Start with Las Ramblas, a gorgeous, tree lined pedestrian road with plenty of restaurants and outdoor patios. It is lovely to spend some time walking down this beautiful vein of the city. It is also close to the beach, which you can make your way towards the sea for a nice dip following your walk along Las Ramblas! Because why not?
Dancing and Spanish culture go hand in hand. And so, why not partake in this favourite Spanish past time? Think you need a partner? Think again? Wandure has an experience where you can check it out solo. Check out the Backroom Flamenco Dance Class where you will learn Flamenco tips from performers, taste traditional wine, and get a tour of the Atelier workshop the lesson is housed within.
Exploring Spanish food is an activity to itself, from Basque cuisine to traditional Catalan cuisine you will be eating your way through Barcelona and enjoying every moment. Just note that in Spain, people tend to eat dinner late so pack snacks or indulge in tapas in the afternoon (more on them later, yum). Oh and the coffee is a great addition to any afternoon in Barcelona - check out café con leche (as per a Wandure reader's suggestion - thanks for prompting my memory of this delicious indulgence, Yolanda!)
Paella is a national treasure in Spain, and you can certainly indulge in a sampling of it in Barcelona. And through experiences on Wandure, you can even learn to cook your own paella, and bring the skill home (it will be sure to impress at your next dinner party)! Also, check out this blog for some of the best authentic paella spots to visit in Barcelona.
Tapas are the name of the game in Barcelona. The term “tapas” is an ode to a time when small shared dishes were covered with a “tapa”, a lid which protected them from hoards of flies that would otherwise take ownership of the delicious food beneath. This was mainly in the dive bars that were home to tapas. Nowadays, tapas can be found in dive bars, as well as within popular and elegant tapas bars. So go on a tapas tour and embrace the meal ahead. And lucky you, they are small enough that you can try a multitude of different flavours!
Seafood lovers, get ready. Most Spanish food is fairly heavy in seafood, and pork (so much pork). So if those are your favourites, Barcelona is the city for you. Seafood is particularly prominent in Barcelona on account of its proximity to the sea. On Wandure, you can learn to cook with a local, and bring home some ideas on how to cook your seafood and pork favourites
Markets are a staple in most travel itineraries. They reveal the organic bustle of a city, and often represent the heart of the city itself. Barcelona is home to the famous La Boqueria market. Fun fact, there has been a market in this spot since medieval times. Today, the market is enclosed, and has stalls upon stalls of fresh vegetables, fruits, cold meats, and more. There is also an assortment of market bars where you can cool down with a beer and tapas. Or take your fare to go, and eat it along the while beach listening to the crash of the Mediterranean waves. So many choices.
While not the first thing you may conceptualize when you think of Barcelona, there is an ample selection of outdoor adventure that awaits you. Below are only a few.
Scuba diving and surfing are bucket list items and you can check them off while in Barcelona. And easily do so on your own! You can scuba dive in the Mediterranean sea and experience the magic of Barcelona through its aquatic life. Wandure has a nice selection of water based activities for you to choose from, including an intro to scuba diving. Also check out your surfing options, and ride the wave Spanish style.
Hiking is one of my favourite activities, and so having the opportunity to explore any city from the vantage point of mountains is an essential piece of my intimacy with any city I visit. Montserrat, a beautiful mountain range in the Catalonia region, holds a deep history (it is a religious retreat for Catalans), and is a fabulous hiking spot with remarkable views from its jagged edges. The monastery on Montserrat is built amidst the mountains’ rocky surface making for impressive architectural feats in this high, peaceful outdoor oasis. Check out this great blog for tips on how to get to Montserrat and a brief review of its history.
Nightlife. Confession - I am not a nightlife girl. But when I was in Barcelona I was convinced to check out the clubs on the beach and I actually had an awesome time. There is something to being by the sea that is innately calming - even with RDM music thumping in the background
Popularized by mindfulness, there is an idiom that has existed for centuries in Eastern thought - it is that idea that “where-ever you go, there you are”. It is simple really - no matter where you travel, no matter where you move, or where you wander, you and you alone are the constant. We cannot escape ourselves - you are still you whether you are in Vancouver, Canada or Lisbon, Portugal. The lesson being that happiness lies within. We are the constant in our journeys - we cannot escape ourselves. So stay safe and enjoy your journey.
Travelling solo is the perfect opportunity to actualize the happiness and wholeness we all crave. And Barcelona is a fabulous place to begin.
Could there be a better place to start? (Yes that was a Chandler reference - you’re welcome).