The question: I’m in my 20s and am planning my first big solo trip. I love culture and history, and I want to feel safe. Suggestions?
It's an exciting time to go abroad – no mortgage, no kids, no 300-thread-count-demands holding you back. And yet, if you get lost, miss a train or become homesick: “On your first solo trip, you have to overcome all adversities yourself,” says Emily Starbuck Crone, who writes Maiden Voyage ( maiden-voyage-travel.com).
If you're feeling anxious about breaking in your backpack solo, consider a destination where language is not an issue, she suggests. “Then, once you've gained experience and confidence in going it alone, take on the rest of the world.” Her three suggestions:
Edinburgh, Scotland: It's friendly, rich in the past and easy to navigate – if you can decode the thick accents. “I remember standing at the top of Edinburgh Castle and marvelling at the historic city below,” Starbuck Crone says. “Edinburgh is also home to incredible annual events such as the Military Tattoo and Fringe Festival.” For your culture fix, wander the reimagined Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the Gothic Rosslyn Chapel that inspired The Da Vinci Code and observe Dolly the sheep at the National Museum of Scotland.
London: It's easy to get around and there are castles, free masterpiece-rich museums and gorgeous parks to explore. “The soaring steeples of Westminster Abbey humbled me,” Starbuck Crone recalls. “Floating above the city in the London Eye and seeing all of the historic sights from the movies from above took my breath away.” The culture and history hit list goes on and on: seeing the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, walking through fashion history at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and checking off a plethora of name-dropping artists at the National Gallery. And if you're there as the city gets ready for the Olympic Games in the summer, prepare for a party.
Austin, Tex.: For her last pick, the 27-year-old-traveller picks her home turf. But instead of castles, the city buzzes with culture of a more contemporary kind. “Austin is loaded with music venues and bars, making our nightlife incredible for twentysomethings,” she says. “We're also the capital of Texas, so you can visit the gorgeous State Capitol Building. The city also has tons of cheap and delicious food trailers, popular music festivals, natural spring pools and quirky boutiques.”
And a final bonus of twentysomething travel? Unfettered by the bonds of home, once that travel confidence kicks in, you can just keep going.
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Follow Karan Smith on Twitter: @karan_smith. Special to The Globe and Mail