Traveling by yourself allows (actually, forces) you to find what makes your heart sing. There’s no one else around to suggest an itinerary for the day, or to default to when you’re too tired to make a decision. It’s all you!

This translates to cheese house, which is relevant to my interests.

And knowing what you love, and what you loathe, helps to make those decisions about where to spend your time easier.

The more you travel, the more you realize that people have very strong opinions on what activities are a must do in certain places, whether they’re your well-meaning aunts or just someone in a Facebook group for travelers. Sorting out all that noise to find your own happiness is key. So how do you do it?

Reflect on your loves

Take some time to think about what you’ve done recently that makes your heart sing. Was it wandering in the museum all afternoon? Eating some exotic local cuisine? Hiking (ugh but to each their own I guess)?

No hiking was involved in the taking of this picture, just a nice boat ride in Austria.

Long bus rides are an excellent place for this reflection, I find.

Cut it out

If you’re in a new place and overwhelmed with where to start exploring, just cut out one little “must-do” and go from there.

I personally am super uninterested in military history despite being subjected to a childhood of classic war movies and civil war battle site visits, so I immediately rule those out. I’m sure Les Invalides in Paris is great! I’m also sure I’ll never go with so many other museums there I actually want to visit.

Set a goal

For the truly lost or very achievement-orientated of you, this also works a treat. Like art? Decide you’re going to see every work Vermeer ever painted (this is really a thing and it’s cool). Sports fan? Go see american football outside of America. Decide to see more than half the states or all the continents by your 40th birthday.

Obsession gets a bad rap, but it can be a powerful way to tap into your interests.

Need more inspiration? Reading is my favorite way to explore new worlds and places, and gives me endless ideas of things I want to do. Even if they seem weird (that’s how I got into opera, by reading and loving Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night).

me, living my best life at the opera in Vienna

Explore. Grow. Learn. Try some new things, but just make sure you’re doing it because it’s something you find intriguing, and not just following the crowd.

And don’t tell me to go on a goddamn hike.

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