The idea of solo traveling typically comes with a barrage of negative thoughts. Will I get bored? Will I be lonely? Will I have anyone to talk to? Not to mention, as a female solo traveler, the constant nagging thoughts of safety (on top of the judgmental commentary of others) can often cloud any adventurous desire of planning your dream trip. Yet, as a frequent traveler and a mostly solo one at that, I’ve come to realize that time spent alone experiencing, meeting, witnessing, navigating and relishing in our incredibly diverse world has offered me some of the greatest lessons in life.

While we should approach all travel with a healthy dose of caution, the fears of the unknown should never hold you back from venturing to an unseen part of the globe. There are a variety of ways you can set out on a solo journey safely and wisely to ensure an experience that will teach you something new about both yourself and the world.

Understand your destination.

Yes, you may be traveling to a place you’ve never been before, but research is key. I encourage thorough study on the current state of affairs, cultural traditions and newsworthy events in the region you are headed to. It’s always best to be aware and informed, and your research will prove helpful when trying to navigate the area, too. I also recommend learning from other solo travelers; they are often the best teachers. This TripAdvisor Solo Travel Forum offers some interesting insights and stories to learn from.

Get the word out.

You may be on your own for this journey, but you should let those close to you know what your travel plans are and how they can reach you if needed. It’s also helpful to include a brief itinerary so others can follow along from afar.

Save accordingly.

One of the cons to traveling solo is the unfortunate reality that none of the costs can be split. It’s all on you to fund this trip, so make sure you have a reliable amount of money to get you through your travels and any unforeseen costs that may arise.

Act like a local.

Because you are relying on yourself for this journey, do your due diligence by acquainting yourself with maps and transportation guides before heading out. An air of confidence will suit you much better than a confused, lost one. Even if you do get a bit turned around while navigating, take a moment to stop in a populated area to consult your map or ask for assistance.

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Plan around your likes.

This is all about you, yes you, so travel like you mean it. Don’t go to the museums if you aren’t a fan of art. Eat dinner at 4:30 p.m. and have four gelatos for dessert — it’s your choice! Sit under the sun in the park all afternoon and daydream about life if you want to. Don’t wait in line for a single landmark entrance. You can and should move as freely as you like. You’re a party of one, so let your choices run wild.

Join the group.

While you’ve made the decision to travel alone, it doesn’t mean that all of your activities have to be done so. When opportunities arise, join in on group tours, outings, adventures and experiences. There are so many wonderful touring groups (both for longer travel and day-trips) that allow you to meet people from around the world and bond over a shared love of travel.

Don’t skimp on the good stuff.

Whether it’s a local concert in the park or a delicious dinner at a highly recommended restaurant, don’t skimp on treating yourself to special travel delights because you are solo. You are traveling to experience and partake of a community that is not your own, so now is not the time to hold back or let your insecurities get the best of you. Revel in your solo status … more dessert for you, anyways!

Embrace the solitude.

There may be bouts of loneliness throughout your journey — it’s only natural — but instead of dwelling in it, embrace it and remind yourself that you have taken a bold step to becoming more aware of the world by actually stepping out into it.

You are part of a rare breed of adventurer and experience-seeker. For that, you should be proud. Dare to dive in, open-hearted and unashamedly alone.

Have you ever taken a solo journey? What’s your advice?

Images via Megan Robinson

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9 comments

  1. While I’m planning on traveling alone, I “might” have someone who decided to accompany me on whatever trip I go on. However, I’m planning under the assumption I’m going alone.

  2. When I went on a group travel this past fall, I found myself seeking out adventures by myself. While my companions were wanting to sleep in and see a movie, I wanted to really take part of the culture and the experiences I couldn’t have in America. So, even if you’re on a group travel, study abroad, or what have you don’t be afraid to break off and do what YOU want. I traveled to Oxford, Paris, and spent countless days in London doing exactly what I wanted to do. I may have less “tagged photos on Facebook” (my companions’ chief concern), but I have so many more memories that I would never give up. My main advice would be confident. Be confident in your choice to travel alone. Be confident when you ask for the table for one. Be confident when you walk the streets in a questionable area.

  3. Great tips! My advice is to simply be friendly because we as women travelers and oftentimes solo women travelers are hesitant to talk to the locals and are more apt to talk to other Americans we may meet along the way. While there is nothing wrong with this, (I have made great friends with people who live in my own city that I have met overseas), we can’t be afraid to talk to the locals, they are sometimes the best “concierge” and know more about that hidden gem in their neighborhood or city that really speaks to the local culture.

    Also some advice for safety, in addition to getting 2 room keys from your hotel (so you give the impression that you are not alone) also get the hotel’s business card. Their business card has their full address and phone number that oftentimes the sleeve that carries your hotel room key doesn’t include. So if you ever get lost or can’t remember the name of your hotel you can always refer back to the business card (and it makes it easy to give to taxi drivers who may not speak English).

  4. I’ve been a solo traveler for most of my trips and the best piece of advice I can give is to always be safe. Listen to your gut instinct and if something doesn’t sit right with you, don’t do it! Look after yourself first and foremost, and you will have a great time 🙂

  5. I totally agree with everything you say here. I started solo travel a while ago and it has been one of the most liberating experiences I have ever had. Sure it’s expensive, and it CAN be quite stressful, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. I feel like I get to know myself and the place so much better when I’m alone, it forces me to open my eyes and immerse, while also looking critically at myself. Thanks for the great post!

  6. I completely agree. My favorite, most adventurous trip was a solo journey. Being alone makes us more open to meeting new people and trying new things because we don’t feel confined by the expectations of people who know us. I came home a more confident version of my self with some wonderful new friends, and I wouldn’t trade those things for the world.

  7. Thank you and the commenters above for the courage. I have been considering solo travel for the longest time but just been a little afraid to really go for it. I am going to do it this year!

  8. @Melanie – I couldn’t agree more! Sitting quietly at a cafe with a great read, delicious coffee and some good people watching is all I really need! Keep up the solo adventures, my friend!

  9. I love to travel and have had some of the best times travelling on my own. Sounds strange but I can highly recommend it. I love to people watch when Im on holiday and always take a good book to a beachside café or restaurant and watch the world go by. When you travel on your own people approach you more than if you were with another person or in a group. I have made some great friends and had some great adventures by just being open to people and experiences. The plus side of going on holiday by yourself is you get to do what you want when you want. If you decide you don’t want to go on a trip you haven’t let anyone down. If you want to have lots of adventure off you go you don’t have to ask if anyone wants to join you. It builds your confidence and its a great opportunity to have some me time but also mix with other people. Just use your own common sense I wouldn’t run off with a stranger who Ive only known 5 minutes in my own country so why do that abroad. Make sure you are always in public places and around people if your gut doesn’t feel right don’t do it. If you are considering booking a trip but afraid to go on your own go for it you’ll have an amazing time.

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