It can be really intimidating to travel solo. From start to finish, it all comes down to your own thoughts and planning. But why is it so fulfilling? For me, it’s beautiful because I get to experience the magic of a new place through my own unique perspective. I walk away with my own independent thoughts about a place and the memories of experiences you picked yourself and truly love. Solo travel also pushes me to expand my mind, to be active and aware, and to confront the self-image I have that says I'm not a social person or capable of making new friendships and memories on my own.
On my first solo trip at 20 years old, I drove from Austin to Southern Utah and back by myself in one weekend. I decided one day that I was just going to do it, all conventional wisdom be-damned. It had a bit to do with wanting to prove to myself that I could do something completely out of my comfort zone, and maybe a bit else to do with wanting to see what the hell I was even like on my own.
Maybe I wanted to surprise myself, to shake that negative self-image. Maybe I was sick of waiting on others to let me follow along with their adventures. Either way, I felt like a little girl again, shaking as I was lost for the third hour somewhere on icy reservation land between the Grand Canyon and Utah. But as my car pulled into a motel parking lot outside of my destination, Zion National Park, I was elated. I made it. Then the thought popped into my head: what else can I do?
Since then, I have felt the sun on my face in the French Riviera, slept alone in many airports, eaten an entire paella by myself in Madrid, road tripped through Texas more times than I can count, and made new friends over a love for music in Galway. All on my own. I feel stronger, wiser, and somehow a little more open with each trip I conquer by myself.
And YES, you definitely can do this! Whatever that "solo trip" is that you've been contemplating. It can be 5 minutes from your house or 500 miles away. You can do it.
There are some things I wish I had been told when I was starting to consider traveling solo! So here are a few good things (in my opinion) to keep in mind if you’re considering a solo trip.
1. Book a hostel.
Use the Hostelworld app to pick hostels reviewed as feeling homey and social rather than a basic chain. The environment you put yourself in is everything. It impacts your mindset and perspective, which define your entire experience.
2. Try booking a girls only room!
I did this for the first time during my most recent solo trip and LOVED it. It smelled good in there (ha), and we formed a sisterhood, drinking tea and talking all night.
3. PLAN AHEAD on how you’re getting from place to place.
How will you get home from the bar? To the airport from the hostel? Have a plan. It’s the little details that we tend to forget and rely on others to have the answers.
4. Stay FLEXIBLE for everything else.
Being alone, you’ll naturally be more open to new things and experiences because you won’t be focused inward on your friend group. You will likely notice a lot more details about where you are and who you’re with, as you will have more time for reflection and, my favorite, people watching.
5. Ask for what you want. Set the intention. Want a photo? Ask someone to take it. Want to eat lunch with someone? Ask them if you can join them.
The confidence to do this is the hardest part for me. It comes and goes. There are some times where I stay inside all night and eat snacks from my backpack because I’m feeling too shy to go out and look for new friends to get dinner with. If you feel that way at any point, don’t make yourself feel guilty or think that the trip is ruined. Tomorrow is a new day, and set your intentions for what you want from it. We all have great capacity to change and grow, to have shy days, bad days, negative days. It’s okay. I believe we can empower each other to live boldly.
6. Prepare for mentally tough days.
It’s hard to be alone for a long time and to have to make all of the decisions and think ahead on your own. Know that it's okay if you feel overwhelmed sometimes. Take a night off. Treat yourself to an Uber Eats delivery for that night.
7. Take advantage of hostel, group activities, or tours to meet people.
Go on the free walking tour, sign up for the hostel dinner (cheap good food!), and go on the bar crawl if you want to see the nightlife! You’ll see there are a LOT of people also solo. This also is where group travel (like Travel World Culture hehe...) can be a great way to meet people to travel with and feel safe exploring. With TWC, we share a lot of information with our travelers to help them feel confident about planning trips of their own in the future.
8. Travel with a backpack.
It’s easier to stay IN CONTROL and avoid pick-pockets with a backpack. On travel days, I walk around with my carry-on backpack on my back and my smaller backpack, where I keep all of my electronics and important documents, in front of me to keep my eyes on it. I always know which pockets my important items are in because I deliberately put them back in the same place every time. Reminding yourself to do this over time will create the habit, and you'll develop sharp awareness of your surroundings.
9. Always leave your valuables locked up in your hostel room during the day, including your passport. ️
I always use the lockers in the hostel. Also, keep your wallet and phone in inside jacket pockets or in an unreachable compartment of your day pack while walking around during the day. A money belt or fanny pack can also be useful.
10. Unlock your phone and get a SIM card in the country you’re traveling in to have data for cheap.
Otherwise, be sure to download the offline Google Maps for the area.
11. Oh, and YES, you can be firm, even rude, if someone is taking advantage of you or making you feel unsafe.
6. Lastly, be prepared to be social.
To some, that may sound like something that comes automatically. For me, this is my biggest challenge. I start every solo trip feeling very intimidated and worried about being social, but I gently push myself. And THAT is growth I'm proud of.
In Zion three years ago on my first solo adventure.
I was so proud that I was hiking on my own and even asked a stranger to take this picture!
*I will likely add much more to this post as time goes on, possibly with a few personal reflections.