Everyone’s talking these days about solo travel, how it’s so empowering and liberating. It’s the thing to do and you see people trying it all around you. But your first solo trip is so intimidating. Just get on a plane and show up in a foreign country all by yourself. Will you be safe? Will you be bored? Will you be able to take on the challenges of travel without someone else’s support?
It’s intimidating and I totally understand that. Before my first solo trip, which was to India and Dubai three years ago, I had never even considered this a possibility. I just didn’t think of traveling without a companion. And then I had a reason to travel which pulsed through my body and made me mad with excitement…I heard that the Taj Mahal was closing to the public and I HAD TO go see it before that happened. Nobody else wanted to go to the crazy poor dirty dangerous world of India with me so I went for it alone. Nothing was going to stop me. And once I had that really deep desire to go, I wasn’t worried about doing it alone. Sure my family and friends were worried for me, but I went anyway. And I had THE MOST amazing trip ever! (Read about it here.) It changed my life in so many ways, not the least of which is that it opened my mind to the possibility of solo travel.
Once I took my first solo trip and it was a smashing success, I wanted more. And since then I’ve done nearly all my travels (including the past year of nonstop full-time travel) alone. My pre-India self could have never imagined the person I am today, and I’m so happy that solo travel has helped me to grow into this person. I think it’s a really great idea for other people to give solo travel a try as well, so here is my advice for you as you begin to prepare for your first solo trip!
Advice for Your First Solo Trip
Go Somewhere You’re Passionate About
As it did for me, it’s so helpful if you’re going somewhere you’re dying to visit. Because then the worries of solo fade away in comparison to your excitement for the trip. You can go absolutely anywhere you want, let there be no limits to your travel imagination and wanderlust.
Do Your Research
I always get so much more out of a trip and feel confident about going there when I’ve done my research. As a travel blogger, I would say that your first resource should be reading blogs by other travelers because this will give you information about your destination along with a personalized perspective. I get such a better feel for destinations by reading about other travelers’ experiences and impressions, so I will always read a bunch of travel blogs about places before I go. Pre-planning prevents poor performance! (Check out all the destinations I’ve covered here.)
Stay in Hostels
I love staying in hostels not only because it’s more cost-effective but also because it’s the perfect way to meet people and make fast friends on the road. You’re traveling solo but you don’t need to be alone or lonely! Meet up with other travelers at a hostel and you may go sightseeing with them while you’re there, or go for drinks to recap the day, or continue your travels together. I’ve met some of the coolest people in hostels, it’s definitely the way to go!
Join a Solo Travelers Tour
In the same vein of traveling solo but not alone, you can meet up with a tour while you’re traveling, either for a day or the whole trip. That’s what I did when I visited India, because it can be a dangerous place. I met up with G Adventures for the bulk of that trip and it was so great, they’re a really good tour company for solo travelers to meet up. I learned so much from those other travelers on my tour group and got loads of travel ideas from them. It was awesome to find companions to explore with once I got there!
Plan for Your Safety
There are certain things you can do to prepare for having safe travels and avoiding obvious tourist pitfalls. After having traveled so much, I just do these things instinctively and that’s probably why I’ve avoided having any safety-related incidents in my travels. But on your first solo trip you might not think of them. I have a whole post about travel safety here. But for planning ahead for your safety, here are some tips: carry a cross-body bag and wear it on your front, don’t put anything in your back pockets, don’t wear provocative clothes or obvious tourist clothes (like sneakers and a fanny pack), wear good shoes in case you need to make a quick getaway, take pictures of the maps you need and other important information like your hotel name and address, carry a portable phone charger, leave your passport at the hotel (but have a photo of it on your phone), leave your itinerary with someone at home, and schedule your day so you’re not traveling anywhere alone at night.
This is another aspect of solo travel that you get better at with time, and at this point I do it instinctively, but it’s so important to be aware of your surroundings. So for starters, don’t jeopardize your ability to be aware by impairing your mental state. When you’re traveling alone you have only yourself to rely on. Being aware means knowing what parts of town are safe and which are sketchy, keeping an eye on the people around you, noticing if someone is following you or staring at you, maintaining your personal space and knowing if anyone gets too close, having your eye or hand on all your belongings, having an escape route planned in your mind wherever you are, and knowing which people you can ask for help and who to avoid. A fellow travel blogger, Wandering Earl has a good story about developing the traveler’s instinct, check it out here. And remember to stay aware and trust your instincts, you’ll be fine.
Talk to Strangers
As I said, you should be careful who you choose to trust and talk to, but 99% of people you meet when you travel will only enhance your trip! When you’re at your hostel, or a coffee shop, or at dinner, on a walking tour, waiting for a train, or anywhere else in your travels, try to strike up a conversation with someone. Whether they’re a local or a fellow traveler, I bet you’ll learn something interesting from talking to them and see things from a new perspective!
Use Social Media
It’s my job to be on social media but it definitely gives me such a boost to share my travels with my family, friends, and readers on social. I would do it anyway! Share your experiences, stories, photos, and videos on social media and you’ll be able to share in the excitement with the other people in your life. In this time of hyper-connectivity, use these tools to your advantage to feel connected with people even when you’re thousands of miles apart! (If you’re feeling homesick on the road, read my tips for dealing with that here.)
Solo travel isn’t as scary or lonely as you may think it is. And once you give it a try I bet you’ll want to do it again! Go in being prepared, be open to meeting new people and having new experiences, and you’ll come out a changed person, I promise. Good luck and happy travels!
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