Where would you recommend for first-time nomads or solo travelers?
It’s a question I’ve gotten more than a few times.
Because these days more and more people are taking to the road. Some to travel full-time and work. Some to travel solo. And, of course, doing something that big for the first time can feel utterly overwhelming.
So we turn to those who have gone before and we ask: Where should I go?
Of course, the best answer is always this: Where do you want to go? What places are tugging on your heart strings? And what do you want to do there? Are you looking for surfing paradises or museum-filled cities? For Alpine huts and solo hikes or bustling cities full of artists and meetups?
Everyone is different and, thus, the best answer for everyone is different.
That said, first-time solo travelers and nomads do often have a few things in common when they’re trying to pick a first destination. Most (though perhaps not all) probably want a place where it’ll be easy to meet people and make friends, a place that’s different from home but similar enough so that they can get around, and a place that feels safe.
If that’s what you’re looking for, after five years on the road, I have a few suggestions:
It’s a small town (and, thus, perfectly manageable and not overwhelming) full of surfing, yoga, and tacos. Good Wi-Fi is available if you’re working from the road. And it’s a vibrant, international little community of people from all over the world, usually staying for at least a month or two. English is widely spoken. You’re just 45 minutes from an airport. And as a woman traveling solo, I felt 100% safe there. I even walked myself home at 2 a.m.
This is the town where I made the most friends. I found it incredibly easy to meet people, strike up conversations, and be welcomed immediately into a warm, charming, funny, artistic community. English is widely spoken. The food is fantastic. It’s super cheap for Europe while also managing to be historic and interesting and way artsy. And gorgeous Bruges and hip Antwerp are less than half an hour by train. Brussels (and its airport) are just an hour.
Sunny and warm most of the year and full of incredibly friendly people who often speak English (especially the younger generation), Split would be a great first stop (particularly if you are starting your travels in the fall, winter, or spring – summer is probably a bit too hot and crowded).
Split is also much more affordable than most of Europe and is surrounded by interesting day trip options like seaside Omis or beachy Brela or the walled town of Trogir.
I met some amazing locals here via Couchsurfing (I didn’t stay with anyone, just contacted people to meet up for coffee), so I’d give it an A+ for friendliness too.
Ljubljana is super affordable (I spent less than $1,000 living there for two weeks) with gorgeous summer weather, super easy access to outdoor scenery and activities (Lake Bled and Soca Valley being at the top of my list), English-speaking locals, very good food, cool summer festivals, and very friendly people.
I adore the fresh market, the milk vending machines (yes, that’s a real thing!), the yummy Friday food festival downtown, and the outdoor jazz garden.
Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Here you’ll find gorgeous landscapes, good Wi-Fi, and tons of outdoor adventure travelers from all over the world (assuming you’re here in summer). It’s small, manageable, and well-connected to everything by train. Just make sure to budget a bit more, as this area isn’t cheap.
Gritty, chaotic, and rich in food, Rome is a great pick for big city lovers. You’ll find plenty of meetups and events if you want to meet people and make friends. Good Wi-Fi is relatively ubiquitous. And there’s plenty to do, especially if you’re into food or history.
One of Europe’s lesser-known capitals, Zagreb is super easy to navigate, has tons of green spaces, and is very pretty and very clean. Expect affordable prices, sprawling parks, widely spoken English, good Wi-Fi, and plenty of events and bustle in the summer.
Now, fellow nomads, anyone else have some favorite spots for newbies? Easy-to-navigate places where it’s easy to meet people, Wi-Fi is good, and a first-time traveler can dip their toes into the long-term travel pool?