Traveling opens your mind to new experiences, new attitudes and new places; it can be addictive, flying off to exotic destinations and being able to rank the beaches you’ve visited by proximity to cocktails, but it can also get complicated and expensive to arrange if you’re always relying on someone else. For the majority of my twenties I skipped holidays altogether, simply because it was always a huge faff to get everyone to agree to a set plan or find a week when more than one of you could take time off work. I missed years of discovery, one of my biggest regrets, until I finally took the plunge and decided to travel alone.
My first trip allowed me to dabble in solo traveling by meeting some friends in Spain a couple days after they’d arrived, followed by some solo work related excursions to Scotland and Ireland; that quickly developed into a ‘f*ck it I’m just gonna go by myself’ trip to NYC, numerous press trips to destinations both home and away, and later some European jaunts I booked last minute just because I could. Sometimes it’s just not feasible to find a travel companion, and sometimes it’s just far easier to book a solo adventure if you have specific things you want to tick off your list – but traveling alone can feel awkward and uncertain.
Whether you’re trying to push your boundaries, want to discover more of the world or simply make the most of your holiday allowance, here are some of my top tips of how to travel alone without feeling super awkward… And to come back having had the time of your life.
REMIND YOURSELF IT’S AN ADVENTURE
Traveling solo can be super scary, but it’s all an adventure that will give you memories to cherish for a lifetime. Even if something goes wrong or not to plan, there’s always a positive take-away from it that will either help you grow or provide a funny story to tell when you get back home. Try not to panic, but instead enjoy every single moment and remember why you set off on this journey in the first place.
PLAN YOUR ROUTE
One of the most intimidating things can be actually getting from A to B when you have nobody to help de-mystify the local train map, or de-code the local bus timetable. If you can, plan your route to and from the airport and your accomodation before you fly so at the very least you know how to get to where you need to be; if that involves spending a little more on a taxi or private transfer, it will put your mind at ease
CREATE AN ITINERARY
What always helps me (regardless of whether I’m alone or with my partner) when I’m exploring new places is to create a day-to-day itinerary with things I want to see, places I want to visit and stops along the way for food; it helps to plan out a start and end point, leaving plenty of room for wandering and exploration, so you don’t start your day scratching your head and wondering what on earth to do. Knowing that there are things to tick off your list also gives you purpose and helps you to feel more in control, reducing the overwhelm that can often overshadow a solo adventure.
Ensuring you stay in touch with people back home will put both their and your minds at ease while you’re exploring somewhere new. It’s also worth connecting with locals in your hotel and favourite haunts, asking for their top tips and advice on where to visit as well as having a daily conversation to keep the loneliness at bay. There’s a huge solo traveling community online too, so you may even be able to find other people who are traveling alone that you can grab dinner with – it’s all about keeping those connections alive and stopping yourself from feeling a little isolated.
TAKE A GOOD BOOK
Worried about eating alone, feeling like you stand out or looking like a bit of a loser when everyone else is having the time of their lives? Don’t be! Brush off those anxieties and use a great book to keep your hands busy and your mind occupied; if you’re not a big reader, having a notebook to squiggle in will also remove that feeling of sitting still just waiting for the time to pass. Just having something to do will ease you into these new situations and make you feel more comfortable… And is there anything quite as enjoyable as watching the world go by?
BOOK SOME TOURS & EXCURSIONS
Another great way of ‘getting out there’ is to book a few tours, trips and excursions to ensure you see as much of that new place as possible – while filling up your days with exciting things to do. They can also be a super cost effective way of exploring and meeting new people, as well as ensuring there’s someone around to take your photos! Talking of which…
TAKE A TRIPOD
Asking random strangers to take your photo in the street can be a bit cringe, especially if you want to pose away in thirty different ways to ensure you get the best shot; taking a tripod can help you capture the perfect image, allowing you the freedom to take as many as you want in as many ways as you want – often cameras have an app that allows you to use your phone as a remote control, so filling up your grid with hot shots has never been easier for a solo traveler.
FOCUS ON YOURSELF
The downside of traveling with other people is that you’re always beholden to their wants and needs, but traveling alone means you only have to think about where you want to go or what to do; it’s the perfect time to recharge and be selfish, giving your mind the space it needs to feel refreshed and refocused.
When you plan, prep and open your mind to new experiences it’s great to go traveling alone.
Where will your next trip be?