Traveling alone takes a lot of courage. It can be intimidating to roam alone in an unfamiliar place. When I packed my life into a backpack and set out on my solo travel adventure, I had one goal in mind: discover what lies beyond my comfort zone. Traveling alone has given me great insight into myself and others, while also giving me a newfound sense of self-confidence.
If you crave adventure and are prepared for the solo journey of a lifetime, here are some tips that may help you along the way.
1. Do Research
Are you a traveler that prefers to go to see museums or go on hikes? A foodie or an adventure-seeker? As a solo traveler, you get to pick any and all activities that you participate in. When you’re headed to a new destination, make the best of your time and research what the new location has to offer. By doing this, you will avoid places that do not appeal to you as a solo traveler, and you will be prepared to start exploring the moment you arrive.
2. Make plans not to make plans
While you’ve mapped out some things you want to do in each city, remember that the best things in life happen when you least expect it. So, you miss your bus or your flight is delayed? That’s ok! As a solo traveler, there is nothing tying you down. Expect to change your mind often and understand that sometimes things don’t go as planned. Let your freedom be your guide.
3. Stay in hostels
Hostels are both the best way to save money and to meet other travelers (many of whom are likely traveling alone too!). The staff typically knows the area well and can give suggestions on where to eat and what sights to see during your stay. I recommend that you do a little bit of research on which hostel is best suited for you – they accommodate all types of travelers from the one who is desperate for a night of sleep to the one who is prepared to stay out all night.
4. Ask questions
The best way to immerse yourself in a new place is to wander around and live like a local. When deciding where to eat or where to hang out, ask a local. They know the area better than anyone else and you will get the most authentic taste of the city. Participating in Free Walking Tours also provide historical background and are a great way to learn the general layout of a new place during your first days there.
We’re all too familiar with the phrase, “balling on a budget.” Be sure to create a spending allowance for needs like meals, accommodations, and extras. The budget may grow tight, but when deciding between an experience and saving money, spend within reason. Ask yourself, “When will I be in this city again?” and remember that we regret the things that we don’t do.
6. Be smart
Yes, I have to say it: be smart. You are by yourself in an unfamiliar city surrounded by different cultural norms and people. Unfortunately, you have to look out for yourself and be aware of your environment. Respect the place that you are in, and don’t be afraid to ask locals or other tourists for help if you need it.
7. Disconnect and be where you are
If you are social media savvy, you will either become an expert with the selfie stick and tripod or with the phrase “excuse me, will you take my picture?” or both. Let your Instagram feed be superior to all of your friends back home, but remember that solo travel is a time for self-discovery and adventure. I recommend putting your phone away and soaking up your surroundings as often as possible. After all, when you look back on your solo excursion you should have memories of your new experiences instead of what others are doing back home.
8. Remember to take care of yourself
Nothing halts a trip quite like getting sick. The reality is, traveling is wonderful, but it’s also exhausting. It’s easy to get caught up in adventure and forget to take a break. Make sure that you’re always drinking plenty of water, eating a proper diet, and getting enough sleep. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with staying in, binging your favorite Netflix show, and then recharging for a full day tomorrow.
9. Enjoy the adventure
Whether you’re on a trip for a week or a year, know that this is a time of discovery. You will not only learn things about new cultures and different places, but you will gain a greater understanding of yourself. Have a positive outlook throughout all of the ups and downs, and I can guarantee that you will come home a better version of yourself.
My ears still cracked 12-hours after my skydive; A natural side effect of jumping 15,000 feet from a plane. It was no matter, though. I was halfway through an 8-hour hike through Tongariro National Park and my hiking boots were no match for the downhill slope. I fell, paused, and sitting in the gravel, I took a moment to digest. It was my last day in New Zealand, and I realized that I wouldn’t have found myself in that situation had it not been for months of solo travel. The person that I had become while traveling alone was radiant.