I don’t about you but solo travel was never a term I heard of growing up. When I heard about people going on holiday I always thought they were doing it with others. Hearing teenage friends talking about travelling the world after school or university, the term ‘solo travel’ never came up. When I started travelling in my late twenties I never thought of labelling it as solo travel. Therefore any advice for first time solo travellers I never researched.
During the years I was focused on travelling, on average I went on a trip every month. That isn’t sustainable for long periods of time especially when I have a full-time job but I am committed to travel.
Nobody should be surprised about people solo travelling. When you visit a new country, city or town does it actually matter if you do it alone or with others? Everyone surely knows how to go on holiday. You need to organise travel, accommodation, money, what to do and many other things. All of them need to be done if you are going away with other people anyway, so planning is no different.
There are many other aspects to solo travel that are different and make the experience nervous for many. What to know about solo travel is that the questions and reasons for doing it are similar for everyone. I started solo travelling because I wanted to explore the world around me. I don’t have close friends who are available to travel to the same schedule I have but that was not going to stop me travelling. When searching for holidays, in the dropdown menu for how many travellers, there is always an option for one. So the world is accommodating for solo travellers.
You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have many questions before your first solo trip. So let me share with you my advice for first time solo travellers.
Live with the responsibility of being dependant on you
So you want to travel solo, excellent. Now you have to make all the decisions. You have to think of everything. Finding the best price for flights and accommodation, arranging transfers, deciding what to explore, that’s all on you. You can seek advice from others on these things but ultimately it is you who has to make the final decisions and deal with whatever happens.
Through all the responsibility, solo travel is exciting. You don’t have to consult or agree with anyone. If you want to book a more expensive flight seat go for it. Wake up at 4am to see the sunrise, go for it. Read a book on the beach all afternoon, go for it. There will be nobody to stop you doing anything you want to do. The responsibility of being dependant on you should not be feared but embraced!
Do what makes you happy
This is my best advice for first time solo travellers and follows on from my previous point. Solo travel should encompass you being somewhere that you want to go to, therefore when you are there do what makes you happy. You will have stories to tell of places that people may never have heard of.
Here is an example. I like Lego. When researching Prague I discovered that there was a Lego museum in the city centre. I really wanted to go so I did. Would anyone I know find it interesting? Not really. Was it a big attraction? I wouldn’t say so if you didn’t like Lego. Was I happy that I went? Absolutely! When you solo travel do what makes you happy.
When I travel I want to explore and do as many things as possible. If what makes you happy during a trip is relaxing more that is fine. Either way there is going to have to be some degree of planning involved to make your trip go as smoothly as possible. My solo travel trips have tended to be no more than two or three days so planning ahead enables me to maximise the time.
Being safe when travelling is even more important when going solo. Researching ahead helps understand regions of cities that may be considered as not safe. Sticking to tourist areas is one way to feel safe in numbers. However remember if you show the obvious signs of being a tourist you will be a target for pick pockets. When normally out and about, where do you keep valuables on you? Your normal tendencies may feel safe in your hometown and city but in other parts of the world you could be targeting yourself.
If you do not feel comfortable with people who are around you or the area you are in then move on. Don’t get yourself isolated. Always trust your instincts. Better be safe than sorry. Remember to tell family and friends what your plans are. This only has to be one or two people. By outlining your rough itinerary of each day, others know where you are if anything should happen to you.
When you are out exploring be practical and take essential things with you. I would advise to always be as sustainable and responsible as possible. Have a reusable water bottle filled up before you head out. Is your phone charged? Is your power bank charged? Have you packed your camera? If the weather looks changeable are you prepared? These are all simple things to remember but in my experience if you are not practical you’ll be annoyed with yourself later.
Build the trip that is right for you
When you travel solo the responsibility is on you. You want to do what makes you happy and make use of the time you have. So build the trip that is right for you. If you want to keep costs down with a flight of transfers and layovers, and stay in a hostel, fine. If you want to stay in luxurious hotel that’s costs more, fine. It is your trip at the end of the day and you want to tell people how great your trip was.
It is okay to have anxieties
No matter how much you plan or take practical measures you will be anxious about travelling solo travel. Even though I am an experienced solo traveller I have anxieties that follow me anywhere I go. They can be small or big but I manager them by remembering that I have control of my situation.
What I struggle most with is eating out in large public gatherings. I build an anxiety that eating dinner out alone makes me the centre of attention. The busier a restaurant is the less likely I am to eat there. I counter this by knowing where I want to eat before I go out and by booking a table in advance where possible. This removes deliberation to greatly lower my anxiety.
Having anxieties while solo travelling is okay and there will be ways to overcome them with careful thought.
Final advice for first time solo travellers
Every solo travel trip is an adventure. The biggest step is deciding to do it. There are endless possibilities just waiting to be explored. The more you solo travel, you will start to achieve things that you never thought you could.
No matter the difficulties or anxieties you have, your solo trip will never be as bad as you think. I hope my experiences and advice will help you on your first solo travel adventure. One final thing to say, when you travel solo you are not alone. There is a worldwide community of solo travellers that you will become part of. The term ‘solo travel’is widespread and totally my niche.