A Guide To Solo Travel- How Do I Make It Less Daunting? | Travel Hacks
Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Happy New Year you lovely lot! Sorry in advance, this one's a rambler - feel free to skip to the bullet points if you're here for a quick fix.
Whether you've just drank yourself silly, gained a stone in Christmas weight or powered through a normal working month in December, most people agree that New Years are the perfect time for a fresh start. I personally don't like to hold myself to any 'resolutions' as such (let's be honest January is depressing enough already without the added pressure), but I do like seeing people aim high for the New Year especially in the form of self care/ growth.
Something I have seen a lot of over the past couple of weeks is 'Next year I want to be more independent', 'I want to travel somewhere by myself' or 'I went to get better at being in my own company'. I love this, I want to scream 'DO IT PLEASE' at everyone who mentions this, and I'm going to write a post about the baby steps I took towards doing this myself a few years ago.
Travelling ~alone~ can seem scary. Not all of us are gutsy enough and/or able to just book a one way ticket to the other side of the world with nothing for company except dreams of hiking up waterfalls and that one book we definitely won't end up reading while we're there. But solo travel doesn't need to be this epic, terrifying, leap of faith thing. You can do it in small doses and build up, or don't, and just do it in little parts for the foreseeable future. Whatever is comfortable for you; any little step is a step in the right direction.
Some quick words of wisdom:
- The scariest part of travelling solo is actually deciding to do it, and then getting it booked
- Nerves on your first go are completely understandable, but you're more capable than you think
- You will feel indestructible once you've done it, and that itself is worth the effort
I've done it quite a lot now, which I never thought I would do but here we are and I love it! I have a set of fool proof tips for your first time going solo and I'm here top share 'em:
Stay in hostels
Now for someone who has traveled quite a bit, this might seem painstakingly obvious as hostels are the fan favourite for most people trying to stick to a budget, whether they're traveling solo or with a group. However this is also the thing that people shy away from the most which I think is crazy! No, hostels are not like in that one horror film, or full of scary people; youth hostel dorms are where you'll meet lots of like minded people who are probably feeling the exact same way as you. Don't even get me started on the common room/ kitchen areas, we've met people for 10 minutes while cooking some cheap and nasty pasta and ended up spending a few days with them! You can also stay in dorms of the same sex in most hostels, if that makes you more comfortable, and you can usually pick how many people you're actually sharing with too. So basically you can cater it to your specific needs to make life easier and I promise you'll love it.
I always find my hostels through Hostelworld (here) as I love and trust their rating system, but once you've found one, be sure to check if it's cheaper to book directly through their website.
Stay close to home at first
The easiest way to test out the whole ~exploring by yourself~thing is to simply book a weekend away to another city in your home country. If you live in a small place like me (England you are teeny but I love you) then this will probably mean it won't be TOO difficult or expensive to get home if you really do decide it's not for you. This is a fab way to test the waters and usually means the 'travel to' cost isn't too expensive either. Plus, if you can jump on a train or bus somewhere, the stations for these are more than likely in the City Centre, so no need to stress over airport transfers either.
Go somewhere that speaks your language
My first trip alone was literally just up to Scotland, which despite what you might think means they DO speak English, even if it is in a much thicker, more magnificent accent than us. My thinking behind this was that it would be easier to ask for help should I need it, and I can read things like signs or public transport routes without any hassle. I found that this really helped take any extra pressure off; when you're already thinking about transfers, accommodation and navigating a brand new city, any bit of convenience can go a long way.
Book an airport transfer
So you've flown somewhere new, but now you're bloody miles away from anything at the cities secondary airport and it's already 10pm, the buses will stop soon and it's dark. Great.
I've navigated my way into city centres a few times before using a bus (thank you to the nice lady in Venice who told me where my stop was) or train, but the first few times I flew anywhere I really valued having an airport transfer. This took the stress off me massively, and was one of the best investments of the whole trip, especially if it's a private cab who will just wait in arrivals with your name on a whiteboard- you also feel very fancy which is another plus. When I went to LA I didn't arrive until 11pm, my luggage took bloody ages to arrive and a 13 hour flight for a girl who hates flying is never an easy journey. I was tired and in a bad mood, but my cab took me straight to where I needed to be with no issues so I could just hop into bed. Easy.
Booking through the airport itself is usually quite expensive, so try asking your AirBnB host/ hostel receptionist/ hotel liaison for a recommendation as they may have a firm they use all the time for a good rate. Googling private hire cab firms in the city is also useful, some of them will operate group pickups for passengers staying in the same area which makes it a lot cheaper. Do not flag down street taxis- think smart and safe out there, people!
Get your bearings
Stressing about which way up the map goes or following directions off a friendly but vague stranger is never fun, it can feel quite daunting and if you seem very obviously lost can actually put a target on your back, as pickpockets and scammers will instantly know that you're not a local. So my advice? Book a walking tour or pay that data roaming charge for your first day.
Walking tours are a great way to see the best sights a city has to offer as well as finding out where everything is. Tour guides are the best people to ask for local knowledge, and lots of cities offer a free/ tip only tour so you don't even have to invest. I did a GREAT one in Bruges which I'll link here for you (Legends of Bruges Free Walking Tour).
If not, Google Maps! Luckily most European countries will let you use your data as normal now, but other places like the USA for example will charge you a set fee per day you use it. When I went in 2018, it was just £1.50 per day on my data plan, and it meant I could navigate my way around and get my bearings for a while before I tried it alone. I would recommend paying the charge for at least 1 day if you're nervous about going without, it's definitely worth the security for the small price you pay.
Go on a group travel experience
My last and probably best recommendation if you're scared to go it alone- join a group! They're more expensive than doing it yourself yes, but if you don't drive its much easier to get to more remote areas, you will make friends for life and have the best experience you could ever ask for.
Last year I did a week long TrekAmerica trip before I met my friend in San Francisco, and I cannot recommend it enough. Just talking about it makes my heart happy. It was without a doubt, the BEST week of my life. I'm actually flying to Poland in May for the wedding of 2 of our group members who met on the trip, which is even more exciting! I did the Western Wonder from LA tour, if you're interested. I'm doing a big post all about the experience very soon so keep your eyes peeled, but for now just please do something like this if you don't want to be by yourself, you will not regret it. Sometimes you don't necessarily want to be by yourself but just want to go somewhere else nobody else can/ will go with you- this is the perfect way to accomplish that, and share the experience with a group of great people too!
I really mean it when I say l the scariest thing about travelling by yourself is actually deciding to do it, and getting it booked. Once you get past that part there are so many things you can do to make it easier on yourself until you become much more comfortable. Soon you'll be winging it and using 2 buses, a train and a tram just to get from the airport (Thank you, Brussels Charleroi) and you'll be fine! You got this!
If you have any of your own tips for me, or if you use any of this stuff and find it helps you too, let me know! Meg x