For a few years now I've been wanting to take my first solo trip abroad. Logically I know I can take care of myself, but fear of the unknown and of getting lonely has given me cold feet.
It's still something I really want to try, so I decided to ask an expert for some advice. Luckily for me, Landmass tends to attract adventurous spirits and explorers. Our outreach manager, Sky, has been traveling solo for years and so she shared her advice on how to make the most of a trip alone.
Hey, I'm Sky! I've been traveling solo since I impulsively booked a one-way flight to Costa Rica when I was 20. I know solo travel can seem intimidating so I wanted to share some tips I've picked up over the past few years.
1. Stay in hostels.
One of the first questions I'm always asked about solo travel is “...but isn't it lonely?!” and, honestly, being lonely was definitely one of the things that concerned me before my first trip too. After all, the desire to travel solo is not necessarily the desire to do EVERYTHING alone. But, it turns out there's one simple way to combat loneliness on the road – stay in a hostel.
Then, make an effort to talk to those in your dorm or hang out in the common area. It's the easiest way to make friends on the road, whether they're friends for a lifetime or someone to party with that night. Plus, hostels are cheap and if you're not feeling super social most of them have private rooms available as well.
2. Be prepared and aware.
I know travelers who plan every second of their trip weeks in advance and others who show up at an airport with no plan. I fall into the middle, making some plans with lots of flexibility. However, when traveling solo, especially for the first time, I truly think it's important to be prepared by doing some research ahead of time, booking at least the first 24-48 hours in a destination, and then saving all vital documents in multiple places. I save everything to my phone, including reservations and addresses, but always make sure to keep a hard copy on hand too.
3. Talk to locals.
This is important for two reasons. One, you will have some of the best experiences of your trip while interacting with the locals and likely see things that those who only interact with other travelers won't. Two, they are the ones who have the answers to most questions you may have. They know how the bus system works, where your hostel is, and the best bar for happy hour each night of the week.
4. Join group activities.
When I arrive in a new destination, I love jumping in on a group activity or two, whether it's a foodie tour of the city, a free walking tour, a pub crawl or something completely random. They're a great way to orient yourself in a city but also provide an outlet for making friends and travel buddies for the next few days.
5. Get off the beaten path....at least a little.
This advice is true for all travelers but especially for solo travelers. Try to do at least one thing in each destination that's not on a Top 10 list. Take a day trip outside the main city to the country side. Do something that every other traveler to the destination hasn't already done. Just be sure that it is a safe activity – for example, I don't necessarily recommend solo travelers take a taxi alone to visit a ruin two hours from their base.
6. Document your travels.
Take pictures of everything, journal every night, tweet about your adventures. In the moment, it may feel like you will absolutely, never ever forget something but as you travel more and more, some memories do begin to fade.
I personally journal every night and post photos on Facebook sporadically and then, upon returning home, I update my Travel Tracker Map on my wall so that each time I see it I'm reminded of all of my trips.
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