Getting out in the world can be challenging. And even if there’s a lot of people doing so, I encounter the statement “I could never travel alone” quite often, when I tell people I am about to do so. My answer to that usually is “But did you ever try?”. It still seems to hold people back, so I decided to put together this little guide. And even if these are my 7 tips for solo female travel, they can easily apply to dudes as well. Because the most common fears apply to both. At least I think.
Let’s begin by saying that I started some solo journeys only about three years ago. I always wanted to take my major trips by myself, but in the end people joined and I wasn’t really angry about it. Years followed where it was more comfortable for me to ask people to come with me to my places of interest, sometimes over and over again, until they said yes. Don’t get me wrong, most of these trips were booked effortlessly, others needed a bit of convincing. Which was tiring at times. Then time passed, life happened, people got busy, got married, had babies, bought a house and got a dog. Bless them all. It became more difficult to arrange things that fitted, especially trips that took longer than a weekend. So the point came where I had a choice: I either sit around and wait for them to “have time” or I just use the upcoming empty days I have to plan a trip for myself. So if there’s really a place you want to experience, but this time the company is missing for different reasons and there is no alternative date in sight, why don’t you just go by yourself?
1. Start Small
When I talk about solo travel, I am not telling you to take a year of sabbatical and get out in the world clueless. You maybe really have to test the waters for yourself first, is travelling alone a thing that suits you? So start very small. You can start very, very, veeeery small by just taking a day trip to another city in your country. Or to take it at least a little bit to the next level, just plan a weekend for yourself. This will allow you to see if you’re definetly made or made not for solo travelling. At the end, you have nothing to lose.
2. But taking trips alone is sad.
Why? What is really the reason stopping you to do so? Is it because while you’re doing your city sightseeing somebody would guess that you poor thing are all alone? Or are you afraid to sit down by yourself in a restaurant? What is holding you back to spend some time with yourself? Is your own company really that bad? Try to figure out what’s really holding you back to just do what you really would like to do. Because it was a game changer for me.
3. You are never alone.
When I was out and about for three months in Asia, the longest period of time I was literally all by myself was four days. It wasn’t even bad, because at the time I was in Chiang Mai, so I really used my days to visit countless temples and sit there for quite a while, without having the feeling to bore my travel companion out or to be a pain in the ass when I just wanted to take a short nap before moving on. I met countless people when I was out there simply by sitting at my breakfast table, having my glass of wine in a bar or at my guesthouse. You don’t really have even to force yourself to stay in a 12 bed dorm in a hostel just to meet people, if that makes you uncomfortable. At every place you will find a common area to hang out, and I promise it won’t be long until somebody asks you where you’re from. Good company can last ten minutes or ten days, as long as it’s good, who cares? Maybe those ten minutes will be spent well because you’ll get a great tip about a sight or a glimpse on where you want to travel next.
4. What about parties/concerts/social situations that can be awkward by myself?
I have two perfect examples for this and they both ended up the same way. While in Thailand I pretty spontaneously decided that I wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in Pai, a little village in the mountains. So I booked myself a bungalow and went up there quite clueless. While walking around at the night market roaming through all that yummy food, I saw that there was a festival coming up to celebrate the year’s ending. I surely didn’t want to spend the evening alone, and I knew that there where certainly a bunch of other solo travellers out there. So I simply logged in into the Facebook event, and asked around if there was anybody else going alone or I could join. The rest is pretty much history. Whoever hits you up, go grab a beer and see if you click (you usually do!). If yes, go have fun, and there will usually be a bunch of other people you’ll meet on the same night.
My second example is dated to three years ago. I had a weekend planned with a friend out in London. A party and a concert included. She got sick so I could choose to lose all the cash I’ve spent or just go there and see what will happen on a cold February weekend. I flew out, and did the same as above: while trying to sell my spare ticket on Facebook, people asked me to join them. Because “the more the merrier”. On the concert night, I was having dinner at the venue, still trying to sell my ticket online, when I saw a guy doing the same. I asked if he wanted company, he said yes. The result of both events was a total blast and people I still talk to this day on social media.
I even got invited to join a company dinner (yes, literally, and I surely wasn’t dressed for the occasion) on my last night in Lisbon a while back. By simply having a drink on my hotel’s rooftop and radomly starting a conversation with people.
5. The Power of Social Media
Speaking of social media: I even made friends there. Through pictures on Instagram and exchanging various DMs. I met people again I was able to spend time with on past trips or it even happened to bump into people I knew along the way. The internet is a great tool to ask people various questions you might have about a destination. So just search through that hashtag on Instagram and find a bunch of likeminded people.
Take a bit of action. Just a tiny bit of effort. The rest usually falls into place. There are people out there in the same boat as you are, and they will be happy to meet someone new too!
6. Chosing your destination
You probably have an idea on where you want to go, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this post. But: sometimes you just need a break and you’re kinda clueless on where to travel next. I usually ask myself these questions: where would I want to be if circumstances really want me to be all alone for the whole time? Where would I feel comfortable to spend time by myself?. In the past years, my trip planning was mostly due to a picture. I saw a picture of a place or sight I really wanted to experience in real life, so I started from there. Depending on the time I had, I either planned very little ahead, and just saw where I landed when time moved on, or just draw an ideal route where I felt I covered the places I really wanted to see. My key points are: find places where you will be able to keep yourself busy with activities and things you want to see, because you won’t event realise you’re alone if you’re enjoying your trip to the fullest.
For me the main reasons to visit a place would be: a balance between sightseeing and chill, preferibly by the sea, good options for plant based food, activities like yoga or stand up paddling are a great plus. Also, slower trips, where I spend more than just two days in one place, are very important to me to ground and get more about my surroundings.
7. Is it safe?
Safety and meeting people are usually the two main topics I got asked questions about when travelling solo. You’re always safe, it depends what safety means to you and what you do about it. Depending on your destination, it can might feel odd in the beginning, I had that too. So for the start I wouldn’t roam around past dinner time, I’d get used to the vibe of the place first and then follow my gut in terms of staying out late. Speaking of dusk till dawn, I think there is a simple tip to follow, especially if you’re a girl. If you go out, even if it’s with your hostel mates you just met, never drink to the point where you loose control over your mind or your body. Getting drunk or high until you have no clue on how to get home or where you are, is not fun. Also, never let your drink out of sight, been there, done that, not so fun either. Feel it out, if your gut says “Hell yes!” then it’s usually alright.
Antoher tip might be to never take too many valuables with you. I locked most of it in my room and took enough cash with me just to survive the night. Better safe than sorry. Been there, done that as well.
Always know where you are, how to get back home and your limits.
Bonus: But who will take my picture?
Hey it’s 2018! Buy a tripod to place your camera on, push that self timer button and start to be weird in front of strangers. Or even better: ask stranger to take your picture! It might don’t come out always as you wanted, but it’s another great way to start a conversation. Plus nowadays everyone is taking pictures basically at all times, so it won’t be weird at all.
What I am trying to type down here is very simple. Just take a leap of faith. You will actually see that you’re a great human to spend time with. You will be surprised on how actually open you are to meet strangers, and doing what you want at all time with no worries isn’t that bad actually. By this date my trips spent solo and in company are balanced to a 50/50. It might change in the future or it won’t, I can tell you that it was one of the best things I’ve ever done ❤