Emily McDonnell

Emily McDonnell is a food and travel writer and experience-focused communications strategist. She is the founder of The Staycation Collection, a curation of Germany’s most exceptional escapes, from boutique B&Bs to chic cabins.

The cursor hovered over the “buy” button with my finger poised above the mouse, frozen. My heart pounded and my mind raced, creating fantasies of me alone in another country, miserable, lost and hungry. The timer on the EasyJet website counted down, putting pressure on me to click NOW. I shut my eyes and let my finger fall. “EMILY, your flights are confirmed. Here are your booking details.” What on earth was I doing?!

With this level of stress, you might imagine I’d booked a one-way flight to the Andies with the aim of trekking the entire mountain range in 10 days, but, in fact, I’d just booked a 5-day trip to Dubrovnik. I was 25, and this was the first time I was travelling by myself.

I’d always brushed off the idea of solo travel, happily travelling with friends or partners, saying I didn’t need to spend time alone. But the truth of it was that I was scared. Scared that I wouldn’t like being left with just myself for company.

As my quarter-of-a-century birthday passed me by, I felt a little lost. It was time I pushed myself, time to take the jump, time to face myself. And this is how I found myself sat in a cliff-top bar, sipping cool Croatian wine, watching a thunderstorm roll in across the Adriatic, lightning illuminating the sky.

My whole body was electrified, my chest was filled with gratitude, and I radiated energy. All the cliches are true, I thought. Here I was, in my purest form. No pretences. Not a friend, a lover, an employee, just me. I felt so alive.

I passed the following days exploring ancient historical site, hiking luscious coastlines and eating what I wanted when I wanted. But most importantly, I was present. Present in a way I’d never been before, and this presence is what makes travelling alone one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done.

Since that trip, I’ve become a junkie. Craving escapes to be with myself, away from my daily environment where I carry responsibilities and obligations. From France to Iceland to Malaysia: standing, looking out across waves or over treetops to the horizon is when I always feel the freest. When there is nothing but me.



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