If it’s your first time traveling alone or working remotely, it can be daunting trying to fit in so many new experiences. But traveling isn’t just about the things you do or the places you see – the people you meet along the way are a huge part of what makes a trip memorable. A swell of euphoria can come with solo travel, or with finding that ideal spot to set up your portable office, surrounded by people or a community that feels comfortable. Today’s landscape has a lot more scope for becoming a digital nomad and embracing the flexibility that can come from working anywhere in the world. It’s great to start small, or in cities where the transient adventure-loving lifestyle is already established and normalized. A place that will coax you out of your comfort zone bit by bit. Here are some of our favorite recommendations for friendly towns and cities that do exactly that.
Hoi An, Vietnam
With a maze of lantern-lined streets, the charming town of Hoi An – halfway down the coast of Vietnam – is a gorgeous place to kickstart a solo adventure. Grab a bike and pedal around the narrow lanes, framed by colorful stores and cafés. Like much of Vietnam, the atmosphere here tends to be friendly and welcoming, but it’s more chilled than the busy cities of Hanoi in the north and Ho Chi Minh down south. Whether you’re sipping on a mango smoothie on An Bang beach with resident expats, ambling along the mellow riverside or having a massage in one of the thatched stalls that line the marketplace, it won’t be long before you wind down, Hoi An-style.
Don’t miss: Hoi An is a tailoring capital and you can get beautiful fabrics made up into suits, maxi dresses and more.
Colombia is about color and the vibrant town of Guatapé is no exception. It’s only a short bus ride away from Medellín, so it’s easy to reach. In Guatapé, the streets are filled with pastel-colored homes bedecked with fresco-like zocalos that depict the story of whoever owns the building — partly why Guatapé is known as the most colorful town in Colombia. Nearby is Laguna Guatapé, a perfect spot for a private boat trip. For one of the best views in the world, head to El Peñol. It’s a steep climb up a set of stairs set into the rock, but the view is truly spectacular.
Don’t miss: For a spot of people-watching, head to Plaza de Zocalos, a small square where you can sink a cup of Colombian coffee served up by locals.
STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA
From spellbinding safaris to the magnificent beauty of the Garden Route, South Africa is rife with opportunities for adventure. But cities such as Durban and Johannesburg can feel overwhelming when looking for a quiet spot to explore. The leafy Cape Winelands town of Stellenbosch is often considered one of the friendliest towns to visit and a good way to ease yourself in to solo travel. Surrounded by rolling vineyards, Stellenbosch is only a 40-minute drive or train ride away from Cape Town – and it’s like a tiny, laid-back slice of its bigger coastal sister. A glass of something chilled at the end of a working day is a great idea in this region and you’ll find yourself in the stellar company of Stellenbosch’s student population who throng the pavement cafés, creating a lively night scene.
Don’t miss: A guided trek through Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, a 27,000-acre space dotted with valleys and mountains.
KOSGODA, SRI LANKA
Embrace the spirit of adventure in the small coastal town of Kosgoda in Sri Lanka. This slice of paradise is one of our favorite towns and should be on any solo traveler’s bucket list. The sandy beaches are also home to turtle conservation projects, so you can meet new people while helping nature thrive. This is a great, calm spot for anyone looking to become a digital nomad, too, with a stretch of beach to stroll along after working hours are done. Lap up the sun, surrounded by incredible wildlife, before taking a surfboard out onto the water and ending your day at a beachside bar.
Don’t miss: Hop on one of the nearby river safaris to glide through wetlands, surrounded by mangroves and a host of flora and fauna.
Wandering through the streets of Portugal‘s capital Lisbon, with its azulejo-tiled buildings and Manueline (late-Gothic) cathedrals, can keep any solo traveler enthralled for hours. The faded beauty of the city gives room for pause and to slow down, while there’s plenty of food markets and coastline to explore, too. While not quite a small, secluded spot, Lisbon is a great space for digital nomads, with plenty of internet-friendly cafes and bars, plus a great nightlife scene. While away hours scrambling up and down the hilly city, stopping off at viewpoints, ancient ruins, wine bars and fado houses along the way.
Don’t miss: Jumping between stalls of fresh seafood, croquettes and pasteis de nata, at Time Out Market Lisbon.
If you’re in need of a little TLC, head to the town of Tepoztlán in Mexico. A popular spot for artists and musicians, it’s known as a “Pueblo Mágico” (magical town), surrounded by laid-back nature that acts as a balm for the soul. Surrounding the town is El Tepozteco National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site, famed for the incredible wildlife, living deep in its rainforests. For the best views, take a hike to the summit of El Tepozteco, an Aztec pyramid, to take in the beauty of your surroundings. Back in the town itself, there are craft markets lining bohemian streets and the colorful floating gardens of Xochimilco to explore. With such a variety of things to do and see, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make new friends.
Don’t miss: Wind down with a temazcal (ancient sweat lodge ritual) where heat from volcanic rocks creates a natural steam room, expelling aches and pains.
Istanbul is another great option for traveling solo or as a digital nomad, with remote work-friendly options weaved into its cafe culture. Several Unesco World Heritage Sites frame the city and it’s a hub for exploring the rest of Turkey with accessible flights and public transport, making weekend trips to places like Pamukkale, and the thermal waters of Cleopatra’s Pool, possible. The streets in Istanbul are beautiful winding paths of minarets, mosaics and mosques, as well as bazaars to pick up great ingredients for cooking. Beyond, there are food markets for gözleme (stuffed flatbreads) pitstops and pottery kebab banquets.
Don’t miss: Crossing over the city’s Bosphorus by boat – a waterway marking the continental boundary between Asia and Europe.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Traveling solo (or with a group of other soloists) to Argentina‘s capital Buenos Aires gives you freedom to explore the city’s friendly hospitality and big-ticket landmarks. It’s becoming an increasingly popular destination for digital nomads, too, with a rise of co-working spaces opening up across the city. Buenos Aires is known for its incredible food and wine scene, with tango parlours and square-side dance performances that light up the city, especially at night. Beyond the city, there’s the ice fields and glaciers of Patagonia to explore, the vineyards of Mendoza, or the peaks of the Andes.
Don’t miss: A drink or tango show in the city’s oldest cafe, Cafe Tortoni – beloved by painters, writers and musicians.
Got a story or adventure that could inspire a solo traveler like you? Tag @flashpack on social or email [email protected] to be featured.
Images: Flash Pack, Unsplash & Adobe Stock