How to Travel by Yourself
Taking that first solo trip can be described as an almost religious experience. To take in new surroundings unfiltered by the prejudices, tastes, or preferences of a traveling companion can be extremely thrilling stuff.
This past summer, I took a solo trip up north. This wasn’t the first time I’ve traveled by myself but yet there were still friends and family members that were shocked I was choosing to go solo.
You may also get this response, especially if you’re a newbie solo traveler. You may have very clear reasons on why you’re choosing this way to travel. Whether you haven’t met that special someone, are traveling on business, or simply need some “alone time,” traveling alone can be entirely different than going with a friend.
Whatever the reason may be, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. My reason last summer was that my husband was going on his yearly trip with the guys. So, I decided, why not? I wanted a vacation too.
When you travel by yourself, some people don’t give their plans a second thought. Others live with anxiety at every stage of the planning process. And for others, their nerves only hit them at the very end. They are about to leave and start to panic.
Of course, traveling by yourself has its downfalls too – such as safety concerns, loneliness, and the dreaded single supplement. But a little preparation and common sense can save you money and get you through the rough times.
Why Travel by Yourself?
Solo travel can be the ultimate in self-indulgence; you can rest when you want and see every site when you’re feeling ambitious. Another benefit is that your mistakes are your own, and your triumphs all the more exciting. There’s no worrying that your insistence on trekking all the way across town to a museum that was closed ruined your partner’s day; it’s your own day to salvage or learn from the experience.
Also, you can do exactly what you want to do, all the time. Sign up for a class to go surfing; there’s no one sitting on the beach feeling bored while you have the time of your life. And, if you have no desire to see a museum, you don’t have to.
How to Travel by Yourself Safely
Is solo travel safe? It’s probably one of the most asked questions out there. Without a companion to watch your back, you are more vulnerable to criminals and scam artist, as well as simple health worries.
But, the saying “safety in numbers” isn’t always true. A solo traveler can blend in more easily than a group, and not drawing attention to yourself as a tourist is one way to stay secure.
Where Should You Go When You Travel by Yourself
Your choice of destination for your first solo trip is important. It can make the difference between a successful, confidence-building first trip with a future of many more solo trips, or one with mixed results.
I suggest that first trips be to destinations where it’s easy to find speakers of your own language. This way, you will find it easier to navigate, feel safer, and meet more people.
Certainly, you can travel your own country. There is always more to see near home. But if you want to visit another country, try one that speaks your native language or a language that you speak fluently.
Do Your Homework
Before you arrive, know how long it takes and how much it costs to get from the airport to your hotel or the city center. Solo travelers are more likely to be ‘taken for a ride’, so ask the taxi driver for an estimated fare before you leave.
If it’s considerably different from what you know to be true, take a different cab or consider Uber or Lyft.
Choose the Right Accommodations
Book an accommodation with a 24-hour front desk or service if you’ll be arriving late, so you don’t end up sleeping in your car or worse. However, arriving in a foreign city isn’t idea, I’ll explain more on this later.
If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. I can’t count how many times I have turned around because I didn’t feel safe with the situation that was ahead of me. And, most of the time it was just a group of guys hanging out.
If I were at home, I probably would have walked right past them and not had thought twice about it. But, in a different city and traveling by myself I felt uneasy. Trust your gut and do what makes you feel safe.
Where to Carry Identification
Carry your identification in more than one place. If you choose to wear a money belt, use it for storage and not as a purse. Constantly reaching under your shirt for money draws attention to it and defeats the purpose.
Instead, keep your passport, extra money, and other important documents tucked away. When out touring during the day, I like to keep money in a couple different places; in shoes, front pants pocket, and even in my bra.
Stick to Open and Public Places
This is especially true for night. When I’m traveling by myself, if I leave my accommodation at night, I tend not to go far. And, I will also make sure that I stay in well-lit areas.
Travel minimally, so you aren’t bogged down with a lot of luggage. Remember, it’s just you. So, you have to carry all the bags.
Whether you’re on a street at home or several thousand miles away, walking confidently and with direction is an effective technique for deterring unwanted attention. Appearing lost or confused can make you vulnerable to theft or worse.
If you are lost, walk into a shop or restaurant and ask for directions there. Nothing sticks out more than a tourist looking at their map in the middle of a busy square. (I too am at fault for doing this). And yes, when locals see this, they are more than happy to assist. However, you don’t know what their intention are.
Meet Other Travelers
A way to break up the monotony of traveling by yourself is to meet other travelers. Your conversation doesn’t have to end when you land and deboard the plane.
You can use Google Meetup, an extension of Google Local Guides, to find local events and activities that are happening in town. While in Germany, I went on a pub crawl and met some nice people that I met up with again the next day. You never know where you will meet people.
Don’t Look Like a Tourist
Ditch the I Love Paris T-shirt and don’t walk around with your face in a guidebook. Like stated above, you will stick out like a sore thumb.
Leave Valuables at Home
This should really be rule #1 for traveling anywhere. Don’t draw attention to yourself by wearing all your bling while on vacation.
Lie a Little
When asking for directions, don’t let on that you are alone: “Can you direct me to the museum? I have to meet a friend.” I know this sounds morbid but you never know who to trust, especially in high touristy areas.
Leave Info Behind
Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member at home, and stay in touch regularly via phone, text, video chat, or email.
This is something that I do on every trip, including trips with my husband. Just because there are two of you, doesn’t take you out of the mix. Pickpockets and murderers don’t discriminate.
Arrive During the Day
Once I decided to go cheap and took a night flight from Dublin to London. It probably wasn’t the best idea for me considering I was traveling by myself. First time in London, first time taking the Tube (or a subway, EVER), and my plane arrived around 11pm.
The area where my hostel was located, wasn’t very lit up nor did I feel very safe walking around in circles because I couldn’t figure out my directions.
There are plenty of beautiful towns that can appear eerie at night, and locals who are genuinely trying to help you can appear unnecessarily threatening. Arriving during the day means you’ll be able to find a place to stay and get your bearings before dark.
Trust Everyone and No One
One of the best reasons to travel by yourself is to meet new people, but this also makes you more vulnerable. It’s okay to hang out, travel, and share with new friends, but you might not want to ask them to hold your money.
Scam artists can often be the most charming companions you’ll find; you want to be open-minded, but keep your guard up enough to ensure your safety.
Summary on Travel by Yourself
You might dread your next solo trip. Don’t. It could really be one of the most enjoyable experiences you ever have.
Sure, it’s fun to make memories with your friends and family, but, travel by yourself is plenty of fun too.
Once you travel by yourself, it will change your life. It means not being able to rely on anyone else to get the most out of your trips. No matter where you go and what you do, it will change you.
Traveling by yourself is also a confidence booster. Enjoy every minute of it and be patient with yourself.