So you’re going to travel alone for the first time ha?
You think you’re built for that life ha?
You’re sick of waiting on your friends to get their shit together so you’re gonna go do it alone ha?
Okay, that’s enough Juvenile. Sorry.
I must get asked about what it is like to travel alone the most. The planning of it, execution and the fears in doing so. Taking that leap into seeing the world alone is simple for some and very scary for others. I use to tell people to ‘just grow up and stop being a scaredy cat‘ for travel, until I realized other people are not as accustomed to being alone as the rest of us. For example, I’m an only child – we just function differently. We can eat alone, go to the movies alone and yes, travel alone. Other people may be more comfortable in group settings because those are the only ones they’ve ever had. This is where I come in to help you out and get you past that hurdle.
Before I start the list I will say this to all of those scared to travel alone; think of ALL the things you are missing out on because you’re always waiting for others. Do you want a life full of waiting or a life full of experiencing? Ok.
Pack light and smart because you will have to navigate through some unknown territory all alone and want to keep your belongings safe.
BE SOCIAL. Yes, leave that introvert-socially-awkward-don’t-make-eye-contact stuff at home. I promise you, some of the most interesting people you will meet is when you travel alone. There is this worldwide community of people who travel alone and you will be submersed into it and love every minute when you get to meet them.
Bring a selfie stick. I personally do not travel with one because my arms are super long, but if you like taking lots of pictures and will no longer have folks accompanying you – take one.
Learn that it is totally OK not to have something to do or have something planned on some of the days you’re on the trip. Many of the coolest and most authentic experiences you will have while traveling are from talking to hotel staff, AirBnB hosts, restaurant staff etc. about what to do in the area you’re in. Locals know best.
Further to the point of #4, if you like to plan exceptionally early (like I do) then go hit up sites like Viator and book your tours/excursions/passes before you even arrive to your destination. For those locations that are very busy or touristy (i.e. the Vatican) you will be very happy you booked ahead and didn’t need to stand in a line of thousands to purchase a ticket and then wait in another line of thousands to enter it.
Trust your gut. This applies to men and women when traveling alone, if it doesn’t feel right just don’t go to that place or hang with that person. I have definitely done some questionable things during all my solo travels but nothing bad happened because I know what kind of people and situations to avoid. Remember, you are in a foreign country and are more than entitled to a certain amount of paranoia.
Further to the point of #6, do NOT let that paranoia keep you from exploring. Last thing you want is to be on a trip you planned a year for and you’re too scared to leave your room. Before traveling to your destination make sure you read up on how tourist-friendly the area you’re staying in is. Can you walk around there at night alone? Can you club alone? If you plan accordingly and stick to safe areas, your room will only be seen for the 5 hours of sleep you may get per night.
It is totally OK to feel homesick. Skype your boyfriend or girlfriend. Call your mom. Whatsapp your friends. Whenever I’d feel that loneliness creeping in on a trip, I’d call my best friend in a Wi-Fi spot. During Christmas I was alone in Singapore and it hit me HOW alone I actually was on a date that is pretty meaningful in my life so I Whatsapp video called my boyfriend in the middle of a park in downtown Singapore and was there for a good hour talking to him. Remember you are physically alone for a temporary time, live in the moment of how awesome being wherever you are is – your family and friends will still be there when you get back.
Self reflection will happen and sometimes it will be emotionally overwhelming. The thing about traveling alone is there is a lot of time spent in your own head. You are experiencing everything alone and you will grow as a person while doing it and will also learn a lot about yourself. It can be very scary but it can also provide such incredible clarity that would not have been possible if surrounded by the noise of other travelers. Embrace it all.
Go do it. Stop waiting on your friends or family to pick a date or a location bla bla bla. You know exactly where YOU want to go, so get to going! Start your planning (or heck, e-mail me and I’ll plan it for you) and go live your life without the constant waiting on others.
I hope these 10 things helped some of you in your plans/considerations of traveling alone. I spent seven years in post-secondary schooling and I can tell you that some of the biggest life lessons were learned while traveling alone and not while at school.