Before I began my one-year master’s program I decided to embark on a solo trip. Maybe because at 20, we still aren’t fully formed individuals yet – we still have so much to see, do, and discover about ourselves. However travelling alone – no matter your age or gender – can sometimes be a scary thing. Here are a few tips and tricks to ensure your trip is the mind blowing, soul searching adventure its meant to be.
1. Pick a good destination
This might not be the best time to hit up Ibiza or Mykonos. I am all for gender equality, but this especially applies if you are female. Pick a place with plenty of activities or scenery that is easy to do in the day as well as a place that is generally experiencing peace and have low crime rates.
2. Know your way back to where you are staying
Don’t carry a map at any time of day or night because it attracts pickpockets. If you don’t have data or an offline version of Google Maps, take pictures of the route on your phone and then pretend to text. Always look confident even when you have no idea where you are going.
What I mean by this is don’t wear your baseball hat, your North Face, or your Ugg boots. Research your destination a little bit and see what is in style there. Even if you don’t look like a local, it still shows you know your shit and you are there to be respectful and embrace their culture.
4. Plan activities
Book activities with groups early on in your trip. When I went to the Azores, I booked all my activities with one adventure company. As a result, I got to know my guide very well and because I was on my own we spent a lot more time conversing. I learned more about the history and politics of the islands than if I had tried to explore on my own.
5. But not too many…
Leave yourself at least one day completely free. Chances are you’ll learn a lot about the place early on or get recommendations from locals on the “must see” spots. If you leave a little spare time, you can easily fit them in.
6. Stay in a hostel
This may seem counter intuitive and when traveling solo, you might think hotels are safer, but hostels are an easy way to make new friends who have like interests. I stayed in a smaller “boutique” style hostel and the owner purposefully put me in a room with two other female travelers who were on their own. We compared our itineraries and made recommendations based on what we had seen.
7. Try new things
You are already doing something that pushes you mentally and physically by going somewhere completely alone. Might as well keep with the theme. When I booked a full day excursion, the second half of the day including scaling a cliff made of volcanic rock. I am pretty scared of heights and wanted to opt out, but my guide pushed me to do it. It was an incredible (very frightening), rewarding (absolutely terrifying), and totally amazing experience that gave me the push of confidence I needed at that point in my life.
8. Traveling alone doesn’t mean you are alone
A major misconception of traveling alone is that its lonely. It is only lonely if you don’t put yourself out there and talk to people. Converse with the people where you are staying, talk to your waiter in the restaurants, and make friends with people on your tours. They don’t have to be your best friend forever. More like four hours.
9. Eating alone is the hardest part
I personally hate eating alone and I think it is the worst part of travelling by yourself, but you cannot be afraid to eat. It is a huge part of experiencing the culture. When I was alone in Dublin I walked into a very empty restaurant. The owner sat down with me and told me all about where he was from, why he lives in Dublin, and even gave me recommendations for where to explore.
10. Do exactly what you want to do
The best part about travelling alone is you are totally in control. I know that my style of traveling can be pretty different from my peers. My ideal trip included surfing, kayaking, hiking, and rock climbing and I was able to do all of that. Tailor your trip to your exact tastes and you will have an excellent time no matter what.
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