Traveling solo is an experience everyone should have at least once. That being said, to those who have never done it it can seem like a scary endeavor. I’m here to tell you once you take that first step to beginning your solo adventure, you’ll be giving yourself a life-changing experience that will allow you to strengthen your relationship with yourself. To help prepare you for taking to the road on your own, here is my personal Solo Travel Survival Guide.
Have A Positive Attitude From The Start
Before boarding your plane, say to yourself, “I will have a positive experience.” Live by the solo female traveler’s unofficial official manifesto (if you’re a male, tailor it as needed), and pledge to have rewarding adventures, grow your relationship with yourself, immerse yourself in foreign cultures, learn something new, change your perspective, help people, make friends and create unforgettable memories that help you realize why you booked the trip in the first place. While the expression may be overused, “attitude is everything” is a quote to live by.
Make Time To Connect With Yourself
Making time to connect with yourself is an essential part of traveling solo. Wander the city on your own (make sure to have a map and your hotel’s business card on you in case you get lost) and let yourself feel the pulse of where you are; meditate in a peaceful park; journal your observations and reactions from the trip; go for a sunrise jog near the water. These are all activities where your mind is free to roam without being censored or distracted. And as traveling solo allows for a lot of alone time, you’ll be able to analyze your thoughts and make deep realizations about yourself.
Know How To Make Friends When You Want To
While you should make time to connect with yourself, you should also know how to make friends when you want company. If you’re interested in meeting locals, CouchSurfing.org is a great resource, as you can post on city-specific forums to tell locals and other travelers you’re in town and would love to meet up. Additionally, hanging out in social places like bars, parks and at events can help you mingle with new people. Free walking tours tend to attract backpackers, as do money exchanges and hostels.
Know How To Stay Safe
Whether traveling alone or in a group, safety should always be your number one concern. This is especially true when traveling solo, as you don’t have other people looking out for you. As soon as you arrive at your hotel, ask for a map annotated with where it’s safe to walk around alone and where it’s not. After dark, avoid walking alone and instead opt for taxis. Have fun and enjoy the nightlife scene, but keep drinking to a minimum so you can think clearly and make smart decisions. If you’re a U.S. citizen, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) before leaving home so the government can better assist you in an emergency. For more on this, check out 17 Safety Tips For Solo Travelers.
Talk To Strangers (But Keep Your Guard Up)
I remember when I first started traveling solo, my dad would always say “Have fun and don’t talk to strangers.”; however, meeting locals and other travelers on the road is three-quarters of the fun. My advice is to talk to everyone: bartenders, cab drivers, hostel mates, the woman who made your morning coffee, your tour guide. That being said, always keep your guard up and remember you don’t really know these people, no matter how genuine they seem. Resist giving personal information like how much money you have on you, that your family has no idea where you are or your bank information so they can go take out beer money from the ATM. It’s also smart to stick to public places like bars, restaurants and attractions for meetups.
Invest In Pickpocket-Proof Clothing
When traveling solo, I always feel like a walking target when my purse is bulging with my cell phone, camera, money and credit cards. Even when backpacking Europe, which was one of my “safest” trips, I was constantly being warned of pickpocketers (I met a guy who was 6’5’’ and 260 pounds who was pickpocketed twice in two months!). That’s why I’m obsessed with pickpocket-proof clothing, which you can buy from brands like Clever Travel Companion and Clothing Arts. The clothing consists of shirts, pants and undergarments with hidden inside pockets, so nobody ever needs to know you’re carrying anything (and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t want to touch your privates to get it).
Roll With The Punches
Especially for first timers, traveling solo can be daunting. That being said, booking your flight is the first step toward this life-changing experience where you’ll not only connect with the world, but with yourself. Keep in mind, things are bound to go wrong along the way — missed connections, lost items, misplaced reservations, miscommunications. There may also be times you feel lonely, homesick or travel fatigue. Know that your reactions and feelings are normal, and deal with them in a calm and logical manner. It isn’t the end of the world, and you shouldn’t let these things ruin your trip.
Packing light is essential when traveling solo, as again you have nobody looking out for you (or helping you carry stuff) but yourself. The more you bring the more likely you are to lose and forget things. Additionally, if you’re backpacking it’s much easier to move from place to place with a lighter load.
Know How To Travel On A Budget
When traveling solo you don’t have anyone to help you with costs on the road. To alleviate this burden, it’s best to know some tips for saving money. Choose hostels, homestays and CouchSurfing over hotels; avoid touristy restaurants or eateries with English menus and instead opt for street food and mom and pop establishments; opt for free walking tours and check to see if certain museums and attractions have free visiting hours; learn how to hack your next trip; and bring your own water bottle to refill as you go instead of buying them daily (as long as the country’s water is safe to drink). For more on this, check out 20 Tips For Traveling Like A VIP On A Budget and Essential Tips For Saving Money On Food When Traveling.
Revel In Your Absolute Freedom
The best thing about traveling solo is you get to experience the road with absolute freedom. You’re doing what you want to do when you want to do it, and going where you want to go when you want to go. No compromising on activities, hotels, restaurants or wakeup times, as the ability to decide how your trip will play out is 100% up to you.
What’s your essential advice for solo travelers? Please share in the comments below.