For those who don’t want to sit around and wait for their friends and family to get onboard, solo travel can be your only option to step out into the far-flung world. Now, the stats show that more women are taking solo adventures than ever before; whether it’s the ease of which you can keep in touch back home, the stigma being slowly broken, or the fact that many of us are opting for parenthood at a later date – if at all.
While sometimes scary and full of challenges, solo travel teaches us so much about ourselves and invites us to step out unapologetically and do things our way. For those of you looking to take the leap into your first solo travel trip here are our tips for surviving the great adventure…
Booking is the Hardest Part
Believe it or not, one of the hardest parts of taking a solo journey is actually making the step to book your flight. Before you have a firm booking in hand your mind can run a million miles a minute – galloping along with all the what-if scenarios. That overwhelm of the nervous system and the freeze state is tricky to shake off, but once you have committed to the trip and acted (such as booking a flight), you find yourself swept along in the motion and it all feels easier.
Find the Right Destination
There’s no such thing really as the right destination and if you truly want to travel somewhere then you should absolutely do it. Some destinations may just require a little more pre-planning than others and some places can prove more of a challenge when it comes to pushing your boundaries. Only you know your limits, and often we don’t know our limits fully until they have been pushed. If you are already feeling angsty about the idea of solo travel then perhaps a softer destination would make for a great starting point. European shores, cities close to home, or just another country that doesn’t feel too far from your comfort zone in terms of culture and language can be great ways of testing the water.
One of the biggest discomforts people seem to have around the idea of solo travel is the dreaded thought of dining alone. When it comes to embracing that table for one, there are ways you can make it feel a little less terrifying. Start by practising on your home turf - even if it’s just heading out for a solo coffee or lunchtime sandwich, this is one of those ventures that definitely becomes easier with time. Another great tip when dining alone and feeling overwhelmed is to head out for a big lunch and then pick up a light dinner. Sometimes evening dining can feel like a bigger deal, especially if you are feeling a little homesick and you are surrounded by tables of close-knit family and friends. Lunchtime can be a softer and quieter time to dine alone.
There are tons of amazing companies out there who offer group adventures to suit every style of travelling. If solo travel seems a little out of reach, booking on a group trip can be a great introduction. If the idea of spending your whole vacation with a group of strangers doesn’t appeal, then you can also opt for mini-group trips within your grand adventure. From free walking tours around cities to three-day adventures, these small group-centric trips can be amazing for meeting new people, getting a little company, and just making exploring a little easier.
Plan a Little
Even if you are a fly by night adventurer, nothing is going to strike a nervous chord like touching down in a foreign place without a plan or idea of what to do. For your first solo adventure, the tighter the plans the better, but if you want a lot of wiggle room for spontaneity than at least book your first night accommodation and a transfer from the airport. Just knowing that when you step off that flight you will have someone waiting and a place to go can make a huge difference to your starting confidence levels.
Tick the Safety Boxes
There’s a lot of dialogue around solo travel safety and a lot of people trying to make you think the world is a big old scary place. But as long as you are smart and sensible and lay down some foundations for a safe stay, there’s no reason why fear should stop you in your tracks. Get travel insurance, take a couple of spare credit cards or an emergency fund just in case, get a good data plan so you can stay connected, keep your phone charged, research the no-go zones in your destination, and stay at decent hotels or hostels.
The last thing you want to do on your solo trip is to drag a heavy suitcase all over the show. For your premier personal adventure, be sure to try and pack as light as possible. Take only what you need and consider what you can buy at your destination. Make sure that you get a good travel bag – if it’s a backpack try it on to check it's comfortable enough to carry and take a smaller day bag that you will be able to conceal easily for your money and valuables. When carrying money it makes sense to break it up – leave some stuffed in a sock in your hotel room.
Tell us all about your solo travel tips? What challenges did you have to overcome on your first alone adventure? Share stories and thoughts in the comments.