Note: I’ve had this in my draft since May, but just found it now. I’ve been meaning to post this since forever, but better late than never I guess!
The first time I traveled solo, I was absolutely terrified. I was 19 and going to Thailand. But this was almost 10 years ago so the infrastructure wasn’t nearly as good as it is now. There weren’t really any hostels, only bungalows, guest houses and hotels. There weren’t as much information as there is now. I didn’t know what to expect, all I knew was that there were a ton of Swedes there and even a Swedish bar that I would try to avoid at all costs (lol). My family was also scared for me and tried to convince me to stay. But stubborn and proud as I was (am), I decided to leave.
I quickly realized that you’re never alone when you’re traveling alone. I met up with a Swedish girl who was with me the entire trip, which I’m so thankful for. After that I stopped fearing it so much and became more open minded towards solo traveling. And I’m glad for that experience! I’m so grateful that none of my friends could join me for my trips because it really pushed me to dare to venture out alone. So if you also want to travel solo for the experience, or none of your friends can join you and you’re tired of waiting, then take a look at my tips for solo traveling.
Don’t worry too much
I’m guilty of this though. It took me a long time to get used to traveling alone to be honest and there are times when it can get tough. But don’t start your trip by worrying too much. Don’t be like me and constantly think “will I find friends?”, “can I really do it on my own?”, or the worst thought of them all; will I die? I always doubted myself and my choices, but realized how much energy it took of my trip. And this was even before it had started! I’ve always found friends while solo traveling, I’ve managed to do everything on my own AND I didn’t die! So all of those negative thoughts were just for nothing, really. What you should do instead is to focus on all the good things that might happen to you on your trip. Maybe you’ll meet the love of your life? Maybe you’ll grow a lot as a person? And maybe traveling solo will be the best decision of your life!
Don’t plan everything ahead
I did this mistake when I traveled in New Zealand and Australia. I was only 20 years old and wanted some security, so I booked everything. Hostels, transportation, flights, all of the shenanigans. Thing is, I didn’t even consider the fact that I’d most likely meet people that I would like to travel around with, or that I’d like a place a lot and want to stay there for longer. But it was a little too late to change my itinerary, so I just had to leave the group I was with, leave New Zealand (which I absolutely loved) after only 2 weeks and go to Australia, which I didn’t really like as much. So don’t be scared to be spontaneous, even if it can feel a bit intimidating.
… But do make some plans
If you’re going to arrive to a place late at night for example, book a hostel or whatever! Don’t decide to be all spontaneous in the middle of the night. It’s always safer to at least have accommodation when you arrive to a new place, especially when it’s that late. I landed at midnight in Morocco and was so happy that I’d booked a taxi (which I later learned was overpriced but whatever) that got me to my hostel. I was quite anxious since I’d heard Morocco was tough for female solo travelers so it felt calming to at least know where I’d be sleeping that night.
Know that you’re not the only solo traveler
You know that feeling when there’s big groups and you feel like you’re all alone? Yeah, that’s how I’ve felt many times. I’ve looked at those groups of friends and felt so lonely. I thought “why am I the only solo traveler here?”. But as soon as I started speaking to some people, I found out that most people in those groups of people were also solo traveling, but they’d just found each other. Don’t be afraid to approach them! Even if they’re not traveling by themselves, they’ll most likely be open minded to getting to know you. Most travelers are. And if they’re not, well, there’ll be a ton of other people you can talk to.
Always tell your friends and family where you are
When you’re traveling alone, it’s really important to let your friends and family know where you are and where you’re heading. First of all, they’re probably worried about you. Secondly, if something would happen to you, they’ll be the ones who’ll most likely report it. Sounds scary, I know, but everyday I tell at least someone where I’m going, where I’m staying, etc. It also feels safer for me.
Couchsurfing is a great way to get to know locals and/or expats. It’s a website where you can either look for people to host you or be the host. If you’re on a tight budget or you just want to meet people, it’s really nice. I’ve couchsurfed several times and I’ve had many good experiences (also one bad, which I’ll write about another day). It’s completely free but it’s always nice to at least give something in return. Doesn’t have to be a thing, it could just be spending some time with your host or offer to cook for example. Do read through your hosts profile thoroughly and don’t just go and stay at anyone’s place. I usually choose hosts that has at least a few (good!) reviews and that I see has hosted both boys and girls. There’s many creeps out there so ALWAYS be careful!
Don’t be afraid to be alone
I used to hate the idea of eating out alone. I always found someone, even if it was people I didn’t even get along with, just so that I didn’t have to eat alone or be alone. I used to be really self conscious when I was younger and I constantly thought that eating alone was a sign that I was seen as someone with no friends. But this all changed a while ago when I just stopped overthinking and started enjoying it. I think it was in Bosnia when I just let it all go. I remember going out to this restaurant and ordering the only vegetarian thing on the menu, pizza (what else…), and just smiled like a creepy person (sorry Bosnians). I don’t know what happened but I started to really enjoy eating without having to entertain someone else. I could just focus on my food and look at random people. Nowadays, I really don’t mind going out to eat or visit a cinema by myself. In fact, I love it! The older I get, the more I appreciate these moments. There’s many times when I travel now that I deliberately choose to be just by myself. Especially when I’m in bigger cities. I love walking around with my headphones and just sightsee, take it all in, choosing wherever I want to go and where I want to eat. It’s so liberating! So don’t be afraid to be alone. See it as a blessing, not a curse.
You can for the most part rely on the kindness of strangers
When you travel solo, you’re the one in charge of your entire trip. You’re the one who’s deciding what to do and where to go. You’re also the one with the maps. I don’t know about you guys, but I have a terrible sense of direction. Just ask any of my friends or travel buddies. It’s just… ugh. So you bet that I’ve gotten lost several times. But each time I’ve become frustrated with myself, there’s always a stranger that’s willing to help point out the right way. I wouldn’t have gotten as far without relying on the kindness of strangers. They’ve also helped me get on the right buses, trains, flights, etc. Strangers has even paid for my rides when I lost my money. It can be really frustrating to travel by yourself because let’s face it, when do things ever go the way we want it to? But thankfully, there’s some really good people out there who will help you in the best way they can. Just trust your intuition and gut feeling. It’s also important to not be TOO trustworthy that people start scamming you, etc.
Just enjoy it and have fun!
The last, but most important tip, is to just enjoy your trip. You’re probably spending a lot of money so why constantly worry? Have fun! Life is way too short to be worrying about something that might or might never happen.
Solo traveling is one of the best gifts that life has given me and I think that’s why I still enjoy being abroad. I’ve learnt so much about myself but also about the world, I’ve overcome many challenges that has helped me grow immensely as a person, I’ve met a ton of incredible people whom I consider some of my closest friends and seen some places I’ll never ever forget. All of these experiences has shaped me into who I am today and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.