Going abroad for the first time can be a daunting prospect, particularly if you’re traveling solo. Fortunately, there are a few basic guidelines you can follow to select a destination that won’t overwhelm even the least experienced tourist.
Close at Hand
When it’s your first time on a non-domestic airplane, a twenty-hour red-eye flight may not be the best introduction. Choose to visit a nearby country to cut down on both the difficulty of your journey and the cost of your ticket. For Americans, that means hopping the border to Canada or Mexico. You certainly won’t be sacrificing excitement. In our northern neighbor, you might choose to see the astonishing acrobatics of Cirque du Soleil in its hometown of Montreal or perhaps a cozy ski lodge in the Rocky Mountains is calling your name. South of the border, you can explore Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula or give parasailing a whirl in adventure capital Acapulco. For extra authentic fun, time your visit for the Day of the Dead in late October and early November.
If you feel up to a longer flight, the easiest places to visit overseas are those that share your language. Being in an unfamiliar city is trying enough without worrying about mixing up the words for “thank you” with something a bit more incendiary. English speakers will likely feel most comfortable in England, Ireland, or Australia.
Samuel Johnson wasn’t wrong when he said “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” The capital of the United Kingdom is one of the most exciting, historical cities in the world and with imperial tons of iconic sites like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, and Big Ben, you’re sure to find something to tickle your fancy.
For a slightly different shade of local color, hop across the Irish Sea to bonnie Dublin. Top sights include St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College. You’ll also find several literary points of interest, like the Writers Museum and the James Joyce Center. Indulge your beer tooth with a tour of the Guinness Storehouse or a long and winding pub crawl.
For a serious adventure, make your way across the other pond to the land down under. Australia is a massive country and you certainly won’t be able to fit it all in one trip. You might choose to visit cosmopolitan Sydney or Melbourne, go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef from the northeastern coast, or rough it in the infamous Outback.
So, you can grit your teeth through a long flight and don’t mind packing a phrasebook, but still have a few jitters about being in a foreign country for the first time. Make a beeline for countries with friendly people and major tourist attractions, ensuring folks will be well accustomed to welcoming outsiders.
Major European capitals like Paris, Rome, and Berlin see millions of visitors each year and though English may not be the official language – and you should always try to learn a few key phrases in your destination’s mother tongue – you’re likely to still run into waiters, shopkeepers, hotel staff, and even a few locals who will be able to understand you.
Bali, in Indonesia, is also well-known for being a popular and safe holiday destination. You’ll meet not just friendly locals, but loads of fellow travelers and ex-patriots as well. Southeast Asia in general has a tremendous backpacking culture and in Bali, especially, you’ll find a mix of breathtaking resorts and inexpensive accommodations to suit any budget.
For a more metropolitan experience, venture to Japan. Though Tokyo’s size may be overwhelming and the Japanese language is extremely difficult for Westerners to master, the people you meet will be so welcoming and considerate, you’ll find it hard to believe you once thought you couldn’t overcome the hurdles.