Why do people solo travel?
Many people describe their first solo trip as a sort of spiritual awakening. Finding yourself alone in a brand new place with people you’ve never met can have a way of doing this. After all, you have to completely depend on yourself, for the better or the worse. Though this may seem like a bit too much responsibility from the start, it’ll make the successes you have while on the road feel that much better, knowing you completed these challenging hurdles all by yourself. You can plop that on your resume under problem-solving skills.
Solo traveling can also be self-indulgent. You won’t have to worry about being on time, feeling obligated to go to that boring museum on the complete opposite side of town or spending all of your money with your shopaholic friend. Time doesn’t exist. You’re on your own schedule. You can do whatever you want, and no one is going to stop you.
Having this freedom and responsibility intertwined with the ability to see the world brings so much personal growth to a solo traveler. You have the potential to refine or completely reinvent yourself as a stranger in new city. This can build confidence and independence, allowing you to fully grow into the person you were destined to be.
Though many are turned off from solo traveling by the thought of being alone, you actually are susceptible to meeting more people while on the road solo. Without having a companion to focus on, people tend to be more open-minded and find themselves in conversations amongst the locals. By solo traveling, I’ve been able to make friends in so many states and countries that I never would’ve had the chance to had I already been traveling with friends of my own.
How and where can I start solo traveling?
The easiest way to start solo traveling is to just start solo traveling. However, I know that wasn’t the answer you were looking for, so let me dive a bit deeper. If you’re nervous about taking that first trip, try going somewhere close to home. This way, you’ll most likely speak the same language as the locals and you’ll have the comfort of knowing you have the ability to go home if need be. Even so, you’ll be stepping out of your comfort zone and getting that first taste at what solo travel could be. After that first taste, I promise you, you won’t look back. I did a less traditional approach for my first solo trip, as I moved across the world to a country I’d never so much as visited (Australia) for six months. If you’re ready to travel somewhere a bit further, check out the Solo Female Travel Safety Map for suggestions on safe places to visit around the world.
After you decide on your destination, try to book a solo-friendly accommodation. By this, I mean go where the other solo travelers are. My favorite place to meet new people while on the road is at hostels, There are so many hostels scattered all over the globe. It’s likely you’ll find one in any travel hotspot. If you’re going a bit more off the grid, you can also look into Couchsurfing. This is an app that allows you to crash at other people’s spots all around the world. I would like to note that even though the app is called Couchsurfing, this does not mean you’ll be crashing on a couch! I’ve stayed in plenty of private rooms, places that are normally booked as AirBnbs and even luxury apartments overlooking the city. You can also use the Hangout tab in Couchsurfing to meet up with other locals or travelers within your area without staying at their place.
Once you have your destination and accommodation booked, you may want to look into buying travel insurance. I will admit that I am more of a spontaneous traveler, so this is rarely on my to-do list, but it is a great option for those looking to stay safe, especially when going out of the country.
How should I prepare?
- Do Your Homework
From transportation to accommodation, do your homework! Figure out when the trains/buses are scheduled to arrive at the airport so you aren’t stuck waiting alone at the stop for longer than you need to be. If you’re planning on taking a taxi, try to figure out what the normal cost is or make sure your driver is using the meter, as they tend to be notorious for taking advantage of naive tourists. Keep the stress away by planning these safety routes out before you get there.
2. Share Your Itinerary With A Friend/Family
This is a huge one, especially if you’re doing a road trip where you’ll be all over the map. If you don’t have a specific itinerary down and are taking it day by day, share your location on FindMyFriends and check in with them each night once you arrive at your next destination.
3. Arrive During The Daytime
I always plan to arrive during the daytime, no matter if I am flying or driving, so I can get my groundings in the new area before night falls. In general, places tend to be more populated and safe during the day, so it’s an easy, but important rule to go by.
4. Trust Your Gut
Trust everyone, but no one! It’s important to stay open-minded while solo traveling so you can fully embrace the local culture and meet new people. However, as charming as some people might be, not everyone has your best interest at heart, so you do need to keep your guard up a bit, especially when alone in a strange place.
5. Register With The State Department
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free program for those in the United States traveling abroad. This gives you the ability to get assistance from the State Department in case of an emergency. If you are not from the United States, see if your country has a similar program for you to make use of.
6. Stick To Public Places, Especially At Night
With public places, comes an automatic backup unit. If anything goes down, you will have people all around to witness and to help you get through it. Stick to these public places for a security blanket, especially if you plan on going out at night when there are less people around to help if you find yourself in trouble.
7. Connect With Staff/Locals
If you do plan on going out alone at night, connect with the staff at your accommodation or someone like the local bartender and notify them of your plans. They’ll make sure to have your back if the situation gets sticky.
8. A Few White Lies Never Hurt Anyone
I know sometimes you meet people who make you feel like you’ve known them your entire life, but when they ask if you’re traveling alone, you’re not, no matter what. If it’s a taxi driver, tell them you’re on your way to meet a friend. If you’re at a bar, then your friend is meeting you there later. No matter where you go, pretend you already have a friend in the area so you don’t make yourself a target.
9. Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Even if you have no clue where you are, walk confidently as if the city was your own. There have been times when I’ve been completely lost, and then had tourists come up and ask me for directions. I can’t tell you that I was of any help to them, but I can say that if you look like you belong, you become less of a victim for unwanted attention, such as pickpocketers. The good thing about solo traveling is that you already have a leg up in blending in, rather than having the spotlight on you as you circle around town with a flashy tourist group.
10. Download Travel Apps
There are plenty of apps out there to help with almost every single detail when it comes to traveling. To check out a list of my all-time favorite travel apps, click here.
I hope this guide helped you feel better about embarking on your first solo trip and I wish you luck as you explore the never-ending sights and cultures around the world. Where are you planning to visit for your first solo trip? Or, if you’ve already solo-traveled, which destination did you head to first? Comment below!