I haven’t always wanted to travel alone, but there was a moment in my life when I had to take a radical decision. Whether I pay lots of money to a travel agency and strictly obey their rigorous visiting plan. Travel with my friends who were interested in a limited number of destinations. Or whether I face my fears and travel alone no matter what happens.
After five years of solo traveling, I can say it has become one of my favorite ways of traveling for lots of reasons.
Here is what I do when I travel alone and a few tips on how to travel alone for the first time.
Ignore Misconceptions About Solo Traveling
First of all, if you have never traveled solo, you might feel uncertain about it. You will need to hear your friends’ opinion and try to find someone to encourage you.
Among the most popular answers you might get, here are a few of the most relevant ones. ‘It’s a shame to travel alone.’ What will you do if ….?’ Or ‘you will feel alone and won’t have anyone to share your experiences with.’
Ignore any of these limiting beliefs and try to talk with someone who has actually traveled solo before. Or read this article!
Just Book a Ticket!
I have been asked many times how do I summon the courage to travel alone. My answer is almost always the same. Book a non-refundable ticket to your desired destination and then you’ll have to figure out what’s next. When you have done that apparently insane thing and booked a ticket without thinking of anything else, your brain will go to survival mode and will find ways to actually make that happen.
Trust me on this! You will have so much energy and ideas the moment you book that ticket.
Reserve All or Part of Your Accommodation in Advance
This is perhaps the most important advice I’d give to anyone who wants to travel alone. If you travel for a few days or even for a couple of weeks, it’s fairly possible to plan everything in advance. As a solo traveler, the most important thing for you is to have safe accommodation. You can easily book a room online when you are at home and not out of your comfort zone yet. Do not procrastinate, most booking sites will hike up prices if you book in the last minute.
However, if you decide to travel solo long-term, it’s impossible to plan everything ahead. In this case, plan at least the first days of your trip and then see what follows and how you feel.
Research Your Destination
If you are traveling solo and don’t know what to do once you arrive at your destination, you might feel weird and uncomfortable. But if you know what you want to do and where you want to go, you’ll feel more confident and easier to connect with people doing the same thing.
If you have always wanted to visit a certain place, then there’s something that triggers your interest. Google it or use a guide-book to better see what you can discover there. Take down notes about what to see, what food to try, how to get connected data cards, or where you find wi-fi cafes. Also, it is important to know prices for transportation options. This way you can assess whether it is good for you to take a bus, order a taxi, or even better, schedule an Uber ride. For researching and taking down notes, we recommend Evernote (it automatically clip your notes with URL, which is great for going back for more information).
Another good idea is to schedule items for the days that you will be traveling. This helps you divide your research responsible-sizes into bite-sized chunks. For example, instead of the insurmountable task of research Tokyo, now you only have to search how to get to Tsujiki fish market 🙂
Be Wary of Strangers That Are Too Friendly
There’s an unwritten rule that if someone smiles too much to you, then there’s something wrong behind. You will feel a bit weird when you travel solo for the first time. This means you will be very happy when someone will smile and try to become your friend. However, remember the first line and don’t trust every smiling face.
If they offer cheap trips, dinners, and great opportunities for a first-time solo traveler like you, carefully assess it before saying ‘yes’. It’s ok to say ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘I want to see other offers too.’
Pro tip: Develop situational awareness. Do not get so lost in what you are doing that you do not pay attention to any potential hazards around you or approaching you. — A tip from PhotoBlog member Russell Smith
Avoid Walking Alone at Night
Don’t go out late at night and avoid walking alone down the streets when it’s dark and deserted. You can do that back home where you know your neighborhood and what’s around the corner of the street. However, in a new destination, you don’t know the places so well and might easily get lost. In the worse case scenario, always bookmark your hotel’s location on the GPS and try to follow the shortest way to it.
Some Alcohol Is Ok, but Don’t Pass Out
It is true that a glass of wine or a beer might ease a bit your anxiety of traveling solo. Know your limits though, and avoid exposing yourself when you travel alone. It is even better to not drink alcohol at all, especially if you know your body is not so resistant to this ‘magic liquid’. This way, you will avoid unpleasant situations and return home only with positive memories from your trip.
Carry Some Cash
No one seems to be using cash these days thanks to plastic cards. However, PhotoBlog member Sigrid advice anyone to have some backup cash when traveling. It can come in handy if your bank back home decides to block your card due to suspicious international activity. You should be aware that banks also charge an exchange service fee every time you use your visa or debit cards internationally. You can avoid that by carrying some cash which you can exchange at your destination (never exchange money at airports, the rates sucks). Speaking of banks, it is also a good idea to give them a heads up your travel plans so that they do not block your cards.
Another money tip is to never carry all your cash in one compartment, just have enough for the day in your pocket or wallet and hide the rest in safe compartments of your backpack/luggage.
Carry Well-Stocked First Aid Kit
You never know when you will need some first aid for yourself or a fellow traveler. You don’t need to carry whole bottles of aspirin, just a few tablets are enough. You can always refill these at your destination if you run out.
Avoid Telling Strangers Your Plans
I have said how important is for you to have plans when you travel alone. However, don’t tell strangers what precise plans you have (dates, hours, places). If you meet new people it’s enough to let them know your general plans, without giving concrete details.
Share Your Plans with Friends and Family
If you travel alone, it is good to keep in contact with your family and close friends. You don’t have to communicate with them every day, but at least let them know what you are up to during your trip. Also, having contacts ready for local police and your country’s embassy is important, especially if you venture to less touristic countries. It is always a good idea to mark your emergency contacts in your phone. Make sure to also have this information written in travel documents such as your passport.
Protect Your Valuables
There are certain things that you never want to lose while you are traveling. These include your wallet, passport, and expensive camera gear. Here are some tips to protect your valuables while you are on the move
- Make copies of your travel documents and IDs and leave them at home or at your parents
- Never leave things in temporary places (even for 10 seconds!). Always put things in their right place.
- Most hotels have a safe box in rooms, keep your valuables in them while you are out.
- Be aware of what is in your pocket. Or perhaps just put your valuables in your backpack.
- Be prepared for the worst, buy travel/gear insurance to protect yourself
- Pro tip – get a day bag that does not make you look like a tourist (A suggestion from PhotoBlog member Kenny H)
Talk to People and Make New Friends
Now, you don’t have to develop a phobia about safety. It’s normal to pay attention to whom you befriend but it’s not normal to not talk with people at all. Try to chat with people you meet along the way, especially other travelers like you. You might even make new friends and discover new hobbies.
Traveling alone is a great way to meet like-minded people and get exposed to new cultures and experiences. Use this chance to do just that. Make a goal for yourself to talk to at least one stranger in any given day. You will be surprised how many new experiences and doors open for you.
Wear a Wedding Ring
If you are a solo female traveler and want to avoid men flirting with you, simply wear a wedding ring. This is a common practice used by many female travelers who are not engaged. Even if men won’t believe you, they can’t be certain about it and you don’t have to give explanations.
Just wave your hand in front of their eyes and let them understand you are not available. If they are too pushy, they’ll calm down a bit and won’t make you feel uncomfortable anymore.
Trust Your Instincts
It is not easy to travel alone and you will have to expand your skill set fast. The most important thing you should focus on is your instincts. If you have a feeling something is not ok, close your eyes and listen to your gut. Your inner voice will tell you if it is ok for you to go on or do something else. No matter what your new friends do or say, keep this in mind and be true to yourself.
In a way, this is how traveling alone can make you a better decision maker. You will learn how to think and react fast in every situation. Another reason to book that ticket!
Build Self-Esteem and Confidence
If you have decided to travel alone – maybe for the first time, congratulations. You will learn a ton of new things about the world, how to be safe, how to meet new people, how to make decisions…etc. You will come home a more confident person with a higher self-esteem.
I recommend you write down your thoughts and lessons while traveling or when you return home. This will help you to realize your achievements and build self-esteem. Next time when you plan to travel alone again, you’ll be more confident and know how to overcome your inner barriers.
Over to You
Are you planning to travel alone? Why not join us over at PhotoBlog.com to share your photos, stories, and experiences? We have thousands of like-minded travelers who are sharing their stories and making meaningful connections with others. We would love to see your photos from your journey. Plus, this way your family and friends have a nice life sign from you and are able to follow your journey!
Do you have any other tips to add? Please leave a comment below and we will update the article.
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