I’ve been asked “How do you travel solo?” numerous times by people keen to take the plunge themselves and each time I’ve said ‘I Just do it!’. In hindsight, that’s probably not the best answer for someone nervous about travelling solo. So, here are answers to the questions I’ve been asked:
- Where should I go?Some place convenient! What I mean to say is- if this is the first time you’re travelling alone, you may not want to head to some place at the other end of the globe or to a place where no-one speaks English. Pick a spot which is close to home, English speaking (only because it’s so widely spoken), easy to travel within and safe. For example, my first solo trip was to Scotland and it is by far one of my most memorable ones
- How do you eat alone? Oh the biggie! Most people I’ve met always say that they probably can sightsee/travel alone but when it comes to eating a meal by themselves, they get nervous
- Start with some company- grab a book! It’s much easier to be initiated into the world of eating alone if you have a good book by your side. Slowly, you’ll be totally comfortable to enjoy a solo meal, savouring the food and enjoying the ambience (sans book)
- Make sure you head to THAT restaurant you’ve read about for meals while travelling even if it makes you uncomfortable and don’t just survive on grab & go’s
- Try and get a table by the window/outside, it helps to look out at the street/view instead of staring dead straight at the couple on the table across from you
- Starting off at the bar is always a good idea if you’re a little apprehensive about eating alone at a table. Bars within your favourite restaurant make for a non- intimidating you’re alone and you can even grab an actual meal at them in most restaurants.
- Sometimes take out works well if you’re in a city with pretty parks and lakes, grabbing some food and having yourself a little picnic makes for some of the best memories
- Try not to be glued into your phone screen while you enjoy your meal. I know it may be a little uncomfortable to eat alone at the start but I promise it gets better if you give it a chance.
- Doesn’t it get boring?It really doesn’t. Travelling alone makes you more open to interacting with other people – locals, fellow travellers, coffee shop baristas and more. Even if you’re someone who’s shy there are tips to getting around the initial hesitation. More on that below
- Stay at a hostel if that’s something you’re comfortable with. You’ll meet travellers, be part of hostel activities and be welcomed by warm locals. It’s worth the little inconvenience of sharing space. Most hostels have private rooms as well which is a great option for someone who needs privacy while staying in a vibrant welcoming spot!
- Join in on walking tours/ pub crawls where you’re likely to meet other travellers and maybe even make friends for life
- Most cities have classes you can take- from learning how to cook the local cuisine to dance, there is something for everyone. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and also meet like minded people
- Bonus: YOU get the decide what you wanna do every day and not be coerced into seeing that museum you never wanted to or go shopping to the mall! It’s your holiday, your way
- Don’t you get uncomfortable/shy? I’d lie if I said I didn’t! The first time I travelled solo, I was so confused and shy to ask for absolutely anything. There is definitely some power in numbers
- It helps to know that ‘nobody cares’ that you’re alone. Go ahead and initiate conversations with roommates/fellow travellers/locals
- A great conversation starter is just asking someone how they’re doing or where they’re from, it always gets the ball rolling
- As a women, there will be times when people think you’re hitting on them/available if you initiate conversations. If you are, great. But, if like me, you just wanted to make friends/ have a conversation – make sure you slip that in within the first 30 minutes. I personally love weaving my relationship status/unavailability into the conversation and stories I tell so that people know I’m not interested without coming off too strong. You can pick a way that works best for you
- My first trip, I had NO pictures of myself. I’m not someone who uses a tripod or any other sophisticated photography tool, just my good old phone! My dad joked that I could have downloaded all the pictures I showed him off of the internet. I was so shy to ask for absolutely anything, let alone for someone to take my pictures. I’ve gotten better and realised that most people are always happy to help you find your way, suggest a restaurant or even take your picture. Just ask, politely. Thank yous & pleases go a long way
- Lastly – Always know that if you do something stupid, there is no-one there anyway who knows who you are!
- Isn’t it expensive?True, sometimes travelling solo can end up being a little bit more expensive than if you have someone to share costs with especially accommodation & taxi fares!
- Stay in a shared room at a hostel instead of a hotel room/ private hostel room
- Take public transport instead of cabs
- Use taxi pool services where available
- Don’t over order when eating alone / doggy bag a meal for later
- Do you plan everything?I personally, don’t! I usually have all my flights done if it isn’t a super long trip and my stay for the first few days (which in most cases I still end up changing when I get there)
- I love to have my first 2 days of any trip sorted with stay but like to explore the city/country after that and am usually very fluid with my trips
- If you don’t have a set itinerary you are more likely to take on recommendations from locals/fellow travellers and change your plans around. So that’s a big PLUS. For example – Isla Holbox was not on my travel itinerary when I headed to Quintana Roo, Mexico but after hearing few fellow travellers talk about it, I decided to switch up my plan and head there. Best decision ever! I had some of the best experiences there like swimming in the ocean full of bioluminescent zooplankton in the middle of the night because a local told us about it and we (friends made that day at the hostel) decided to make the trip
- I do however feel that planning accommodation and the basic route map of ones trip can save you from any pre trip anxiety, especially when travelling alone. Make sure you use websites like hostelworld.com or booking.com which allow you to cancel/change bookings at no cost
- Is it safe?It’s as safe as it would be if you were travelling with someone. You have to exercise caution like you would in your home country.
- Trust your gut ! I know it sounds weird, but I’ve always followed my gut when it comes to walking down a certain street, entering a certain bar or speaking to a certain stranger. Your spidey senses KNOW, trust them.
- Don’t stroll off into dark corners in the middle of the night – D-UH!
- Don’t flash expensive jewellery, electronics etc when walking through town, it will attract the wrong crowd!
- Stay alert, always. Be aware of your surrounding whether you’re at a party or walking about town. These are basics and probably you already follow most of them in your own hometown
- Typically opt for public transport over hitchhiking/taxi cabs late at night. It’s good to be amongst others. Take a call depending on the city you’re in and what’s considered safer there!
- Make friends BUT don’t let your guard down immediately. Take your time.
- Don’t get too drunk – always be a position to make your way back to your accommodation safely.
- As a woman travelling alone, you may be cat called in few countries or as they say – ‘appreciated’. Don’t make eye contact, say a firm NO if approached and keep walking! One of the safest things to do in such situations in to get into the nearest shop/cafe and sit it out.
PS: I’ve been known to skip some of these ‘safety tips’ often BUT one thing I never fight is my instinct. So if it tells me something’s not right – I BOLT!
If travelling alone is something you’ve always wanted to do, it’s time you plan for that trip. If you have any questions, reach out to me! Happy Travelling.
Really great post! Traveling alone can be intimidating, but it’s such an incredible experience. Being completely in charge of your itinerary means you can do exactly what you want to do. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you so much Katie, absolutely agree with you. It definitely can be intimidating to begin with but it’s also a truly liberating experience 🙂