Have you been travelling alone or is it on your list? Do you have worries or doubts whether it’s the right kind of travel for you? Do you have no one to travel with you and are not happy at the thought of travelling alone? (Just a little heads up, this is a very comprehensive post, so better pin it to be able to come back to it.)
Trust me, I’ve been there myself. Funnily enough, it’s also how I got into solo travels. The timing never seemed to be right. Friends were busy, had no money, had different times off, had no wanderlust but me… I was eager, I was yearning to see the world and I had forever been waiting. One day, I decided to screw it all and went for it. I started with small day trips to neighbouring towns, bought travel passes to explore a whole state and then I started jetting from country to country. The funny thing is, if you had asked me ten years ago if I could imagine myself travelling alone throughout the world, I would I very determinedly doubted you. I couldn’t be this brave. And look where I am now after two years of travel down the road?
What’s in this post?
- Preplanning must knows
- At the Aiport
- How to get around
- Taking care of yourself
- Your instinct
- Meeting People
- In Short
Like with any other kind of travel, travelling alone requires pre-planning skills. You need to sort out our bookings, visas, packing limits and packing in general. Also make sure you look up cultural customs and learn basic phrases if you will be confronted with a foreign language. This not only is a sign of respect but helps you blend in better. You shouldn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb and have ‘tourist’ written all over you. As a solo traveller that makes you a target for all kinds of things: hate targeted at tourists, bloated prices, pick pocketing, etc.
>> Write a packing list in advance and don’t pack on the last day. Get a printable packing list and travel planners for your solo adventure when you become my patreon (which also means I can make a lot more of these printables).
>> Make a digital copy of your important travel documents, itinerary, bookings and general papers (such as insurance, passport copy) and store it in a safe online folder. Share the access with a trustworthy person to keep them in the loop and in case of an emergency.
>> Check your government website for up-to-date information and recommendations.
>> Learn basic phrases: you can even download language learning apps or dictionaries to your phone. Write down (or at least screenshot) addresses in the local language. For example, this helped me a lot in Japan.
>> Stick to the cultural code: Cover up in religious buildings, don’t show too much skin where it’s frowned upon, avoid negatively connotated colours (such as white in Japan).
At the airport
When you are travelling alone, I find it is easy to either be freaked out by obsessively overthinking everything (and pulling out my backpack again and again to check for my boarding pass and passport) or losing track of time browsing through shops and then rushing off to the gate. There is no one else to help you. But the good thing is: if you are in fact late, it’s much easier to push through the crowds on the way to the plane when you don’t have to look over your shoulder for the other person (especially when you can’t find them as they are already way ahead of you).
>> Research the airport: size, terminal location and transportation options beforehand to avoid being late, paying too much or running out of options.
How to get around
As a solo traveller, the same options apply like with any other traveller. Only you have to do it by yourself.
>> Fly around the world: To get the best flight prices, all you need to do is know the essential hacks, such as browsing in private mode, stitching your lights together yourself (no around-the-world tickets) and maybe even looking up round trips or onwards flights even if you only want a single way ticket.
>> Take public transportation: seeing the world by rail or bus gives you a much better impression than from high up in the clouds. I absolutely loved the highway stops or train travel in Japan but can’t recommend bus travel in the US that much.
>> Hitchhike: I personally have not tried it but I did receive free lifts a couple of times in New Zealand because the people were so nice when I was lost or stranded. Just read up on other people’s experience (and take male traveller’s accounts of it being so easy and safe with a grain of salt because they don’t have personal experience from a female standpoint). For instance, in Australia a lot of people tell you to hitchhike and do it themselves, but it is actually illegal to hitchhike from motorways. Check out hitchwiki for more info.
>> Join tour groups: Each country has different kinds of vibes when it comes to tours. In Australia, for instance I joined a lot of backpacker tours and there were people from all walks of life and with ages spanning between 18 and 67. The whole group felt more like a road family, which I loved. To make sure you get a great deal, opt for small group tours and ask fellow travellers in facebook groups about their experience.
Taking care of yourself
During solo trips, it’s easy to be swayed by your inner demons. They will nag at you all the time. You should see this, you ought not do this, save more, try all the yummy foods, yadayadayada. But really, you should stick with what you feel like but at the same time remember to look after yourself. You need to manage a healthy diet. This means, don’t just eat out all the time, head to the supermarket and stock up on local products, visit a farmer’s market and buy fresh produce. Cooking dishes yourself is a way to stay healthy.
>> Pack your own tupperbox and portable cutlery. Maybe add a little salt and pepper shaker for seasoning. This way you can cook regular sized portions and eat up leftovers for a lunch picnic.
>> Join cooking classes to meet locals, learn about the food culture and try out new exciting recipes. And you get to eat great food, too!
>> Stay active and find ways to get your sports program in without sacrificing sightseeing time.
Solo Travel Safety
First and foremost: don’t listen to people who have not travelled to the country you are going to themselves. They don’t REALLY know what it’s like and rely on hearsay, bleak media reports or stereotyping. Instead, ask fellow traveller (I cannot stress this enough!) who have actually been! Is it generally safe to walk around alone? Are there districts you should avoid? Times you should not leave the house alone? For instance, in New Orleans, the city is pretty much touristy and safe when you stick to the regular areas but stay off the main road and you could potentially be in trouble. You can’t enter the cemeteries either as muggings have been common and they had to be closed to the public. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t asked.
>> Never underestimate the danger of water. And I don’t necessarily mean open waters. Even clear springs or public pools pose dangers of deadly bacteria.
Even if you are super street smart and savvy in how book decent accommodation, stay away from meeting people in dark alleys, etc, you still need to remember the most important rule: listen to your gut. Your subconscious knows more than you are aware (hence: subconscious) and can process an onslaught of sensory information in the blink of an eye. Sometimes you just feel weird with a certain person or squeamish walking down a perfectly normal looking road. Then just don’t do it.
Don’t ask yourself why not and try it anyway. (I personally attract weird people for whatever reason and my gut can spot them from a mile away.) You might or might not regret it, but better safe than sorry. This, however, should not mean that you need to be in alert at all times or feel scared and suspicious. Not at all! Just be sure that your inner compass is loud enough for you to hear (and you need to listen) and then go about exploring the world.
Solo Travel Loneliness
Even if you do meet people, travelling alone can be lonely sometimes. But tell me, have you never felt lonely in a crowd at home? Have you ever felt left out at a party? Same goes for solo vacations. Honestly, it can be such a good thing, too. When you are all by yourself, you get to listen to yourself more, you have to deal with all the worries and dreams you have been suppressing, you get to constructively question yourself. There are no outside voices telling you what to do, you finally get to decide for yourself. There are no judgements. It’s freeing! And getting pangs of loneliness or nostalgia are part of any travel experience. There will be ups and downs, but the trip will be worth every second!
>> Let me answer you honestly, is solo travel terribly lonely? It’s actually not. Click the link to find out more.
>> If you are shy, here are 10 Ways to overcome shyness through travel
The funny thing is, once you travel by yourself, you meet people more easily than if you’re with someone. Why’s that? Because you are more approachable. Have you ever felt intimidated to talk to a bunch of people you didn’t know, maybe even a couple standing by? That can be especially tough for shy people or introverts. But once you are travelling alone, you easily spot other solo travellers. Even if not, it’s easier to join other people if you’re alone. Plus, what do you have to lose? Asking doesn’t cost anything and chances are, they will say yes. Travellers are a fun bunch of people. Of course, there are also ways to meet people beforehand online.
>> Couchsurfing: It’s not only great to find people to host you in their homes (where you will get to learn about their own stories and travel tips), but also to just meet up with locals. There are regular event hosting in towns all over the world and you can chat up people on couchsurfing to ask if they want to be your guide or grab a coffee. It’s really informal and built on wanting to make friends all over the globe. Just be wary of the odd one out and meet in public places.
>> Facebook groups: There are loads of groups for travellers in each area of the world. There are backpacker groups for Australia, solo travel groups for women (such as the one I founded for my German speaking ladies) and even some for a digital nomad life, in case you want to work online while travelling.
>> Social Media: I met a bunch of fellow bloggers through twitter shoutouts. I simply asked who was in town and some lovely people answered right away. I also get invites from followers in Dubai, Johannesburg or Melbourne – which I still have to take them up on when I will be in town (and you don’t have to be a blogger to connect with people from different countries). A big hello to Carolann and Macrae from One Modern Couple, Marie from Hunter Digital and Michelle from The Foodie World. If you need tips, feel free to say hi on twitter, instagram or facebook.
>> Blogger Meetups: Another cool way is to simply join such blogger meetups or instagram meetuüs. This way you don’t only meet bloggers but their followers as well who probably have the same interests as you. At least you have a shared passion (the blog and what it is about). This way I got to meet the crazy cool Gloria from The Blog Abroad or Ashlea from A Globe Well Travelled.
Travelling alone is both a blessing and a curse for your budget. For one, you might not be tempted so much to treat yourself if there is no friend telling you deserve a treat (and I know you do). But on the other hand if you are tempted, there is no one holding you back from making stupid purchases. Did you really need to buy that obviously cheap bracelet from the woman with the sob story on the corner and a begging kid by her side? Don’t support begging among children, they should be in school instead – even if it breaks your heart.
>> Set your budget before travelling alone: Take into consideration your overall budget and put aside emergency money, then pay your flights, accommodation, insurance and food from the rest, leaving the remainder for fun activities to blow (but not more than that).
>> Allow yourself daily limits: Travel with limited cash, automatically transfer weekly money to your credit card, manage what you have
>> Set your priorities: Can you really afford a new dress, five guided day trips AND that $15 chocolate shake?
>> But don’t become too stingy as you might run into trouble (as I occasionally do).
Sad but true, solo vacations are mostly more expensive than heading the road with a travel buddy. First, you often have to book double bed rooms in hotels or hostels, even in cruise ship cabins there is a surcharge for a solo traveller. This way, you will not get around the extra spending unless you want to give couchsurfing or hostel dorms a try. A great idea, however, is to rent your own airbnb crib and make yourself at home away from home. It’s great if you want a break from the daily traveller talk in hostels or even hotel lobbies (Who are you? Where are you from? And so on) and if you want to avoid the sober environment of a hotel.
>> Airbnb: If you haven’t tried it yet, click my affiliate link to get a $35 discount.
>> Couchsurfing: You don’t have to offer a couch yourself to be able to use it. Don’t forget to adjust the filters to your liking to maximise the suggestions that are right for you (e.g. I recommend to search for high answering rates).
>> Booking.com: They have great deals and price overviews. Always read the reviews first and scan for your most important criteria, such as cleanliness, location, hospitality and wifi.
>> Hostelworld.com: For hostels all over the world, this site is the best. You can even find glammed up private rooms in hostels that are a much better deal than a regular hotel. Plus, you usually have access to a laundry machine, fridge and kitchen. Especially if you feel lonely when travelling alone, hostels are great for socialising.
And there you have it. Your ultimate guide to kick starting your next solo trip. Don’T forget to do your research, feel free to reach out to people and follow your heart and instincts.
It should be fun and it will be! Solo travel is amazing. Sometimes travelling alone is right for you and sometimes it’s not. But you have got to give it a try to find out. There is always the possibility to team up with other travellers along the way but it#s much harder to ditch someone you find out to not be compatible with after you have started a trip together.
But always remember! It’s your trip! This means, you are the boss when you’re travelling alone. Don’t let anybody tell you what you MUST visit or how you should feel.
If you are regularly shopping at Amazon, then I’ve got some helpful items for your next solo vacation. These are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission but at no extra cost for you. The money goes back into this blog to help maintain it and pay for the hosting fees.