Why go solo?
Traveling alone can be one of the scariest and most rewarding experiences of your life. It can be scary traveling alone, especially when you’ve never done it before and especially as a female. But, for me, not experiencing everything I want to in life is much more unnerving. Fear of missing out, I guess. Although it can be daunting, traveling alone has the potential to change you. It can help you become self-reliant and build your confidence. It's also nice not having to compromise your experience with anyone else. There are no fights over where to eat or what sights to see. You are at your own whim. When you are alone you experience the world unadulterated by anyone else’s wants or desires. It is truly freeing.
While traveling alone can be amazing, it can be hard to build your confidence up to make you trip just that. So, to help you calm your nerves I've got a few tips.
Don't worry too much about being lonely.
"Oh, you're going to (Blank) by yourself. Won't you be lonely?"
This is a regular inquiry I get when I tell people I'm traveling solo. Yes, every solo trip has the potential for loneliness but there are so many people out there to meet in the world, as long as you are willing to put yourself out there. Going on a solo trip doesn't mean you'll always be alone. You will be meet people along the way, especially if you stay in a hostel. You're highly likely to run into other solo travelers, just like you. On my last trip, I met upwards of ten solo travelers, in a week's time. You also might be surprised by how comfortable you will be when you are alone. You're new best friend might just be yourself.
Talk to strangers and be curious.
When you travel alone you must accept that you must put yourself out there to interact with the world. Experiences aren't just going to happen to you, you have to make them happen. Be outgoing. Talk to strangers. Ask lots of questions. You'll probably find that most travelers and locals are quite friendly and are happy to strike up a conversation. When I was in Germany alone at a music festival, I just struck up a conversation with a woman and ended up getting invited to join their group for the rest of the evening. Ended up being one the best nights of that trip.
I also believe, hostels are the best place to start with making friends If you need some tips on how to make friends while staying in a hostel, check out this guide.
Choose friendly accomodation.
Where you stay can be key to a good experience. Do your research to try to find a place that best fits your travel style. Read reviews for places, to see if other travelers enjoyed staying there or thought there was a friendly or lively atmosphere. I always recommend that solo travelers stay in a hostel because it is an obvious place to run into people like yourself. AirBnB and Couchsurfing are also great options because your host may be willing to chat or show you around.
Sign up for group activites.
Lots of hostels host themed nights, tours, and pub crawls. Often times you just have to ask reception to see what events the hostel has going on. Don't be too shy to sign up solo for a day-trip or tour experiences You'll likely meet someone else in your group you identify with. I booked a canal cruise for myself while in Amsterdam with Get Your Guide, and by the end of it the whole boat was friendly and conversing with on another. Same thing happened with my Sunset Eiffel Tower tour. I'm glad I booked a place in a tour group rather than just seeing and walking around on the Effiel Tower alone.
Trust your gut.
Traveling alone is not necessarily any more risky than traveling with friends—but it does require extra awareness, especially for female travelers. Keep an eye out for potentially dangerous situations. I'm not saying that you will for sure find yourself in an undesirable situation but solo travelers and women can be at increased risk for scams, pickpockets, and sexual violence. That fact of the matter is, the way societies treat women in some parts of the world still have a long way to go. Don't be fearful of that knowledge though, be vigilant. If you ever feel that you are in an unsafe situation, try to remove yourself from it, if you can. Be confident in saying no to people who seem suspicous, and may threaten you with a scam or some other intentions. Safety always trumps politeness. Keep in mind though, you don't always have to be on guard. Most countries in the world are not anymore violent or dangerous than your own country. Listen to your instincts and they will help keep you safe but also allow it to guide you in your adventures.
Go with the flow.
Take advantage of your freedom and be willing to change plans or tag along with a new friend. Say yes to experiences. My first night in Amsterdam, a few weeks ago, I was super jet-lagged and was just planning on going to bed early to be well rested for a concert the next day. I ended up groggily introducing myself to a girl in my dorm when she walked in during my early evening slumber. That introduction led to an invitation to get food and in an instant, my plans had changed. Even though I was tired, I said yes and it turned into an unforgettable evening because, for the rest of the night, I decided I was down for anything. Grabbing food turned into drinks, drinks turned into going out, and somehow my night ended at 6 am at a rave/music festival in a small village in North Holland.
Let friends or family know of your plans. Check in with someone every so often from back home to let them know you're ok. If you are a US citizen, you also have the option of signing up for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, this way the government can better assist you in the case of emergency.
Be confident in the way you present yourself and speak to others. Hold your head high and walk with purpose as if you know what you're doing. If you don't feel confident; fake it till you make it, as the saying goes. Confidence can make you seem approachable to others. Confidence can also deter people you don't want attention from, like scammers or even some guy who won't stop hitting on you. Also, try to research your destination so that you can walk the streets or take public transportation with little issue.
Solo travel is exciting, it's scary, and it's one of the best gifts you can ever give yourself. Have any worries about an upcoming solo adventure? Share in the comments below and maybe I have some tips.:)