Prepare Yourself for Solo Travel with these 5 Tips
There are so many reasons to be afraid to travel solo.
Spend a few minutes watching the news and you’ll never want to leave the house. Thank you, fear-mongering news outlets.
Then announce to your friends and family that you’re going on vacation…by yourself. The well-meaning horror stories you’ll gather will likely have you reconsidering the whole thing.
And who could blame you?
But travel is the best way I know of to open your mind, expand your senses, and experience life as the technicolor experience that it is. I know how well worth the world is of in-depth exploration because I have experienced so many of its welcoming wonders first hand – and you can too.
I won’t deny the world has its dark spots – that’s why I’m inspired to travel responsibly and with purpose.
I just believe that the light significantly outweighs the dark as we explore our shared humanity through travel.
This isn’t because I’m particularly brave. I’m definitely more Ravenclaw than Gryffindor, if you get my drift.
In true Ravenclaw fashion, I thought endless research was the key to preparing for adventure when I first began to travel solo.
Funny thing, though: I found myself in a research rabbit hole and no closer to getting out there and seeing the world.
I don’t want to downplay research or promote reckless travel: it is important to do your due diligence before deciding to travel solo. But no amount of research is going to build the confidence to take the first step.
You don’t have to feel brave yet – but you do have the opportunity to rip off the bandaid and get started from exactly where you are.
Here you’ll find the steps I took when building the confidence to travel solo. Use this guide as a road map to rev up for your own independent adventure!
1. Eat out alone
I used to struggle with going to restaurants alone. But after living in New York for several years, I got tired of waiting for friends to be available to try out new places with me.
I tripped into solo dining by accident, but you should definitely do it intentionally – and soon! Learning to enjoy dining alone was a crucial first step in my journey to travel solo.
There are four major reasons that this is such a great starting point. Let’s take a look at them:
- You can start this anytime! Well, not during a global pandemic. But you don’t have to buy an expensive plane ticket or even make a reservation anywhere. When it strikes you to build some confidence, pop out to a restaurant for a date with yourself.
- Being alone in public can be an awkward experience, and a solo meal at a hometown haunt is an easy way to dip your toes in the water.
It’s completely normal to find yourself clinging to your phone or a book to feel comfortable the first time you try it. No shame in using crutches! But do try to put them down from time to time. The goal is to start working through the awkwardness as you learn to enjoy your own company.
Maybe you’ll get the courage branch out and talk with people around you! Introverts: this skill is worth cultivating because it leads us to reason number 3.
- Dining alone – especially at the bar – can be the best way to meet locals as you travel. I have gotten some of the best travel recommendations by striking up conversations with local bartenders or baristas.
You’ll also appear more approachable to other solo diners, who could end up as valuable sources of local information or even travel companions. Just remember to be safe as you meet new people!
- You get to discover the indulgent joy of being alone.
You may feel empowered to order the dessert you normally wouldn’t. You may slow down and actually taste your food. Whatever your dream date with yourself looks like, you’ll start to see the freedom that comes from taking a little space for yourself.
Solo dining is now one of my favorite ways to enjoy a meal – sorry hubby! Some of the best meals of my life have been dates with myself.
2. Break off from your travel group
At some point, you’ll likely find yourself on a group trip. It could be spring break with a group of friends, a family reunion, or even a business trip.
What you learn very quickly in a group is that not everyone shares the same tastes.
You may feel pressure to stick with the group. This pressure could be real or imaginary, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying to get away for a little independent discovery.
If the pressure to stick to the group is social pressure, family guilt, or business responsibilities, communication is the best place to start.
Get a clear idea from each party involved of their expectations for the trip, and communicate your expectations clearly as well. You’ll likely find room for alone time if you make the effort to join in with the group when it counts.
Still feeling peer pressure after an honest conversation about trip expectations?
An important thing to remember is that most social pressure actually is self-imposed. It could be caused by your fear of judgment from the group, a fear of missing out, or a genuine fear to be alone.
The truth is, most people won’t actually care if you end up striking out on your own.
Sure, they may try to keep you with the group because you’re awesome and they want to spend time with you. But the sensation of peer pressure will often dissipate as soon as you’ve left and the group has moved on to their next cocktail.
Stick to your guns (what even is that phrase?) and enjoy your time exploring on your terms.
3. Meet up with a friend who lives abroad
Chances are, you have a friend or an acquaintance who lives where you’re traveling.
Don’t think so? Do a call-out on Facebook and prove yourself wrong. Even if you don’t come across someone you know to meet up with, you’ll likely uncover a local connection from a mutual friend.
Local contacts are the best because they can help answer all your little questions – like the best cab from the airport or how much to bring for a local sim card. These sorts of details give you a boost of confidence when you travel solo in a new place.
If you do have someone to stay with or meet up with while you’re there, even better!
It’s so fun to experience a new place with someone who lives there. You get off of the tourist trail and get to see what they love about where they live. You also have plenty of time for solo exploration while your host is working or doing their regular life things.
This really is the best way to ease your way into a new place – you have the landing gear of a local contact without the obligations of a travel companion.
Picture it – you get to purchase flight tickets for dates that suit your schedule, plan the trip that you want to take, meet up with a local pal, and still travel solo. Literally what could be better?
4. Plan an activity as part of your solo travel
The blank canvas of solo travel can sometimes cause a case of overwhelm. As we’ve all experienced at the Cheesecake Factory, too many options can be a bit paralyzing. Where to start?!?
Booking a group tour, a course, or traveling for an event can be the perfect foundation to build your solo travel experience around.
I love a good yoga retreat or language course while I’m abroad. And if I can get a certification of some sort out of it, you’d better believe I’m signing up (#overacheiver).
These sorts of experiences are the perfect launching pad for a solo journey afterward. They can help you get your feet wet in a new country because you’ll have a point of contact in the destination early on in your trip.
Traveling for an activity will also introduce you to other travelers. This is a surefire way to meet likeminded people, which makes it more likely you’ll enjoy their travel tips and maybe even make new friends and travel companions.
Best of all, a diverse range of experiences as you travel keeps your trips dynamic and fun. And especially worthwhile if you have a shiny new certificate for your achievement collection – I like achieving, okay?
Step 5: When a friend backs out – travel solo!
You may find, as I did, that your first solo trip abroad happens before you’re ready and simply by accident.
Consider the following scenario:
You’ve planned an adventure with a friend and then, as often occurs when multiple people try to coordinate schedules, plans change.
Do you stay home?
But this is a great opportunity to take a huge leap of faith and all that bravery you’ve built and just go anyway.
This is what happened when I traveled alone for the first time. My friend and I planned to go to Guatemala together, but she ended up getting a great job offer and couldn’t go with me.
We had already picked the Spanish school we were going to attend and the flights we were going to take. So I just booked all of it for myself, and never looked back.
Okay, I looked back for a second when almost everyone I knew told me I would get kidnapped (it’s so important to go out in the world to disprove these unfounded travel fears). But I had done my Ravenclaw research, booked the thing, and the voices of the doubters weren’t going to hold me back.
This ended up being a trip of a lifetime, and to this day is one of my favorite places that I’ve visited.
You only live once, and life is the thing that happens while you wait for your friends to be ready to join you. It’s also the thing that happens while you are having a life-changing experience abroad.
What kind of life do you want to live?
Let me know in the comments 🙂