The Ultimate Solo Travel Guide
More and more people are traveling solo these days. This is especially true of women, who are more empowered than ever to step out on their own and see the world. Solo travel has a lot of perks: you’re more likely to meet new people, you’re not restricted by anyone else’s schedule, and you can be truly yourself (or even find out who you really are). Despite this, a lot of people are reluctant to travel alone. Part of it is the safety of having someone else to rely on in times of emergency, part is wanting companionship and someone to share the adventure with, part is simply lacking the confidence to explore the world by yourself. Whatever might be holding you back, this ultimate solo travel guide will iron out any pain points, get you excited about the road ahead and make sure you’re well prepared when you do. We start with a little inspiration…
Part of being able to travel alone is being willing to do it in the first place. Even if you’re willing, you might be a little unsure how to go about it. To give you that extra push, here are a few tips on how to take that first step in a journey of a thousand.
Look to others who have done it before
Take inspiration from other solo travelers who have done an amazing job of adventuring alone before you. There’s Kristin Addis who argues that you’re actually safer traveling than where you’re at home. There’s ‘The Blonde Abroad’ who has shared tips for traveling in over 70 countries. And, there’s this great video by Sorelle Amore with some great tips on how to travel solo…
Focus on the positives
It’s easy to think up a million reasons not to do something, but often those reasons are tiny compared with the benefits. You’ll get to experience cultures you never dreamed of, eat foods that will blow your taste buds away and gather a photo album you’ll look back on one day and relive your incredible experience all over again. Focus on the positives first and you’re much likely to take the first most difficult step of deciding to go.
Plan to overcome the negatives
Of course, only thinking about the positives might turn into wishful thinking pretty fast. So, be realistic, think about some of the negatives and plan ahead for them. If you’re prepared, most issues will be tiny speedbumps. You might avoid them entire with a bit of forethought. One example is carrying some anti-theft travel gear like a lockable backpack or portable safe to protect your valuables.
Check out this great clip by Nadine Sykora on planning and overcoming your fears of solo travel…
Set achievable goals for your trip
Breaking up your big trip into some small goals will make everything seem so much more achievable. Want to visit 5 countries? Make a list and tick them off one by one. Want to meet new people? Set yourself a goal of talking to a friendly stranger at least once a day.
Here is a fun clip by solo traveler Jordan Tually on how to meet more people while traveling solo.
Planning is super key if you want to get the most out of almost anything. Travel is no exception. We’ve already mentioned planning to overcome obstacles for a confident mindset. There are a few more important things that you really must do when traveling solo. Of course, there’s baseline stuff like passports, insurance and the like, which should be a given these days. But, here are some extras that are just as important.
Picking a destination
Yes, you want to go somewhere. But where? Selecting the right spot to go solo can actually be a lot of work. First, think about the activities you most love doing. If it’s surfing, you might want to go somewhere with waves like Bali, if you love shopping there are some amazing markets all over the world. If it’s food, well, Italy, or Thailand, or Mexico. Think about the weather you like, think about the kinds of people you want to meet, think about a language you’d love to learn. If safety is a concern, here’s an article outlining some of the safest travel destinations in the world. Zambia is top of the list, in case that’s surprising.
As a general rule the earlier you book, the more likely you are to get a deal, stay at the place you want and have plenty of time to get excited about the trip. If you’re traveling alone you do have a little bit of room to hunt for sales, because you’re only a single person rather than a large group. But, if you’re traveling alone you want to make things as easy as possible for yourself, so don’t just wing it. Have somewhere to stay, know a few places to eat once you arrive and generally think ahead.
Letting People Know Your Plans
There are several reasons to let people know where you’re headed and when. The first is safety. If something goes wrong there, or even at home, others will be able to reach you easily and sort things out. The other more exciting bonus is getting tips from friends and family who have been to where you’re going. The cool thing is, they might know someone there you can catch up with, give you a place to stay you might not have otherwise, or give you a heads up on that local’s secret spot you really can’t miss. So, give a copy of your itinerary to a few people at home, post your intentions on social media and generally be open about what you’re doing. The positivity that comes back is sure to outweigh any misgivings people will have about you heading off by yourself.
Now that you’ve done all of the above, it’s now time to pack. One thing you don’t want to do is overpack, so make a list of what you need, whittle it down to the essentials and make sure you’re not stuffing your suitcase with things you can live without. Here are a few other things to think about when packing for your solo adventures.
Look at the weather of your destination before you go. Obviously, things will change from day to day, so even if it’s warm, take a sweater or two. But, if you’re going somewhere really cold, or tropical it will help you pack extra items. Insect repellent in the tropics is key. Thermal underwear in snowy places can literally be a lifesaver. You won’t be able to rely on your prepared friend for anything you forgot, so make sure you check, double check and be the prepared one yourself.
There are a few must-have items you should take with you when traveling solo. A water bottle is key so you’re not using disposable plastic ones and creating waste. A neck pillow to help you sleep in odd places is another. Here’s a list of 20 things you might consider ‘must-haves’ when traveling solo —
- Reusable water bottle
- Compact neck pillow
- A phone with international SIM (or the ability to take a local one when there)
- Camera (if you want one better than you phone provides)
- A Kindle (or books if you prefer)
- Lip Balm
- Toiletries (soap, shampoo, and other personal hygiene products)
- A hat
- Good walking shoes
- Spare socks (lots)
- Clean underwear (your mom already told you this)
- Power adapters (this universal one is great)
- A good backpack to carry it all in (like this)
- Lockable check-in luggage if you need it (like this)
On top of your must-have packing items there are a few other things you really should look at taking when traveling solo. These are:
- A good first aid kit
- Emergency cash stored away for actual emergencies
- Some anti-theft accessories like a wearable pouch for unknown situations.
Now that you’re packed and ready to take off, the only thing left to do is enjoy yourself. Soak up the experience, live the adventure and remember this amazing quote by philosopher Alain De Botton where you’re trying new things…
“Travel has never really been about where you go. It’s about the person you become when you return.” – Alain De Botton