I recently spent a week traveling on my own and several people – from parents to friends, colleagues to sisters – wanted to know why I would do this by myself.
I’ve traveled on my own before, but never for longer than three or four days. This was a new experience, and if I’m being honest I was dreading this trip in the weeks leading up to it. By the time my solo trip started, I wanted nothing more than to spend the entire day watching television in my hotel room.
Fortunately, I managed to leave the hotel daily to see the cities I was visiting. Here is what I learned…
1. Make it easy for yourself
I don’t view myself as a seasoned solo traveler, but I learned some valuable lessons when I first started traveling alone about two years ago. The biggest lesson was to pick places that are easy to get around in, and where you feel safe. Avoid going to places that are known as party capitals on your own — when big groups of strangers are dancing around you, it’s hard to find a spot where you can “fit in.”
Don’t make your first solo trips too long either; a weekend away to a destination you’ve been to before is always a good start. Once you get used to traveling by yourself, you can go to new places and for longer periods of time.
2. Use technology
At this point, I need to admit that I’m not a Tinder user. However, I know several fellow travelers who use the dating app to get locals to show them around. Make it clear from the get-go that you are a visitor looking to see the local side of life, and you might just find a personal tour guide. You will also find that your friends have great tips to share — let them know where you’re heading and ask for their recommendations.
If you’re traveling internationally, you might find expat groups on Facebook — connect with people from your home country and get them to show you around during your visit!
3. Give yourself a goal
This sounds ridiculous, but it works, especially since I’m a little shy to talk to new people or (I guess I took the “don’t talk to strangers” lesson too seriously as a kid). Go to bars and aim to meet at least one or two new people who you can actually get to know a bit. By doing this, I’ve found activities and attractions that I never even considered visiting. It’s also nice to have some company when you go out.
Pro tip: the bars inside restaurants usually feel like a safer environment to meet people.
4. Getting around for cheap(ish)
One of the biggest down-sides of traveling on your own is the fact that you don’t get to split all of the bills. This sucks. Make up for it by being clever about how you get around. Hop-on Hop-off buses often have specials that run for several days, which means that you could buy a ticket for thirty-something dollars and have free (and safe) transport as well as the expertise of a travel guide for two days.
5. Take a breath…
Don’t be too hard on yourself — if you don’t feel like leaving the hotel today, then don’t! But try… even if it’s only to go for a movie. In the end, you’re on vacation and you need to relax, so if watching a movie tonight is the treat you need, then do it! Go sit in a park for several hours, or have a long lunch with plenty of cocktails…
Pro tip: some movie theaters have lazy boys and food to order… order (and pay) your food and drinks before you go to the theater for a lazy night at the movies.
6. Picture Perfect
Selfies aren’t the only way to include your friendly face in that picture perfect moment… instead of resorting to selfies (though hateful, selfie sticks can be rather beneficial), ask other tourists or personnel working at attractions to take the picture for you. Even better, volunteer to take the picture for someone else, and they might return the favor!
7. Take it all in
Remember, even if you spent half your trip binge watching TV shows in the hotel room you still managed to plan and go on vacation all by yourself. That’s a great feat! Take it in, enjoy every moment, and bask in the independence of traveling by yourself!