Travelling solo is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences you can ever have!
As well as giving you the time to get to know yourself and finding independence, it also enables you to do whatever you want to do without having to compromise your ideal trip for someone else.
Planning on having travelling solo? Here are the ultimate dos and dont’s of travelling solo, staying safe, and making the most out of your trip.
DO – Embrace it!
Before you jet off, ask yourself a few questions:
- Why are you travelling alone?
- What do you want to get out of the trip?
- Are you a sociable or more reserved person?
- Do you primarily want to meet people or enjoy your own company?
- What are you most afraid of about this trip?
- Would you consider yourself independent? (You’ve booked a solo trip, I would imagine yes!)
- Do you feel comfortable being on your own?
By asking these kind of questions you are opening up any insecurities that you might have and centralising your objectives for the trip. You will already be aware of why you want to go in the first place, but in answering more specific questions about travelling alone, you will highlight other objectives that you may of not thought about until now.
Personal growth is at its strongest when we are outside of our comfort zone, and it is amazing what a positive change travel brings out in people, such as confidence and independence.
Being aware of your fears before hand means you will address them head on, and get the best possible experience. I was always quite shy before I started travelling, but being aware of this made me push myself further when travelling solo to be the first person to say ‘Hi!’.
DO – Be aware of your emotions
Travelling solo means that it is pretty inevitable that you will wind up feeling pretty lonely at times, especially if you are more of a shy person. But for even the most outgoing person, travelling solo can be tough, and at times you are going to feel pretty low.
One thing that helps me when I am feeling a bit down in the dumps is thinking of emotional highs and lows as being relative. For example, great happiness only comes along with its low of great sadness. This doesn’t mean that you will feel the negative emotion, but the risk is higher. So for the elated feeling you get from climbing that mountain, seeing that breathtaking view, or having that unforgettable night, there is bound to be the one night you miss your family so much you don’t want to leave your hostel room.
But you just have to ride out the homesickness; if you never take any risks, you will never feel the heightened emotions that come along with it. The great thing about this theory – the memories that always prevail are the great ones!
DO – What you want to do
Its easy to go along with your guidebook and do what you feel you should, but sometimes it’s good to make your own impression of a place and do what feels right for you. Guidebooks are obviously great, but can be overwhelming. I always read up on a place before I go, and have an idea of what appeals to me, and then for the first few days I don’t even pick it up. This way you are more open to recommendations from locals and fellow travellers, plus it gives you the freedom to explore and come across your own wonders!
DO – Plan to have no plans
Following on from this, it is hard to have a loose schedule when you only have a limited time in a certain place. That being said, it is important to leave a few days, or even hours, to spend doing something you didn’t foresee. When you are in a place you feel you never want to leave, it means you can have an extra day or two without having to sacrifice other plans. Ideally you should save two days every two weeks for impromptu plans. This way you can use them to explore something recommended to you, to get lost in the streets of an unknown city, or to lie on the beach!
DO – Book beforehand
Searching for a new place to stay on your own, especially when you are tired or it is late at night, is not a good situation to be in. Search for a place to stay and make a reservation before you arrive. If a hostel has a good reputation amongst travellers, regardless of size it might be hard to get a bed at late notice.
Book ahead, even by emailing from the hostel you are about to leave ahead of the journey. If it is not their first destination in a country, a lot of travellers will just show up, so be sure to secure your bed. Don’t underestimate the amount of travellers that might be on the same route as you. Trip Advisor is a great tool for quickly finding honest opinions of a place, which could save you money and ensure you are going to be safe before you arrive.
DON’T – Underestimate the extra costs involved
Travelling solo is more expensive; from meals for one, where you are more likely to eat out that cook in hostels; to single rooms, and travel expenses. As long as you prepare for this you will be fine, just don’t leave yourself in a situation where you have to skimp.
As well as needing a fund for hidden extras, you need to make sure you have enough money so that you don’t end up in an unsafe situation – such as enough money for a private room in a hostel where you don’t feel that comfortable. Plus, it is important to make the absolute most of where you are. Getting there was expensive, the last thing you want to do is miss out on the best sights because you don’t have the budget for them.
DON’T – Take too much luggage
It’s so hard to condense your wardrobe down to a backpack, especially when you might be travelling through hot and cold climates, but it is so important to travel as lightly as you can. Travelling solo means there won’t be another pair of hands to help with extra luggage!
I know that wherever I am I will find something I want to buy, so I always ensure I pre-empt the extra weight in my bag before I even start my travels. Don’t take anything too precious, and if you are not 100% sure about an item, don’t take it! Make sure the things you do take are hard working, and that you will wear them a lot.
DON’T – Be afraid of telling the odd white lie.
The most important thing when travelling solo is safety. It is inevitable that you will want to meet and talk to people, whether that be in a hostel, bar, or on a bus. The random people we meet along the way are after all one of the best things about travel! The important thing to remember is to always trust your gut instinct, and if you ever feel like your safety may become compromised, a white lie never hurt anybody.
Of course, if you are in a hostel room and feel 100% comfortable, go ahead and tell people you are a solo traveller – if you are staying in a recommended backpackers hostel you will probably be sharing the space with a few other solo travellers anyway, and can make a few friends! But if you are talking to a local you just met at a restaurant, it might be a safe bet not to disclose this information.
My white lie advice is:
- Try not to tell people you are travelling solo. If asked, say that your friends are at the hostel and you are meeting them shortly.
- Don’t tell outsiders where you are staying.
- Use language to your advantage – it is always good to be able to speak as much of the local language as you can. But, if you feel nervous in a situation, apologise and pretend you don’t understand even if you do.
- Don’t disclose your plans.
- Always walk with confidence and purpose. If someone asks whether you are lost, say no!
The important thing to remember is to always be friendly and not to assume anything. It is easy to be unsure of the intentions of a friendly local, but as long as you are polite and keep your head switched on, you will no doubt meet some very interesting and memorable people!
And Lastly, DO – expect tag alongs!
The great thing about hostels is that you meet so many like-minded people who are often doing the same route as you. I have travelled solo in the past and ended up travelling as part of a group of over 10 people! These backpacker buddy-up relationships are so common; you’re all planning on hitting up the same towns, so why not do them together? Most of the time you will find you will stick together for a few days, some of you even for a few weeks, and people will come and go as your journeys flow alongside each other.
It’s always great to see a friendly face, and it is inevitable that you will run into people you have met in a completely different place or country down the line. Embrace these groups and haphazard friendships, don’t be afraid to change your trip slightly to accommodate them, but also and most importantly, don’t be afraid to say goodbye when you feel the time is right to get back to your solo adventure!
So enjoy your trip, take care, and embrace travelling solo. Your ultimate adventure awaits!
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