After reading countless blogs, following all the travel inspo Instagram accounts and watching vloggers tour the world on their own, I wanted nothing more than to experience what it was like to travel somewhere completely foreign and completely alone. Solo travel was calling my name.
During my semester studying abroad in Spain, I warmed up to the whole solo travel deal with a few mini day trips that included train travel and discovering different small cities in Spain. Then, one weekend I decided to spend three days in Belgium entirely alone.
I booked my hostel and established my last minute flight arrangements. And honestly, the weekend could not have been better. I explored on my own for the first day and then became acquainted with some friendly people at my hostel and traveled around with them for the next two days. Solo travelers seem to find one another and they tend to get along very easily.
The solo travel lifestyle seems very glamorous. You’re able to pick up and relocate at any second and explore new places with no strings attached. As great as it is to travel on your own, there are a few truths that are important to know (and can only be learned with experience).
You’re free to wander as much as you want.
It’s surprising how much each day can hold when you’re traveling solo! Since you are determining the days’ schedules, you may check off all the sites and activities on your to-do list pretty fast. With the remaining time you have, you can be totally spontaneous and creative with your wanderings (which can be the best part of traveling). And, as a bonus: if you want a nap, you’re free to take one at any time!
You can make new friends.
It’s easier to make new friends, either with locals or other travelers, when you’re traveling alone. Before I solo traveled, I was under the impression that everyone who saw me would automatically know I was traveling alone and therefore make endless conversation with me and want to be friends. Although I definitely didn’t become buddy-buddy with my bartenders or hit the town with the person I sat next to on the tram (despite my efforts), you’ll usually have no problem connecting with other solo travelers. Be on the lookout for other solo travelers—they’re your best bet. Staying in hostels is a great way to meet other travelers!
You’ll learn to be resourceful.
It doesn’t matter how much research you do on a place, how many recommendations you have or how foolproof your plan is, there will be things you have to figure out in the moment. Public transportation, metro tickets (you will more than likely get on the wrong metro once or twice), airport shuttles, where to get a drink under nine dollars…sometimes experience really is the best teacher. When things don’t go according to plan, you’ll learn how to find new solutions and create a plan B. Thankfully, we live in a time with all of the answers right in our hand. I was constantly looking stuff up on my phone and figuring things out on the fly when I traveled alone. It made a world of difference!
You’ll learn how to figure things out on your own.
Since there is nobody with you, you’ll learn how to figure a lot of situations by yourself. If you have a question, you’ll need to do the research or consult a stranger. If you run into a dilemma, you’ll have to fix it. It’s a great chance to become more self-reliant! Thankfully, most locals are willing to give instructions or point you toward someone who can help. It’s all about staying calm in the moment. You can do this!
You’ll learn to be comfortable not having all the answers.
During all of my solo travels there was a constant feeling of bewilderment and being in the unknown. Sometimes I felt like I was in a bubble because I didn’t know the language. Everyone else seemed like they knew exactly where they were going while I had no idea. But that feeling isn’t necessarily bad—in fact, it can sometimes help you make new discoveries that you wouldn’t have otherwise! The best thing to do is to fully embrace the confusion and just laugh (yes, out loud—even if it’s to yourself!).
You’ll get to know yourself better.
There were many times when I thought to myself, ‘When was the last time I said any words out loud?’ When you’re traveling alone, you have the opportunity to spend some time in your own head. It’s a great chance to clear your mind, reflect on your life, or just think! You’ll get to know yourself better and can become your own best friend.
You won’t have to share food!
Going shopping alone is amazing. No need to feel self-conscious if you want to spend hours in one store. If you want to hop from gelato stand to gelato stand eating ice cream for lunch, no problem! Nobody will be there to criticize how much money you squander or how tacky your new souvenirs are. You can also eat as much as you want without anyone there to indicate that you’re over-doing it. Experiment and taste all the delicacies on the menu! Splurge on all the chocolate you can eat.
You are in charge!
It’s rare to have the opportunity to be fully one hundred percent responsible for every decision made while traveling. But with solo travel, you get to determine your daily routines and activities. You don’t have to pretend to be indifferent about where you eat because someone else is insistent on one place. You get to choose what time you wake up and go to bed, how many monuments you visit and how fast you walk through the museums.
You’ll gain a newfound independence.
When you’re traveling solo, you are one hundred percent in charge of yourself. This means you have to carry all of your luggage and pay for everything. It also means that you have total freedom when it comes to making decisions about where to go and what to do. It’s an incredible adventure to travel on your own, but that doesn’t mean it’s always perfect. It can be overwhelming and exciting! But at the end of the day, you’ll learn how to use your resources and problem-solve, and you’ll gain confidence and independence.
It’s time to travel
If you want a successful solo travel trip, keep these truths in mind and you’ll be just fine. It’s a life-changing experience that everyone should try. Stay cool, embrace the moment and take a risk! You’ll thank me later.