Traveling alone can be intimidating to even the most seasoned travelers. When you travel with others, you are benefitted with a problem-solving partner, a conversation companion, and a general safety net. However, solo travel offers a completely unique perspective on the world. If you’re looking to travel alone for the first time, here’s what you should know.
It’s okay to take small steps
You don’t have to embark on a several-month-long endeavor in order to count your solo trip a success. If it’s your first time going it alone, take whatever-size steps you feel comfortable with. Your solo travel could be in a foreign city, in a local area, in the mountains, or anywhere in between. You can restaurant hop by yourself, meet up with other travelers in hostels or local volunteering opportunities, or read by the beach. There is no “too big” or “too small”.
Do exactly what you want to do
One of the definitive downsides of traveling with other people is that, the larger the group, the more compromise ends up being a part of your trip. Of course compromise is necessary in many parts of life, but a key benefit of traveling alone is that you get to determine the course of your entire day. Everything from restaurant choices to bedtimes is on your whim – so do exactly what it is that you want to do. And if you’re not sure what your style is? Traveling alone might be the perfect way to find out.
Establish a safety net
Even though you’re branching out your own, it’s always a smart idea to have a back-up plan. Designate a few trusted people back home to act as your point people, and give them your itinerary, flight times, hotel reservations, any relevant contact information. Make sure you notify your bank of your travel dates in order to maintain access to your credit cards. For American travelers going abroad, register your trip with the State Department before you go.
Consider starting your day early
Nightlife is a fun way to experience a city, but if you don’t want to participate alone, it might be a perfect option to get your day started early. Maximize your daylight and get out to popular attractions before the crowds hit.
Just because you’re traveling alone doesn’t mean that you need to be alone all the time. Solo travel offers the perfect opportunity to get to know the people who live where you’re visiting. One way to do this is through Couchsurfing, a service similar to Airbnb, that allows you to stay in vetted locals’ homes. Another way to meet people while you’re traveling is through Meetup, a website/app through which you can meet up with people in your area, usually based on interest groups. Or, simply strike up a conversation with the person next to you on the bus or in the restaurant. Let yourself be surprised!
Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. The security of leaving your belongings with a friend in the airport is suddenly not an option anymore when you’re traveling solo, so do yourself a favor and pack light. This will give you the most freedom and flexibility as you go, and will help make your trip as enjoyable as possible.
Use a map
Get oriented wherever you’re going. The better acquainted you are with your general geography, the more you’ll be able to relax and take routes off the beaten path.
Become a regular
Try going to a few of the same places everyday – a street vendor on your way into town, a coffee shop. People will start to notice you and look out for you, and you might be surprised by the kinds of conversations you end up having.
The faster the better, right? It turns out that fast travel spells trouble for the environmental, and it’s also a good way to miss what’s going on around you as you get from point A to point B. Challenge yourself to take a slow method – a train instead of a plane, a bike instead of a car – and see how much more you can notice.