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Four O.N.S Staff Members Explain Why Traveling Alone is the Best

Vacationing alone is perhaps the truest form of luxury travel. With no friends or family to squabble with about where to eat or what to see, there’s no one to hold you back from doing exactly what you want, whether that’s visiting the largest open air art museum in the  world or just kicking back with a cold beer in a tiny town of only 400 people. Solo travel offers ultimate freedom, as you step outside your geographical comfort zone with zero obligations to anyone. To capture the true flavor of the solo trip, O.N.S asked a few of our own staff to share their best stories from heading out into the world all alone.

Andy: In-house Photographer

I think Japan is a fantastic place to travel alone because you can fully immerse yourself in the culture, but still get around easily without having to know the language. Tokyo is actually a lot bigger than most people would think. There are so many great food place and shops. But what made my solo trip to Japan so memorable was the overflowing kindness I experienced from everyone there. I could walk into the Fuglen Tokyo coffee shop and the barista would immediately compliment me. It was so nice and interesting to see what Japanese people thought of me. But if you do go to Japan, remember to always take your hat off in a sushi place—otherwise, they won’t serve you.

Natalie: Digital Manager

I had my first solo travel adventure during college when I was studying abroad in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, a state in the southeast of Brazil. There, I got to live with a Brazilian family and had to take full-time Portuguese and Brazilian culture classes at a state university. We also had the opportunity to take field trips outside of the city, as well as a side trip to Rio de Janeiro. One of the most memorable places I recall from these trips was the outdoor Contemporary Art Museum, Inhotim, in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais. It’s the largest outdoor museum in the world. One of the most awe-inspiring aspects of the place is the whole art-nature connection you experience there. You can walk all day, sit by the grass, eat locally-sourced food from the restaurant, and surround yourself with acres of green grass, beautiful lakes, and spectacular art installations.

Going to Rio de Janeiro was also memorable. The city has breathtaking views of the bay, where you can get to see the famous Sugar Loaf mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue. At night, the samba places in Lapa are a must-visit. Carioca da Gema is one of the most renowned places to enjoy live samba music while sipping an authentic caipirinha.

Chris: Art Director

Back in October 2012, I decided to quit my job in Los Angeles and take a three-month solo trip to Barcelona. As a graphic designer, I was attracted the art and design in Barcelona. I also needed some fresh inspiration and added perspective. I had a lot of free time to work on personal projects. Besides keeping a blog there, I also decided to work on a photo project where I interviewed young people to compare their experiences during times of economic turmoil and see how they related to what I’d experienced in the United States. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and it really got me out of my shell.

It’s hard to take time off, but travel is important because it gets us out of our day-to-day routines and makes us think about what really matters. For me, it helped me open up to people and I think really help me build the confidence to move to New York.

Mary Helen: Events/Outreach Manager

I once spent a solo long weekend in a tiny, magical town in New Mexico called Madrid. Fewer than 400 people live there. It was an old mining town in the 19th and early 20th centuries and then became a ghost town until the 1970s when artist and hippies began to repopulate it. On my first afternoon, I walked into the local bar with an open, gracious attitude—ready to accept whatever the weekend would bring me. I met an incredible group of Madroids (which is what local residents call themselves) almost immediately, including artists from New York and San Francisco, activists from Berkeley, and cowboy poets from west Texas. Their stories of how they found themselves in this eclectic town spilled out over live music and plenty of cold beer. They took me to Santa Fe to see their favorite local band play a brunch set to a packed house and I helped them decorate for a funk music festival that was happening the following week. Now we keep in touch on Facebook. I’m hoping to make it back this year and don’t think I’d have made such great connections if I had been traveling along with someone else.

Photo courtesy of PD Tillman

Photo courtesy of John Phelan

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