You dream of exploring the world, but you feel like no one around you shares that urge to travel. The saying “It’s better to be alone than in bad company” makes so much more sense when you are travelling. If you’re ready to leave and pursue your wildest dreams, go ahead, do it on your own. Solo travelling is one of the most rewarding things you can experience. Forget about any obligations you might have or making compromises! Just follow your rhythm and do whatever pleases you. Here are a few tips to help you on your first solo trip:
1) Accept that it is okay to be scared
Fear is probably the biggest obstacle to overcome for a lot of people thinking of travelling on their own. Feeling apprehensive about stepping outside of your comfort zone to face the unknown and solitude is completely normal. This unfamiliar emotion will give way to a cascade of unanswered questions on your first solo trip: Will I be able to make new friends? I’ve never sat at a restaurant alone, will it be uncomfortable? Will I be safe? What happens if I get sick?
The first step is to acknowledge those concerns. Good planning and experience will ease your mind. Travelling solo is the perfect opportunity to make new friends from all over the world, but it’s also a great way to learn how to appreciate solitary moments. Don’t let your fears paralyze you and keep you from travelling. Limit unexpected things that could come up by getting travel insurance. Adventure awaits, go find it!
2) Pick your first destinations wisely
Some destinations are more suitable for solo travellers. Meeting other people is really easy in popular places like Southeast Asia, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand and Portugal. Be conscious of the type of accommodation you choose. It’s much harder to make new friends in a 5-star hotel than it is in a youth hostel for instance. The key is to select guesthouses, B&B’s or lodges that have a common area and that organize tours and activities for their guests. Plan ahead and do some research so you don’t end up in a place where you’re surrounded by couples or families.
3) Prepare your arrival carefully
No plan is the best plan! However, before your departure it is suggested to lay out general ideas or guidelines instead of trying to detail everything. Travelling solo allows for a greater flexibility and the possibility to change your itinerary if something (or someone) more interesting comes along.
On your first solo trip, it is recommended to at least organize your arrival. Is a visa required or do you have to provide proof of onward travel? Find out all you need to know prior to your departure. Make a detailed plan, from the moment you step out of the plane until you’ve checked in to the hostel/hotel you booked in advance. The last thing you want is to look lost and vulnerable when you leave the airport. Search online for the best way to reach your accommodation from the terminal. In a few countries, there are certain types of taxi or public transit that are safe, while other are not recommended. In order to help you negotiate and avoid getting scammed, find out beforehand the average price for a ride.
4) Travel light
By limiting the weight of your luggage you will be able to maximize your mobility. Split your travel items in two categories:
1- In your handbag or day pack: keep your passport, your bank cards and any other valuable object (camera, laptop, cell phone, …).
2- In your suitcase or backpack: put everything else in there.
There is one golden rule to remember: keep your smaller day pack with you all times like your life depends on it … never let it go! Make sure to always keep an eye on your backpack, although clothing is a lot easier to replace than credit cards. If you need to use the restroom, but you find your backpack too cumbersome, search for friendly-looking travellers to watch it for you. Don’t forget to carry your precious little bag with you.
5) Carry a book with you
A book is also a wonderful travel companion. Whether you’re at a restaurant or on long rides, you will never be alone with a book in your hands. No one will bother you while you read, but you can always put it down if someone approaches you and you enjoy the conversation. Books can quickly become heavy and annoying to carry, so it’s not a bad idea to look into a Kindle or any other e-reader.
6) Make up an imaginary friend or a lover
There’s no need to shout from the rooftops that you’re travelling alone. As a safety measure, avoid telling everyone you meet that you are on your own. In some countries, cab drivers are known for trying to take you to a different accommodation or inventing stories about your hostel/guesthouse being closed. The best excuse is to say that you absolutely need to get to the initial destination because you are meeting with friends or your partner. You can even go as far as making up names and nationalities to be more believable!
7) Stay connected with your friends and family
Don’t spend 24/7 on Facebook! The reason why you travel is to live in the now, not to be constantly connected to your smartphone. Force yourself to interact with your surroundings and the new people around you.
Since you’re travelling solo, transfer your estimated itinerary to your family in case of emergency. There’s no need to send the details down to the minute, but keep them loosely informed of any bigger journey. If you plan to go completely offline for a few days, like during a trek in the Himalayas in Nepal, notify your emergency contact that you won’t be checking in until a certain point in time.
8) Get over your shyness
Learn how to speak to strangers. Meeting other travellers and locals often enough starts with a smile and just a few words. Be curious and ask questions to initiate a conversation. What’s their name and where are they from? Ask where they travelled before and what’s the next stop. Since most travellers share similar travel routes and itineraries, this makes for great talking points.
One of the most convenient ways to meet people is to join activities like cooking classes, guided tours, pub crawls, yoga classes…
9) Trust your instinct
Whatever happens, stay sharp and alert. If you have a bad feeling, trust your gut; take the next cab, look for another hostel or double back if you need to. If in doubt, listen to that inner voice and avoid any unnecessary risk. You don’t have to rationalize that feeling, you’re free to change your mind at any time when you’re travelling solo. Follow your intuition to make smarter decisions and don’t ignore the red flags.
Apply those simple safety guidelines: don’t walk alone at night, avoid alleys, ask your hostel about safer neighborhoods and if needed, join other travellers to go out for food or drinks.
10) Travel Insurance will give you peace of mind
Mishaps and misadventures can make the best stories provided that you’re adequately insured. In the event that you need to consult a doctor while you’re abroad or you need to deal with having your passport stolen, you want to make sure that you picked the right travel insurance. In a state of panic, you want to be able to quickly reach your insurance broker. Choose a recognized and reliable insurance company like Escapade Travel Insurance which offers more than 30 travel insurance solutions to suit your needs regardless of the type of travel or your health profile. Travelling doesn’t have to be stressful, you simply have to be prepared.
After all, the hardest part of travelling alone is making that initial decision to leave. Now more than ever, there are thousands of people travelling on their own. Travelling solo will open you up to new experiences, it will allow you to reconnect with yourself and it will bless you with unforgettable meetings. What are you waiting for?
Article by Nomad Junkies team