Doing things alone can be intimidating, but it is also truly liberating. Even as an introvert who needs a lot of alone time, we found solo travels a little daunting at first, but once we got the hang of it, we never looked back!
It can be fun to travel with friends (most of the time, anyway) but sometimes, having the space and freedom to do whatever we please, whenever we wish to is great.
If you’ve been thinking of traveling solo - it does seem to be the trend now - you might find the tips in this article useful.
This may sound weird, but if you’re someone who hates doing things like eating, watching movies or doing any other activities alone, you’re probably going to hate traveling alone.
This is where the practice bit comes in. Before you decide to embark on your first solo trip, try eating alone or going for a movie or an event alone.
Usually, you will either get used to the pitying stares and awkward questions from waiters who wish to know how many people you’re with or simply get bored and wish you were anywhere else.
Once you learn to love your own company and ways to keep yourself occupied, you should be quite ready to book your plane ticket.
#2 Travel to a country where you know the language
This advice only applies to nervous novices because we’ve travelled to countries where we only knew few words to get by and it was a joy.
Somehow managing to communicate with gestures and body language enhances the experience, but it can also be frustrating if you’re lost and afraid.
For your first trip at least, pick a country where it’s easy for you to communicate with the locals and ask for help when necessary.
#3 Join a tour
You don’t have to book a tour package because that will defeat the whole purpose of traveling alone, but you can join walking tours or day tours some of the days you’re on vacation.
We find free walking tours (you just have to tip the tour guides) especially useful as it gives you the lay of the land and a chance to meet fellow travelers.
Strike up conversations with fellow travelers, and you may just find a lifelong friend or just someone to hit the bar with during your trip.
If you don’t, at least you know where to explore next.
#4 Walk more, ride less
This may sound like a point in a fitness article but applies to traveling as well. When you hop on a bus, train or a hired car, you tend to just jump from one tourist attraction to another.
Visiting a place should be about much more than looking at pretty places and eating the food listed on Trip Advisor.
Walk a few blocks away from the main tourist attractions and get a glimpse of the lives of the locals. Eat the food they eat, listen to the music they do and leave with an image of a place that’s not curated to fulfill the ideals of a tourist, but what a place is really like.
#5 Don’t let flying solo stop you from doing something you want to
Love hiking? Book a guide or strike up a conversation with fellow hikers, especially if you’re going to a famous spot, and go anyway.
When this author traveled to Bromo-Semeru National Park in Indonesia, she was alone. People often start hiking as early as 3 a.m. to catch the sunrise (trust us when we say the view is well worth the loss of sleep) and it was dark and obviously dangerous for anyone to go up alone.
But since most people started their hike around the same time, it was a simple enough thing to just follow the crowd and strike up conversation.
Same goes with any other activity, even the ones that requires a pair or more to work - like a ride in a theme park or a boat ride that requires a minimum number of people. There will always be other travelers with odd numberings that you can join with.
#6 Always stay safe
Sure, you shouldn’t stop yourself from doing something you want just because you’re traveling solo, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be alert at all times.
Be careful not to reveal too much information too soon to strangers you meet, no matter how nice they seem.
Make sure that someone back home knows your schedule and to be worried if you don’t contact them after a certain period of time.
If you wish to check out the night life or indulge in some alcoholic beverage, don’t get too tipsy or drunk. Make sure drinks are made in front of you and if possible buy bottled drinks that you can uncap yourself.
We hate the next tip because single women should be able to travel alone without fearing for their safety, but unfortunately the world doesn’t work that way. Wear a fake wedding band and have a picture of a fake boyfriend, preferably a scary-looking one in your phones. Most times, this works when it comes to unwanted attention from men.
However, sometimes it doesn’t so carry a whistle or some kind of alarm system to help you make as much noise as possible if you feel threatened. This, of course, applies to everyone who may encounter dangerous situations.
Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
#7 Plan your trip but don’t be too rigid about it
If you’re visiting a place, usually there will be a reason for it. Be it to check out beautiful beaches, art, famous landmark etc., you usually have a rough idea of what you want to see and do.
It’s good to do your research and have a plan but try not to cram a million things in a day and have a strict timing.
The best thing about traveling alone is that you dictate what you want to do and when. You don’t get ushered from one place to another with only enough time to take pictures as most tours do, and you don’t have to compromise and go to places you don’t want to to please another person.
Take full advantage of this freedom and allow yourself some leeway.
One of my best experiences traveling was in Ireland where I decided to drive through a few cities and ended up in Kilkenny because it was too dark and I was too tired to go any further.
There were two hostels in the town, both fully booked. I could have panicked and gotten all stressed but I didn’t and that made all the difference in how the night turned out.
Irish people are probably some of the best people this writer has ever come across when traveling and one of the hostels allowed us to stay in their cosy common room right in front of a fire (this was in winter) for half the price of a bed in a shared room.
If you’ve watched ‘About Time’, you might remember the father telling his son that he lives each day twice; once like any of us would, but the he’d live through the day again exactly the same way but without the tension and negative things that often mars our enjoyment of any given day.
We don’t have the luxury of reliving our days, but not letting the negative experiences ruin our trip is a good way to approach things not going the way we planned.
#8 If you end up hating traveling alone, it’s OK
Traveling solo is not for everyone. Some people like to have someone to turn to and share the beautiful view they just saw, share a funny story with or help take pictures.
There’s nothing wrong in that and if that’s what you want, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it. At least you’ve tried it, right?
But if you loved it, this will just be the beginning of a lifetime of adventure and we hope that you will have a trip you’ll remember fondly and recount so many times that your family and friends will tire of hearing about them.