A few of you have requested a post about traveling alone so I wanted to talk about that here today…
First of all, I think it’s funny whenever people tell me I am brave or adventurous for traveling by myself. I don’t feel either of those things. I’m actually not very brave at all. Brave or adventurous would be going to Asia by myself, something I’ve been thinking of doing for a long time, but also putting off as I’m sort of a scaredy cat at heart. The thing is, I’m single and self-employed with a relatively flexible schedule… and I have a ton of things that I want to do, so I just go and do them on my own rather than waiting to have someone to do the things with. I would 1,000% rather have someone to travel with (although I will be honest… there are times when I just want to get away from people… that was the case with this past trip!)
The first time I ever traveled alone was 6.5 years ago. I was 27 and in between jobs. I had severance money leftover from being laid off from the first job, so I went to Greece for two weeks. It was unbelievable and one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. There is something so exhilarating about just picking up and going… on your own. I booked it very last minute and didn’t do a ton of research so I ended up making a lot of mistakes. I didn’t book my ferries in advance which caused for a bit of tears when I got to the ferry station and all of the ferries were sold out. I ended up just going to another port and being fine, but I was pretty overwhelmed. I got back to New York and from that trip and felt like a new human. It gave me so much confidence and made me feel like I could do anything. When I look back on life, that trip was definitely a pivotal moment for me… I learned so much about myself and really grew as a person. A few weeks later I left again, that time going to Lyon by myself – but for a friend’s wedding.
These days, I’m not quite as adventurous. Tulum is a great place to go on your own as it’s relatively safe. London is another good one because there’s no language barrier. You just have to be careful. I always stay in decently nice hotels (I’d never stay in a hostel by myself!), and I research the hell out of wherever I am headed beforehand to make a plan. Or (like this past trip), I don’t make a lot of plans. There’s something really awesome about just spending a few days by yourself on the beach with a pile of books.
I always end up making friends when I travel alone, which is kind of cool. In Greece I met two girls and a pack of Australian guys that I still keep up with via social media. The first time I was in Tulum I met some really cool girls (still Instagram pals with them), and this past time I was stuck in the rain and ended up sharing a cab with a family (the cutest mom + her two daughters). As it turned out they were avid blog readers and we had a lot to talk about. We’ve been emailing back and forth since my return which is fun.
Anyway, I’ve compiled some Do’s and Don’ts of solo travel… I hope this is helpful!
- Research ahead of time. Trip Advisor is a great resource.. you’ll be able to tell if others traveled their solo, and if the place you are going is safe!
- Make sure you have way to entertain yourself, especially if you are traveling internationally and won’t have Internet. I usually download a few shows or movies to my laptop to watch at night, pack at least three books, and either bring stationery or buy postcards to write notes to friends and family during solo meals. I’d say meals are really the only part where it gets awkward.
- Make friends! I am an introvert by nature but I always find myself making friends when I travel alone… yet every time I go somewhere by myself, I end up with a new friend or two. Keep an open mind, you will find yourself meeting the most interesting people.
- Bring nice things! Anytime I travel by myself, I leave all of my nice things at home. I do bring my nice camera but that is literally the one expensive thing I travel with.
- Look clueless. Fake it til you make it. If you seem like you know what you are doing and act like a local, no one is going to mess with you. In London I would map out my routes ahead of time (or take a cab) so that I was never that clueless looking tourist on the street at night.
- Wear your headphones. I’m never without mine so I hate this one, but it goes along with looking clueless and makes you a target.
For me, the best part of solo travel to me is being able to do whatever I want. I have two distinct travel modes: Do it All, and Do Nothing. When I was in London for New Years Eve, I was in Do It All mode. I was sort of with friends but mostly on my own. I made it a goal to go to as many art galleries and museums as possible and I did a really good job with it. I was pretty beat by the end of the trip and it probably would have been annoying for friends or a boyfriend. Conversely, this past trip, I didn’t want to do much of anything besides lay in my cabana and read… so I didn’t need to worry about letting anyone down by skipping the touristy things.
The other really great part is that you learn a lot about yourself. You become really comfortable with your own company, and you learn what you like and don’t like. I am a pretty easy going person by nature so often just go along with whatever the person I am with wants to do. When you’re by yourself and have to make all of the big decisions, it’s interesting to see what you decide to do!
I hope this is helpful… if you have more questions, don’t hesitate to ask – leave a comment or feel free to email me! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Also – How to Travel Like an A-Lister!