Deciding to travel the world is one thing, but deciding to go it alone? Embarking on a solo travel experience takes a lot of planning and a good dose of courage! Many people decide to travel solo rather than with friends because they want to have their own independence, they want to make all the decisions, and they want the experience to be exactly what they want, from start to finish.
There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, solo travel has many benefits. It can be one of the most fantastic, rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. Hitting the road on your own can be so fulfilling and teach you so much about yourself, others, and the world that I would encourage anyone contemplating it to try it at least once in their life, if they have the opportunity.
However, travelling solo also means that you can put a lot of pressure on yourself to have the most incredible travel adventure ever. And while it makes sense to plan as much as you can and come up with an itinerary, things can get a little stressful whilst on the road alone.
The solution? Read on for how to get the most out of your solo travel experience.
Take as many pictures as you can
You’re planning on having an exceptional experience, so you’ll want as many memories to go with it as possible. Don’t forget to bring your best travel camera, and any other accessories you might need to ensure you get the best shots possible.
A tripod or a selfie stick is essential so you can star in those pictures! Alternatively, don’t be shy and ask strangers to take that snap of you in front of the Eiffel Tower or Machu Picchu. Often, they’ll be more than happy to oblige – they might just ask you to return the favour (or you can offer to). Check out hellocanvas.co.uk for the latest printing solutions and for how to bring your travel images to life.
Plan your arrival down to the letter
After a long-haul flight, do you really want to wander around a new city in the dark, searching for your hostel? It can be pretty stressful and may not always be safe. You’ll wake up the next morning, exhausted and probably a little uneasy after getting lost. You’ve already lost a day of your travels to fatigue and worry – not the best way to start your trip!
Try to plan your arrival so you land during the day. That way, you can either get your bearings as you find your way to your accommodation, or get a taxi to pick you up and drive you there. However, don’t worry if you can only land at your destination in the evening – just make sure to study how to reach your accommodation easily.
Many airports have taxi and private transfer services available 24 hours. If that’s not the case where you’re going, you can check if your hostel offers a pickup service, book a transfer ahead of time on a trusted site like Get Your Guide, or use a transportation app such as Uber or Grab if there is one where you’re headed. You just need to review your options in advance, and you’ll be fine!
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is what travelling is all about. Facing your fear of heights or water, meeting new people for drinks or lunch, trying unique foods and embracing novel experiences.
Your solo travel adventure is a great time to try out a new sport your mother was too worried to let you practice, to sign up for an activity that only exists at your destination (black-water rafting on the underground river of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in New Zealand, anyone?!), or to participate in a festival typical of the region, like La Tomatina in Spain or Holi in India.Of course, stay on your guards, apply common sense, and follow your gut. But as long as you’re safe and sensible, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t say “yes” and open yourself up to new experiences as much as possible.
Don’t forget to look past your camera
I know, I know: I just told you to take as many photos as possible to capture lasting memories of your experience! But there are also times when you should put your camera down. Taking endless photos and videos and then spending time uploading them to social media can become all-consuming and detract from your trip.
Remember to take plenty of time away from your camera and your online persona so you can live in the moment and actually enjoy your solo travel experience! Be present and simply appreciate where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with.
Consider staying in hostels
Far, far gone are the days when hostels were considered dirty, cheap holes where you were likely to catch bed bugs or get all your stuff stolen! With the growing popularity of solo backpacking that has increased the competition among hostels and the advent of “flashpacking” and “poshtels”, many hotels can now compete with hotels for cleanliness, facilities, and services – if not actually outdo them!
Having stayed in a huge number of hostels around the world myself, I have very fond memories of countless of them and can truly say that they’re a solo traveller’s best friend! Not only are they the best place to meet like-minded travellers (and potentially find companions for the next part of your trip), they often also offer their own tours and activities to allow you to discover and engage with your destination.
With events on offer like cooking classes, salsa lessons, movie nights, walking tours, and crawls of the best bars around, hostels today go out of their way to provide extra value to their guests and get them to interact. Some even have incredible facilities that you would associate with a luxury hotel, such as an on-site swimming-pool, hot tub, or games room. Try them and you’ll no doubt be converted to the hostel life!
Break up your solo travel experience with group travel if you need
If loneliness starts to creep in or you get overwhelmed with all the daily planning, there’s nothing wrong with joining forces with others for a while. Whether you decide to travel for a few days with new friends you met at your hostel or you sign up for a group adventure tour to cover a segment of your trip, this is a great way to take off some of the pressure and help reset you. It doesn’t invalidate your solo travel experience, and can even enhance it.
When I started my own solo travels (on a 9-month round-the-world trip, no less!), I eased into it by starting my travels in South America on a Tucan Travel budget adventure tour. It was the perfect way to get my bearings in this unfamiliar part of the world, and gave me the confidence to tackle the rest of the journey on my own.
On other occasions, I’ve paired up with like-minded explorers to rent a car or a campervan and go on a road trip together, head into the Amazon jungle on a multi-day adventure, share bus journeys and hotel rooms for a few weeks, and plenty more unforgettable experiences.
I hope the tips I shared in this article will help you enjoy your solo travel experience to the full! Remember, it's normal to have nerves before going. Setting out on a journey alone can be intimidating, but you'll soon find your feet. Above all, don't overthink it, go with the flow, and be open to all the enriching encounters you're bound to make on the road!
Have you travelled solo, or are you considering it? Let me know in a comment below! I'd love to hear about your experience.