Solo travel is particularly rewarding, but can be daunting and lonely at times. I constantly celebrate the victories – a little shimmy victory dance every time my luggage appears on the baggage conveyor belt. And I try to let go of the negativity or unpleasant situations (some can be found here). Despite the some of the shitty things can happen, the benefits and the wonderful experiences are worth the trouble.
I have been lucky that I’ve never experienced anything absolutely terrible or any kind of trauma while traveling solo. This can mostly be attributed to following my instinct and always being prepared. There are tons of female bloggers that offer up solo travel tips (found here, here and here – all pretty much saying the same common sense thing).
I’ve Planned Enough
I’m guilty of planning things to death. It’s been so bad with a few of my destinations that I have a good sense of direction (around a particular landmark) that I know north, south, east or west just from starring at Google Maps for hours during the planning phase.
I also try to plan my activities for each day. I find knowing where I’m going and how to get there makes me look less like a vulnerable solo tourist. But having a plan also means that you’ll be doing some research so you’ll know what areas to avoid.
But eventually there comes a time when you have to let serendipity take over and enjoy the journey. This is something I’ve struggled with because it goes against my controlling nature, but it’s also something that is liberating. Being able to just go where your feet take you, getting lost and finding your way again is a great way to explore a new city. My second time in Paris was only for a few days and didn’t plan anything (except a Montmartre Walking Tour). I had tons of free time to wander and explore parts of the city most tourists never find.
It’s Okay to Ask Questions (and Keep Your Independence)
I’ve always been a pretty independent person. I love the satisfaction of accomplishing something new without having to ask for help or direction. But on the road I’ve learned that asking for help doesn’t mean compromising your independence. I was really hesitant to ask people to take my picture. But after the first few times it got easier. On tours, I even started asking the tour guide to take my picture!
It’s also impossible to know everything. So why not ask a local? Talking to locals gives you a really great insight to their city and culture. A great way to meet locals is through Couchsurfing. I stayed with a local in the Netherlands. He showed me around his city and we visited places I wouldn’t have gone if I had been alone.
I am Never Really Alone
There are so many travel networks that help us to never truly be alone. If you really want to meet people it’s super easy to do so!
In my first hostel experience I met some really interesting women in an all-women hostel. I never had to eat breakfast alone – somebody is almost always awake in a hostel. There are also group tours and activities that can be a great way of meeting new people. I did a waffle making workshop and was inviting to go beer tasting afterwards. I declined in that instance, but I totally would have gone if I hadn’t been totally exhausted.
With the beauty of the Internet, I got to meet other travel bloggers as well. Social media is great for linking up and meeting new people with similar interests. I had an awesome opportunity to meet a fellow travel blogger in Amsterdam. She invited me over for dinner and she introduced me to Eurovision (the European version of American/Canadian Idol).
Learn to Speak a New Language – sort of
Being immersed and surrounded by a new language is always thrilling. I love learning new words and trying them out when talking to locals. These new words are limited to: hello, good morning, how much?, thank you, and often a few numbers.
The best part is when locals get excited because they see you’re trying or when try to correct pronunciation. I once had a hotel cleaning staff bid me good morning in a very shaky and uncertain English. I responded in an equally shaky Hungarian “jó reggelt” (good morning) and her faced instantly beamed. It was magical!
I am Empowered
We all hear the phrases “You can’t do that” or “You would never be able to do that” at some point in our lives. I had heard it from different people at different points in my life when I’ve decided to do certain things.
The first time was when I had decided to run a half marathon. I had been told I’d never be able to finish, but I did. When I decided to travel solo I was told I shouldn’t travel alone, but I did. I survived and nothing bad happened.
Nothing bad happened to me while traveling because I took precautions, went in prepared and listening to my instinct. When it comes to solo travel – and in particular female solo travel – we need to believe in women’s ability to make smart and informed choices. What bothered me the most about those negative comments was that it told me that I wasn’t capable or smart enough to make good choices.
I Enjoy My Own Company
This may sound self-centered, but I actually enjoy being by myself and being in my own head. Traveling alone gives me time to think, analyze, and observe.
There are a few things I particularly enjoy doing alone: visiting museums and dining in a restaurant. I don’t look at everything or read everything so if I can go at my own speed I am happy. But then again, I sometimes get really excited in a specific collection and would prefer to stay longer than the average person.
Strangely enough I really like eating alone. Most people hate eating alone, but I love it! I normally come prepared with a book or notebook. I also really like observing the happenings in restaurants and enjoying the ambiance.
Want to know where I’ve traveled solo? Check it out below!
Destinations I’ve traveled solo