Around the time I hit my late twenties I knew that travel wasn’t just going to be something I did as a treat or when I had a free moment. Between looking out on foreign coastlines and navigating city streets with just instinct, I knew that exploring the world would become an integral part of my life. However in hindsight there was something that I wasn’t ready to accept or admit back then. The fact that if I chose to travel more frequently, I’d more than likely be doing it alone.
I would visit friends in foreign cities and end up exploring alone while waiting for them to finish work. And after years of asking friends join me on trips and getting the same responses of why they couldn’t come, I just stopped asking and headed out solo. Over time, I realized that travel isn’t always a group activity and I honestly had a better time seeing the world on my own. Meeting up with old friends and making new ones along the way was cool, but if I couldn’t have a good time with myself, what was the point?
While we love (and recommend) girlfriend getaways, couple trips and more here on Parlour, the truth is that if you want to go and see, be prepared to go. Go without your sweetie, children or best friend. Go no matter who decides they can’t make it at the last minute or meet you there. Go even though you are kinda scared to do it alone. Whether your jaunt is a quick weekend in a new city or a three month journey, if you can do it—do it.
Easier said than done right? Not exactly. Traveling solo isn’t as scary as you may think, so in addition to planning your getaway times ahead, here is a breakdown on how to do it safely, sanely and in style—especially if it’s your first time.
1. Pick An Activity
When it’s time to learn or master a new skill, immersion is always the best way to start. Combine that with the discovery of a destination and you have a solo trip that may be more social than you thought. Love Italian cuisine? Schedule a culinary tour of and take classes in Sicily. Want to finally master Spanish? Take classes by day and put them to use by night in Buenos Aires. Get a great workout and learn how to surf while on a solo trip to Maui. No matter what your interest is, planning your journey around a learning or wellness experience is a great way to get social without the awkwardness, fill the time and give you an inside look at your destination that you won’t find in any guidebook. You’ll meet plenty of other solo travelers and walk away with more than you thought.
2. Go Out To Eat, Alone
Even if you aren’t in a new city, the thought of eating alone can be a little uncomfortable, so before you embark on your solo travel journey, book a table for one or grab a bar seat at your city’s best restaurants. Chat up the bartender for their recommendations, bring along your iPad, Kindle or favorite magazine as a way to pass the time. But most of all, be present in the moment and enjoy it, this is practice. After two-three “solo dates” you’re ready to do the same thing in your destination city but with a little edge that will help you navigate the menu, culture and have a great time. Don’t discount the help of friendly locals you may meet at the bar, I’ve made two of my closest friends while trying to decipher a cocktail menu!
3. Tap Into Your Social Network
Whether it’s a travel group like Nomadness, your university alma mater or a sorority, professional and personal interests groups are a great way to get an inside look at your intended city. Just put yourself out there with a ‘Hey, I’m going to XXX soon. Any tips on XXX or etc?’ The more specific you are, the more specific your responses will be, and a new, already-vetted friend and itinerary may be waiting to meet you once you touch down.
4. Listen, Record and Be Still
At first, traveling alone can make one a little anxious and you may find yourself wanting someone to talk to or juggling more thoughts than you can handle. This is a perfect time to start a travel journal. Whether on your phone or in a notebook tucked away in your bag, use the empty pages as a depository for all of those small bursts of genius that you collect along the way. When the thoughts start to slow down—savor it. Go back and revisit your journal at the end of your trip and use it as a personal guide to perfect your own travel style for future excursions and get to know yourself more. After all, travel is about discovering a new destination and a new part of yourself. And lay off the social media, take it in – not for IG’s sake.
5. Trust Your Instincts
Just because you are away doesn’t mean your homegrown safety instincts also go on vacation. That little voice in your head is your best friend on any trip—listen to her. In a nightclub? Order your own drinks and watch the bartender make them. Walking home when it’s dark out? Take the most well lit and crowded way home, even if you aren’t alone. Thinking of hooking up? Use protection and if you can, make a mental (or digital) note of who they are. Make sure someone back home has an itinerary of where you are, and if you wish, you don’t exactly have to let people know you are in their city alone. Trust your gut and maybe invest in a hotel door lock too for added security.
My tips are just the basics, but traveling solo will arm you with a whole new set of rules for living. The first step is yours to take. List out your top five places and start planning your journey on your own. Got any more tips for solo travelers? Leave them in the comments below!
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