ARE YOU READY TO SOLO TRAVEL?
Are you dreaming of jumping on a flight and exploring new places, but don’t feel like you have anyone to go with? A lot of people find themselves in the same situation, and although it might not seem like it, you aren’t alone. Solo travel is the best way to explore the world on your own terms, find out more about yourself, make memories, and meet some amazing people. In saying that, it has it’s own challenges. Here are the top 10 things you should know before going out on your first solo adventure.
There’s only one thing you really need to know...
No matter where you’re travelling or how long you’re going, there’s only one thing you really need to know about solo travel. How are you getting to your accommodation? Once you figure out your route to the hostel, the rest can sort itself out. When you arrive you’ll have time to settle in and plan your next step. If you’re arriving late and there isn’t public transport, be sure to reach out to the hostel and see if they run a shuttle service. If you take away anything from this article, please make it this!
You’ll get lonely, but you won’t be alone
If you’re staying in hostels, you’ll quickly learn that it’s very rare that you’ll spend time completely alone. Although you’ll often be surrounded by amazing new friends, it’s totally normal to start feel lonely from time to time. It can be hard to find people that really get you, or maybe you’ll start to feel overwhelmed by all the new people you’re meeting. Either way it’s really important to become comfortable dating yourself. Take yourself out to do something you love, grab your favourite meal, or just sit in the park with a coffee and have some alone time.
You have to put yourself out there
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve nervously approached a group of strangers at the hostel common area, asked if I could sit with them, and then found out that they only met each other 20 minutes ago! Putting yourself out there can be nervewrecking, but odds are that 90% of travellers are in the same boat as you and are open to meeting new people. Another great way to meet people is to try new experiences you wouldn’t normally do. You’ll learn a bit more about yourself and have some great stories to tell!
You don’t need a plan
I used to be a rigid planner. I had every hostel booked, every train sorted, and left nothing up to chance. This also meant I didn’t open myself up to new experiences and spontaneity! The people you meet along the way will tell you amazing stories of the places they’ve seen, or the places they’re planning to go to. You’ll also make some great friends that you just won’t be ready to say goodbye to! If you have a stringent plan with no space for change, you’ll likely miss out on a lot of cool experiences. I recommend having a loose idea of where you’re going, and make sure all of your bookings have a good cancellation policy. This way you have a safety net, but also leave yourself open to go with the flow. Or join a TruTravels tour, make some friends and you'll end up with travel mates for life. No for real, so many people use a tour to start their solo travel adventure and see where the world takes them after!
It’s not always glamorous
From social media you’d think backpacking is all beautiful beaches, late night parties, and cocktails with a view. And whilst all this can be true, it’s also true that you’ll spend a lot of time feeling a lot less glam. From waiting around in train stations for hours, to sharing a room (and bathroom) with 10 other people, there are definitely aspects of this lifestyle that don’t fit the Instagram Aesthetic. In saying that, some of the uglier times can be the most exciting and fun! Rather than grabbing cocktails at a rooftop bar, save your money and have a beer at a local viewpoint. Finding these little spots is an adventure in itself, and is far more memorable than a drink at a bar!
You might need to take a break
Constantly moving around and exploring can take its toll, and there’s nothing wrong with just taking a break. After backpacking Central America for two months, myself and my friends headed out to a shopping mall in Guatemala to go bowling. By no means was this the most exciting or inspiring days of the trip, but we had the most fun. To just hang out and do something “normal” can be so refreshing, and it was just what we needed at the time. After a day of bowling, pool, and McDonald’s, we felt rejuvenated and ready to tackle our next adventure!
You’ll feel so empowered
Travelling solo is empowering. You’ll push your boundaries and find out a lot about yourself. Before solo travelling, I wouldn’t have gone to the bathroom without asking someone to go with me. I wouldn’t dream of taking myself out for dinner. You’ll realise what really matters, and that you’re capable of so much more than you thought. Backpacking is like playing life on hard mode sometimes. If you don’t speak the language, simple things like buying dinner can take a lot longer than you thought. But you’ll be so proud of yourself for working past everything the trip throws at you!
It can be more expensive, so join a tour!
A downside of solo travel is that some things will be more expensive. If you’re travelling with others, you’ll be able to split bills like groceries and taxis. You’ll also get discounts on group activities and excursions. Solo travel means that you won’t have these savings, but you’ll save money in your own way. For example, you won’t spend money on an excursion unless you’re 100% certain you want to do it. You also won’t feel pressured to go out for expensive dinners and drinks if you’re solo, and you’ll be much happier cooking at the hostel with others. A way to beat all of this is to join a group tour and you'll be guaranteed to get good value for money, some sicckkk activites you couldn't do solo and some 10/10 friends too! win win.
It’ll feel very natural very fast
I often get messages from people telling me I’m so brave for travelling solo. They say that there’s no way they could do it. When I first started, I found solo travel quite daunting but I’m now a the stage where it’s the norm! It no longer feels like a big task which needs a lot of courage and bravery, but just another adventure! In my hometown, solo travel isn’t really a thing and I felt like a bit of a weirdo for heading off alone. But I’ve met so many other solo travellers along the way who are on my level and are on the same journey as me. Very quickly you’ll get used to figuring things out by yourself, spending time alone and making new friends. You got this!
You can do whatever you want! Literally!
One of the best things about solo travel is that it’s all up to you. Every new day is an opportunity to be whatever you want it to be. You can commit 100% of your time to doing things that you geniunely enjoy, and don’t have to keep anyone else happy. Dreaming of visiting a lake two hours away? Go for it. You don’t have to convince someone else it’s worth it. Want to spend a day at the beach doing nothing? No problem, there’s no one pressuring you to fill up every second with activities. You have full control to see things at your own pace.
The Practical Stuff
And finally, here’s a list of things to know that will keep your mother happy.
- Get good health and travel insurance. Hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but it’ll give you a lot of peace of mind to know that you’re covered in an emergency.
- If you’re from Europe and travelling in the EU, make sure to apply for an EHIC Card. This card will allow you to access healthcare in the EU for free or at a reduced rate.
- Don’t pack anything you can’t replace. If you have some sentimental jewellery or an absolute favourite top, leave them at home. Things often get lost, stolen or broken when you’re on the move, and I don’t recommend packing anything you absolutely love.
- Bring two bank cards, if you can, and pack them in separate purses. It’s not common, but cards can get swallowed by ATM’s or if you’re really unlucky, pickpocketed. If you’re solo travelling, the last thing you want is to have no access to money. I’d recommend getting a Revolut card which will also allow you to convert your money to other currencies. This will save you a lot of money on exchange rates too!
- Be mindful of the culture in the countries you’re visiting, and pack appropriate clothes for it! For example, if you’re dreaming of hitting up the churches in Italy, you’ll need to cover your knees and shoulders. Make sure to be respectful and pack a scarf!
Is solo travel for everyone?
Absolutely not. Some people hate it, and others love it. That's why if you're a little nervous joining a pre booked group is a winner. If you're ready to take it in your stride go alone! You won't regret it. Solo travel isn't everyone’s cup of tea at the end of the day. If you’re considering solo travel but you’re a bit nervous or apprehensive, my advice is to take it step by step.
Start small, do a solo day trip in your area. If this goes will, you can build up to a weekend away. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, remember, step by step.
Step one, get to the airport. Step two, get through security. And so on until you find yourself wandering around a new city with some new friends! If you want to travel and you’re waiting for someone to go with, like I was, stop waiting! By going alone you’ll find out so much about yourself and make some incredible memories.
See you on the beach!