Is Solo Travel the Right Thing for You?
Before you travel, make sure you’ve received all the necessary immunizations against deep-seated beliefs.
This is a trick question. As the name very pointedly suggests, solo travel is any venture you take on your own. And YES, it IS for you! As soon as you step out your door and into the world, you enter a sphere of possibilities. Where to go? What to bring? Who to take with?
While the first two questions can be discussed (and argued about), the last one is easy: This time, you’re going alone.
Traveling alone can be slightly terrifying if you’ve never done it before. If you’re used to package tourism, group outings, and jaunting with family and friends, the notion of suddenly being on your own can cause slight discomfort. And this is where we bring the vaccine.
If you’re scared of needles, look the other way.
Who are you as a person? Do you fancy yourself strong, brave, and independent? Self-sufficient and self-reliant? Then your first solo trip shouldn’t be an issue. On the other hand, if you’re an exuberant extrovert always seeking company, being alone with your thoughts and having nobody to share them with is frightful. But this may well be a limiting belief that you have. What are you afraid of? Loneliness? Getting lost? Emergencies? Let’s dismantle these first.
1. Loneliness. If you are afraid you’ll get lonely while traveling on your own, I have excellent news. You won’t. The world is insanely well-connected, and you’ll be able to call, video chat, and text your nearest and dearest whenever you feel like it. As I’m writing this, I’m preparing to leave for my first solo trip in several years, and my partner and I have already scheduled a video-call-lunch-date for one of the days I’m away. You can do the same when you feel overwhelmed by the world.
2. Responsibility. This is a big one, especially if you’re used to relying on others to arrange a big part of your trip. But there’s not that much to it, to be honest. The most important things to arrange are your accommodation and travel (planes, buses, trains, etc.), all of which you can do online, without any fuss. My favorite lodging finder is Booking.com, and SkyScanner deals with my flights. For other types of travel, Omio is the best deal-finder. Et voila! You’re all set.
3. Finding your way. The safest option is to download an offline Google map of the area in case you don’t have internet access at all times. There is a tourist information desk at every airport and bus/train station where you can get a map marked with attractions and tips and tricks on finding your way around. If you really do get lost, there’s no shame in asking the first passer-by for directions.
4. Emergencies. Let’s be honest here; nobody ever wants to think about these, but a few pre-emptive steps you can take include buying travel insurance (your insurance certainly offers this) and checking out phone numbers of the local police and health professionals. Most of them will be able to advise you in English in case you don’t know the local language.
5. Nobody to talk to? Seriously, go to a pub, and you’ll have plenty of people to talk to. Conversely, if you’re going via an organization, you’ll meet some new people while journeying to your destination. Pro tip: Smile nicely at an elderly lady on public transport, and you’ll have an ally for life.
Having addressed the most pressing questions, let’s go back to our initial problem: Is solo travel for you? The answer is YES! Of course, it is. It may take some practice, but you’ll find that traveling on your own offers many benefits.
Our Very Own Solo Travel Benefit Tour
When you pack, do you act like you’re going to have an accident every day and need 17 pairs of undies for a three-day trip, or are you normal?
I am definitely not normal.
While there may be dissent among newbies on solo travel, seasoned travelers will back me up when I say traveling alone offers many benefits:
- The ultimate freedom. We all need a bit of this, and when you travel alone, you only report to yourself. If you’re the ultimate “we-can-walk-there” person, you don’t have to worry about your co-travelers getting tired and cranky. On the other hand, if you really have no interest in pieces of stone dragged from all over the country, you can skip the rock museum and go to the rock-music concert happening in town.
- Troubles are troubling, victories rewarding. I won’t pretend it’s not easier to have someone to commiserate with when something goes awry because it is, but every time you conquer a problem, you’ll feel all the prouder of what you’ve achieved.
- Self-indulgence. Solo traveling is the best way to indulge your needs and desires completely. And this can be different for everyone – some like to gorge on wonderful buffets, others will follow their theater passions, and some are more likely to go to sports events or even hit the gym at odd hours. Whatever it is that you want to do, you’re free to do it at the drop of a hat!
- Intense travel experience. When you travel with friends and family, your attention will go to them. But when you’re alone, you will experience the place more intensely and be fully immersed in its atmosphere.
- Confidence boost. Because you did it! You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your preferences and abilities. You’ll also learn self-management when you travel on your own, and it will feel good!
10 Solo Travel Tips You Should Not Forget
- Make sure all your documents, money, and necessary identification items are on you at all times. Passports, tickets, wallets, etc., should be your primary concern. Everything you forget, you can buy when you get there. Make sure you have a valid payment card and enough cash to get by.
- Do your research before you arrive. Check out public transport options and any arrangements to get you to your accommodation. Don’t fall for the “taxi-for-foreigners” scam (taxi drivers tend to rip off foreigners): ask how much your ride will cost, and if it doesn’t match your calculations, go for another company.
- Walk with direction and goal in mind. If you know where you’re going (even if it’s only for a few hundred meters before you recheck the map), act as if you have a clear destination. You’ll look more confident and avoid unwanted attention (pickpockets and con people tend to recognize lost and confused tourists).
- Make sure you can access your accommodation when you arrive. Book hotels or hostels where you can check in at any time (unless you want to get acquainted with the prospect of sleeping under a bridge).
- Plan your trip and leave some wriggle room. It’s best to know what you want to see and when. Purchase necessary tickets in advance and arrange transport and guided tours. However, make sure you leave some time for those moments when you feel inspired to walk around and enjoy the sights.
- Don’t be afraid to eat/drink alone. Seriously, nobody cares that you’re alone. Pick a spot you like and treat yourself to some nice local food and a drink. If you’re feeling awkward, bring a book.
- Talk to the locals. Wherever you go, there will probably be someone who speaks English. Don’t be shy; go to the street market or a fair and you might find some company.
- Don’t be too honest. You don’t have to reveal to everyone where you’re staying or where exactly you’re going. It’s best to pretend that a friend is waiting for you, especially if you feel like the person asking you questions is not trustworthy. This is also a good time to have your phone within reach should you need to call (or pretend to call) someone.
- Don’t get lazy. Get up early and make the most of your time; you’re not there forever!
- Leave your comfort zone. Try a new dish or sign up for an excursion off the beaten track. If there is some adrenaline resort nearby, give it a go. Learn from discomfort and grow with it!
Travel for Women – Extra Tips
Listen, no matter how optimistic and doe-eyed we want to be, the fact is that many women are afraid of walking alone at night and worried about their safety. Traveling alone is not the time to throw caution to the wind, so follow these tips to ensure your well-being at all times:
- Stay in public, well-lit spaces, especially if it’s dark. If you’re returning home late, take a cab or public transport.
- Don’t get too lax with alcohol. Get a drink or two, but make sure you’re still steady on your feet.
- Don’t team up with strangers if you’re feeling vulnerable. The safest group to go to would be a group of women in case you feel unsafe.
- Take some self-defense courses before you travel. You never know.
- Learn to say no. If you’re traveling into a more hospitable culture, the locals can get very persuasive. Learn to say no in the local language and accompany it with the appropriate hand gesture to drive your point home.
- Stay alert but don’t be paranoid. It’s one thing to be aware of your surroundings, but there’s no need to be jumpy. If anything, looking afraid and anxious will get you more unwanted attention. Observe your environment, but don’t worry too much.
- Pick the right destination. No denying that some places are better for female travelers. Finland, New Zealand, the UK, Japan, and Iceland are very safe and all charming in their own ways.
- If you’re using a dating app, be careful about who you meet. Make sure you feel comfortable with them and let someone know (even if it’s someone back home) where you’re going.
Solo Travel Packages
Dear passengers, please note that the Solo Travel Check-In is now open. Please proceed to the Vaia desk to receive your boarding pass and ideas on package tourism.
If you’re still unsure how to handle the brunt of traveling alone, package tours are a great option. An agency will deal with your transport and accommodation and most likely provide some guided tours, but you don’t have to attend everything or be forced to make friends with co-travelers if you don’t feel like it.
Picking the Best Solo Travel Destinations
The gate to the best solo travel destination via the Vaia info-line is now open. Please proceed to the gate without delay.
I bet I got your attention, but I’m afraid I’ve been misleading you. There is, in fact, no best destination for solo travel – the world is your oyster, and you should go to the places you’re yearning to see. Still, if you’re looking for some starting points, here’s the list of foolproof travel locations.
- New York. Enough said. Just start spreading the news and packing today!
- Prague. This is a beautiful old wonder of the Czech Republic, which somehow always looks sunny and inviting.
- Rothenburg ob der Taube. Skip Berlin and go to this Bavarian gem to get the real fairy-tale experience.
- Paris. The Eiffel Tower, fine wine, and the proximity to Disneyland – can I come with you? *puppy-eyes*
- Venice. This charming city on the water is full of architectural and cultural wonders. If you can catch the carnival, you won’t regret it.
- Rio de Janeiro. Speaking of carnivals, for great food and music that you cannot help but dance to, Rio is the place to go.
- Tromsø. For a more northern feel, this coastal town is a prime location to see the Northern lights and go whale-watching.
- Delhi. Spices, hospitable locals, and out-of-this-world architecture. Make sure you’re willing to haggle over prices at the market; it’s fun and, well, expected!
- New Orleans. Jazz it up in the city of dreams, Mardi Gras, and Voodoo (don’t forget to visit the museum!).
- Tokyo. This is the city of dreams for all us geeks. It’s internationalized enough, so you don’t have to worry about the language, and it’s full of exclusive events, items, and shops you can only find in Japan. Did I mention that the street fashion is stunning?
Best Places for Solo Travel Are the Ones Where Your Feet Take You
Traveling solo can be daunting if you’ve never done it. You may wonder how you’ll manage crises or your own time, and you might feel a bit lost without constant companionship. Still, traveling on your own offers great benefits, such as a more intense experience of locations you visit and a great confidence boost.
To make sure your solo trip goes smoothly, make sure you check these boxes as you prepare:
- Book your accommodation in reliable hotels/hostels and arrange transport there.
- Make sure you have your identification documents on you at all times and enough cash in local currency.
- Be aware of your surroundings and exude confidence as you navigate the place.
- Mingle with the locals, but don’t reveal too much about your whereabouts (you really never know).
- Listen to your heart, head, and feet as you’re there. This time it’s all about you. Make a plan and leave some space for spontaneous detours.
P.S. Don’t forget to travel as sustainably as possible! Bon voyage!
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We are ready for take-off. We wish you a pleasant journey and the best of times on your solo adventure.