I Spent All Of Last Year Craving A Life Change — So This Year, I Took A Month-Long Trip All By Myself (Here's What I Learned Along The Way)

·15 min read

Hi! I'm Fabiana, a single 28-year-old woman who has decided to make this year about herself and is learning to take more risks. 👏🏼

the author standing outside smiling

As I'm sure most of you could relate, the past two years were an emotional rollercoaster (thanks, pandemic). To get a little personal with you: up until this year, I was not in a good headspace at all. My career was up in the air, I ended a relationship and tried to navigate online dating (never again), and I eventually moved back home with my parents to save money. I did all of this while trying my best to remain upbeat — the "look at the glass half full" type of person I am — but damn, it was hard.

While things started to look up and I found more stability in my life (i.e: got a job I truly love, started going to therapy, and fully embraced and really loved single life) I still felt blah and uneasy about all the unanswered questions I personally had about my future. I'm a planner and if the past two years taught us anything, it's that life as we know it can truly change at any given moment.

Fast forward to January 2022: I was just recovering from COVID and my NYE plans were canceled, so I found myself sitting on my couch in front of my laptop eagerly brainstorming ways I could really shake things up this year, step out of my comfort zone, and break up the monotony of my day to day.

Fabiana Buontempo / Via Instagram

Since my job allows me the flexibility to work remotely, I decided that this was the year that I fully embrace being able to work from wherever. I knew I wanted to travel a lot this year and honestly, I didn't feel like waiting on my friends to find out when their schedules freed up, where they wanted to go, or for how long. TBH, I wanted to be the one to call these shots. So I figured go big or go home — and I decided I was going to book a month-long solo trip in one of my favorite cities: Miami.

laptop at a table with a coffee and smoothie
Fabiana Buontempo

That same day, I booked a month-long stay at a studio apartment in a condo building right on South Beach — where I was most familiar from past vacations — for the month of May that I found through a Google search. This was my largest single expense of the trip (about $3,000) — but it was one that I was able to afford thanks to living with my parents and saving on rent, and because I planned on aggressively budgeting even more in the months leading up to the trip. (More on this in a bit!) Also, I just wanted to say that I realize that not everyone has the privilege to be able to reduce their expenses in this way — or the flexibility to work from anywhere — but I wanted to share how I personally approached things, in hopes that it might be useful to some.

Spyglass Entertainment

One more note on booking: Before going through with it, I researched the heck out of the building and even did my due diligence to make sure the owner of the apartment was a legitimate person. I was at ease when I was put in touch with a realtor who handled everything from the moment I requested to book the apartment to the day I moved out of the apartment.

I had five months — with a few short trips to different places in between — to mentally prepare and financially plan for my first month-long solo trip. I had some doubts, some fears, and a few moments where I double-checked the booking's cancelation policy. But now, after being back home in New Jersey for a few weeks with time to reflect, it's safe to say that this trip was one of the best months of my life.

Here's all that I learned and some tips to pass along if you too are thinking of taking your first (or your next) solo trip adventure.

1.Since it was my very first solo trip, I wanted some familiarity — and I didn't feel pressured to book somewhere that I've never been before.

palm trees

I've always admired people who took solo trips to unfamiliar places, especially out of the country. While that idea intrigued me, I also figured for my first solo adventure I'd rather travel to somewhat familiar territory.

While I've vacationed in Miami before with friends, I wasn't familiar with all of the different areas that made up the city. However, I felt comfort knowing there wasn't a language barrier or a super long flight ahead of me in the event of an emergency. I viewed this trip as an opportunity to further explore and temporarily live in a place I already loved.

Fabiana Buontempo

2.I made sure my booking had a flexible cancelation policy.

After about two days of researching places that had short-term rentals in Miami, reading reviews, and comparing prices I booked my apartment on Vrbo. One of the reasons I felt comfortable booking a stay that cost me a couple of thousand of dollars was because of how much time I had to save up for it and the booking's cancelation policy.This policy was up to the owner's discretion and it was a flexible one, given my timeline: I had until two months before the move-in date to cancel. Since I booked this in January for May — I felt like worst case if I change my mind, I could cancel and get my money back. 

After about two days of researching places that had short-term rentals in Miami, reading reviews, and comparing prices I booked my apartment on Vrbo. One of the reasons I felt comfortable booking a stay that cost me a couple of thousand of dollars was because of how much time I had to save up for it and the booking's cancelation policy.

This policy was up to the owner's discretion and it was a flexible one, given my timeline: I had until two months before the move-in date to cancel. Since I booked this in January for May — I felt like worst case if I change my mind, I could cancel and get my money back.

Fabiana Buontempo / Via vrbo.com

3.I used the Hopper app to keep an eye on flight prices.

a plane taking off

I had time on my side so I used Hopper to keep an eye on roundtrip flights from New Jersey to Miami. The app allows you to put in you where you're leaving from and where you're heading and it notifies you when flight prices for your selected dates drop or increase so you could be strategic about when to book flights. It only cost me a little over $200 for a roundtrip ticket. I made sure I was patient to get the best deal and the flight times that worked best for me.

Alvarez / Getty Images

4.Since I booked my trip so far in advance, I budgeted and saved money specifically for this trip in the months leading up to it.

crumpled up dollar bills

An important note to keep in mind: at the time I booked this trip, I had moved back in with my parents and was no longer paying rent — which was a huge plus. Renting the apartment in itself cost over $3,000 with some Vrbo fees. I learned that if I were to do this again specifically in Miami, I would book straight through a relator to avoid the annoying fees these apps charge.

I was already saving money since I was back home but even more so in the months leading up to May, I was aggressively saving money — including carefully watching my spending, and putting a couple of hundred dollars away in a "vacation" savings account each month so that I could pay my trip off in its entirety as well as have some wiggle room to spend money on things and experiences once I was on my trip.

Westend61 / Getty Images/Westend61

5.To bring me some sort of comfort, I packed things that are a part of my usual daily routine at home so I could keep up with my daily habits while on my trip.

packed suitcase

I love a good morning and night routine so much that I've written posts about each of them. Since I was planning on doing a version of my usual routines while in Miami, I made sure to pack things that would let me do just that. Now, if I were vacationing somewhere for a week, I might not necessarily pack these things but a month is a long time to be without them.

I made sure to pack my vitamins, my ice roller, my journal, my giant water bottle that I sip on throughout the day, face and hair masks (for some self--care days), and even the two different toothbrushes I use for morning and night.

I know, these things seem minor in the big picture but they allowed me to continue my normal way of doing things and that brought me comfort.

Fabiana Buontempo

6.I packed a safety device to have with me at all times.

keychain alarm

I was a woman traveling by herself without a car which meant I was walking everywhere or taking Ubers or Lyfts. I made sure to carry some sort of safety device with me at all times. There are a lot of these on market, but after researching, I invested in a Birdie personal alarm. It was about $30, compact enough to fit in any of my purses, and I never left my apartment without it.

When activated, the Birdie alarm is 130 decibels —"comparable to a jet engine flying 100 feet above you" as their website says. This alarm is probably the loudest alarm I could get my hands on and if I ever had to use it, I personally didn't want to fumble around looking for my phone or another type of complicated device to set off an alarm. I felt reassured and safe whenever I walked or went somewhere alone with this device in my purse.

Fabiana Buontempo

7.I worked my full-time job the entire time I was on my trip and it was easier than I expected.

the author writing in her notebook

I was still on East Coast time so not much really changed with my workflow. The wifi was strong in the apartment I was staying in and even in the coffee shops I occasionally worked from so I never had issues staying connected. I will admit, when I first got to Miami and was trying to settle in, I felt eager to explore, go to the beach, or just relax by the pool but since I flew there on a Monday, the next day I had to get right back into work mode before I even had a chance to grab groceries from the supermarket. That was tough but I managed!

Aside from that, I was able to manage the work-life balance just fine and if anything, I made it a point to actually take my lunch break or go on a quick walk by the beach to stretch my legs throughout the day — things I don't typically do when I'm back home, which isn't necessarily healthy!

Fabiana Buontempo

8.I walked all over, especially to get groceries and essentials, and took occasional Ubers/Lyfts at night.

the author holding plastic shopping bags and a water bottle

I didn't have a car with me so I did walk all over or as far as I could — unless I was going near a highway or across the bridge, to another area of Miami. The closest supermarkets to where I was staying on South Beach were about a 20-minute walk so I would walk to the store and then depending on how many grocery bags I had, I would either walk back or take a reasonably priced Uber or Lyft for about $7.

Anytime I went out at night or went a distance, I would call an Uber or Lyft. I did rent a car two of the weekends I was there since the Ubers/Lyfts were adding up.

Fabiana Buontempo

9.I had some things planned in advance — but I also left a lot of my schedule open.

screenshot of the notes app with different restaurants and things to do in the city

I'm a planner by nature so of course, I had an ongoing list in my notes app of restaurants, workout classes, cafes, lounges, and bars that I wanted to check out during my time in Miami. And while I did have a good friend visit me from home one of the weekends with planned activities on the agenda, for the most part, I didn't have every weekend planned out. I kind of just went with how I was feeling come the day and then decide from there what I felt like doing and if I needed ideas, I just referred to my list.

One Friday I started my day at the beach, then after work, I did some window shopping at the Lincoln Road Mall and then came home to cook dinner while enjoying a glass of wine. On one Saturday night, I enjoyed the Miami nightlife and lived it up. It was wonderful to just decide what I felt like doing at the moment and go with the flow.

Fabiana Buontempo

10.I took a variety of workout classes to experience a different fitness scene while also meeting like-minded people.

sign that says, Barry's Miami Beach

If you've read my previous posts on BuzzFeed, you will likely know that health and fitness are a big part of my everyday life. So, of course, I made it a point to check out some workout studios during my time in Miami. I signed up for a free month of Class Pass to have the flexibility to bop around to different studios and then when my credits ran out, I checked out what different studios offered in terms of new client deals. A workout studio I often frequented in Miami was Barry's. I often take classes there in New York so I was thrilled to work out at their South Beach location.

Fabiana Buontempo

11.Making new friends as an adult can be challenging — so I made sure to put myself out there.

the author posing with two people after a workout class

One of the days before my Barry's class started, I was in the locker room and I saw a girl in an adorable pair of hot pink leggings. I turned to her and complimented her on them. We ended up following each other on Instagram and became friends! During a workout event I got invited to, I brought this friend and after the event, we chatted with some other people there and connected with another girl. We all exchanged numbers and made plans often to hang out.

Although I only knew these people for a very short period of time, I really connected with each of them as they were some of the most genuine, sincere people I've met — especially in my adult life. There is nothing to be embarrassed about going places alone which forces you to talk to and meet new people. You never know what connections you could make.

Fabiana Buontempo

12.I made sure to connect with locals to learn about hidden Miami gems.

street in Miami

When I tell you that any opportunity I got to talk to locals — an Uber driver, a waiter, bartender, the front desk staff at the condo building I was staying in, people I knew who moved from the Tristate area to Miami, the employee at GNC where I bought a protein bar one day — I took it. I picked their brains about things like life in Miami, their favorite parts of the city, their favorite restaurants, bars, and any other information they could give me. Any hidden gems that locals were willing to share and tell me about, I was all ears.

Because of this, I was able to discover places like a yummy sushi spot that was very reasonably priced (shoutout to Hiro's Sushi on South Beach), and a massage place that gave me hands down the best massage of my life (My Massage Haven) for about half the price compared to what I've paid in New York.

Fabiana Buontempo

13.I carved out time for things that were a priority to me.

author's feet on the sidewalk

Back home, it's very easy for me to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and not make time for the small things that bring me joy. On this trip, I made it a point to carve out time and do things like reading before bed every night — something I admittedly don't always do back home because it's late and I'm tired by the time I get into bed. I went for either morning or nighttime walks in addition to my workouts to get fresh air and move my body since I sat working a lot of the day.

I also took advantage of being so close to a pool and the beach and took breaks in my workday to enjoy both.

Fabiana Buontempo

14.My solo trip experience was what I made of it.

beach

I made sure to experience all that Miami offered — which is a lot. I think any trip is what you make of it. I treated this month as a way to take a risk, step out of my comfort zone, have a change of scenery, and almost treat it like my own personal "wellness retreat." In addition to the internal work I did, I also read a lot, cooked healthy foods, and even tried meditating!

Fabiana Buontempo

Overall, the month to myself was one of the best decisions I ever made.

The month flew by and by the time I was packing up my suitcase to come home, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I felt a special connection to the city of Miami so much so that I'd love to move there sometime in the near future.

I definitely lost a bit of myself over the past two years and I was fortunate enough to be able to get back in touch with myself and relearn what makes me happy and how to listen to my inner voice.

I think sometimes it's easy to get caught up in all the noise in life and kind of lose yourself, regardless of what your situation is. This time to myself allowed me to find my way back and learn to love this new version of myself.

Although I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a month away by myself, that doesn't have to be the case for everyone. I think ultimately, carving out time — whether it be for an hour or a few days — it's important to prioritize time for yourself. I'm a firm believer in filling up your cup first before you fill up others.

Have you ever taken a solo trip? How did your experience go? Tell me in the comments below!