Although many of us choose to travel solo, it’s a concept that can be difficult for some people to understand. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m afraid to travel on my own. Several female friends and acquaintances have come to me with different queries simply out of interest or because they are looking to embark on a solo adventure themselves.
Solo travel is something that I think everyone should do at some point in their lives. You learn so much when you only have yourself to rely on and you develop a sense of confidence that makes you feel like you’re capable of anything (and you are)! One apprehension that many people have is that traveling solo might be lonely. Traveling on your own doesn’t mean you will be alone the entire time. You will notice that there are many other people doing the same thing as you. It’s been inspiring to see how many other solo female travelers there are out there. Over the years, I’ve met some amazing people and made lifelong friends this way.
I used to be incredibly shy; traveling to foreign countries on my own would have never crossed my mind years ago. Even if it had, I would have never believed that I was capable of doing it. Living and working in Australia completely changed me. I realized that I was capable of doing anything I set my mind to. If I could move that far from home, find a job, make friends and create a life there all on my own – what couldn’t I do? I have now traveled to 10 countries solo. I’m by no means an expert on the subject but I do think that I’ve learnt a few valuable lessons over the past few years. Through trial and error, I’ve learnt what works, what doesn’t and how to get the most out of your solo experience. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy having travel companions and I’ve had some great ones over the years; but there is something really special about doing it all on your own. Plus, if you have to wait for someone to go with you, you might never go. Many of my friends are married, have children, careers and other commitments that understandably, do not allow them to pick up and go on a whim.
Here are some of the tips and tricks that I’ve learnt over the years. Some of these can apply to travel and life in general. Any other questions/comments or things to add, please feel free to get in touch.
- Start off small. Try a weekend getaway close to home for your first solo adventure. This way you won’t feel too overwhelmed and it will give you a taste of how it would be to travel on your own. This won’t be for everyone but for some of you; it will be a life changer.
- Keep going. It’s inevitable – at some point, you’re going to panic. All solo travelers have been there (myself included of course) but it’s important to remember that the feeling is temporary. So many questions can race through your mind…what if I get lost? What if no one speaks my language? What if I get lonely?…Take a few deep breaths, sit down at a coffee shop and take a few moments (or as many moments as it takes) to collect yourself. Everything is going to be okay and this feeling is going to pass. Bring a notebook with you (I always carry one wherever I go) and jot down how you’re feeling. Grab a map from your hotel and make a plan of action. Do one thing at a time and don’t feel that you have to fit too much in. I always ask myself – what’s the worst thing that can happen? I get on the wrong train. I get lost. Big deal. You can always ask someone for help and Google Maps is always there to help guide you, should your map fail you. Just regroup and keep moving – you’ve got this! As the wonderful Carrie Fisher said, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
- Do your research. I find that I’m more at ease when I’ve done a bit of research before I take off on my adventure. It doesn’t mean that you have to stick to a rigid itinerary but it’s nice to have a rough idea of what you’d like to see before arriving at your destination. When it comes to museums and art galleries for example, they might be closed on certain days. It’s good to know that ahead of time, so you don’t miss out. I also like to find out the best way to get from the airport to my accommodation just so I have a plan when I arrive. This is especially a good idea for first time solo travelers. It will be one less thing to worry about. When in doubt, you can always ask someone for help.
- Pack light. Don’t bring too much with you. It can be a pain lugging a heavy suitcase around. I recommend investing in a travel backpack from your local outdoor retailer (MEC, Patagonia). Have the staff help you find something to suit your needs regarding weight and size. This will all depend on what kind of trip you will be taking and in which climate. For example, if you’re a hiker/climber, you’re going to need a larger pack for your gear. If you’re heading to a colder climate, you will also require more room for additional layers of clothing. In all cases, it’s best to bring only the necessities.
- Stay safe. The most common myth about solo travel, especially for females is that it’s dangerous. Some countries require more caution than others of course, but this would be true regardless of who you were traveling with. Always trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your intuition. Ask the locals for advice and don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do back home (ie: going out to a bar on your own and drinking too much). Always let someone know where you’ll be, especially if you’re going on an extended trip. I usually send my itinerary to my mom so that someone always knows my schedule and where I’ll be on any given day. Just use common sense and pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t worry – you won’t end up like Claire Danes in Brokedown Palace!
- Live in the moment. Take the time to “stop and smell the roses.” Sit in a coffee shop and watch the world go by. Listen to music, write in a journal, read a book – do whatever makes you feel content. Travel teaches you about different cultures, it opens your eyes to different ways of life and it provides you with a sense of adventure. It can also teach you to live in the moment and appreciate what’s going on around you…if you let it ❤