The Ultimate Guide to Solo Travel
In 2016, I took my first independent adventure to India.
Solo travel has shaped so much of my life, and I love inspiring people to go on their own life-changing adventures. For me, the most important part of travel is understanding how people live around the world - I love the forever perspective-altering potential that each trip brings.
Packing your bags and heading off to an unfamiliar place alone may seem like a daunting idea to some - but to me, solo travel is the ultimate thrill. Whether you’re an expert at solo travel, or you're considering travelling on your own for the first time, this guide will give you the confidence boost you might be looking for.
Here are a few things I discovered while traveling alone, as well as a few tips I learned along the way that I hope you'll find helpful.
1. Live free! You’re on your own schedule.
Solo travel is one of the most rewarding adventures a person can have in their life. One of the best things about travelling alone is that the only person you have to please is yourself. You're free to make all your own decisions, and you don't need to worry about anyone else disagreeing with them. Forget having to make sure that your travel companions wake up on time in the morning - you can be wherever you want to be, whenever you want to be there.
Gone are the worries of how long it takes before you can get out the door. You won't have one person holding up the group because they're too tired to keep walking, or someone else wanting to stop because they’re hungry. Travelling is about relishing the freedom of doing what you want to do, when you want to do it. If you’re alone, there is no need to compromise and miss out on things you want to see or do because the rest of the group aren’t interested.
2. You’re never really alone.
Travelling solo takes you out of your comfort zone in the best way possible. Whether you’re a really social person, or chatting to strangers scares the daylights out of you, travelling solo is an incredible way to make new friends. You'll meet so many amazing and inspiring people on your adventures, and really immerse yourself into the culture of the place you’re visiting.
From other people's perspective, lone travellers are less intimidating - so you’re more likely to be approached by fellow travellers or curious locals. Travelling solo has a way of bringing you out of your shell, and by the end of your adventure you'll have a bunch of new friends from all over the world.
3. Get in tune with yourself.
Travelling solo is the most effective personal development tool I've ever come across. You start to understand so much about yourself - it might be the best lesson you ever receive in your lifetime. You learn about your emotions - and how to deal with them. Solo travel boosts your confidence like nothing else will, and it gives you space to think about what is important to you.
Independent adventures are incredibly liberating. You overcome self-doubt, and realise how well you deal with any obstacles that may come your way. You really don’t know what you’re capable of doing until you've conquered a solo adventure. How you overcome the challenges you face when travelling alone is what helps build and shape your character. You will come to realise you can handle anything life throws at you, and this new self-understanding can be applied to any situation, even when you get back home.
4. Travel with confidence.
When travelling in an unfamiliar place, it's almost guaranteed that something will go wrong on you. Whether you’re on the wrong train, you’ve lost your bank card, or you’re in a mad rush across the airport trying to make a connecting flight, the craziness of travelling alone will oddly become one of your favourite memories. The best thing to do in any situation is to stay calm and focus on the solution, not the problem. Almost anything can be resolved without too much disruption, and once the moment of panic has passed, you'll feel an immense sense of achievement. Let’s face it, these situations are what make the best travel stories!
5. How to avoid feeling lonely.
Travelling solo doesn’t mean you always have to be by yourself. Thousands of people travel solo every single day, and odds are you will bump into a few of them along the way. Join a group tour every now and then, stay in hostels and make friends with your roommates, or find local backpacker bars. Even though you're now fiercely independent, it's still nice to be in the company of others every so often. You'll hear about their adventures and get some recommendations - and be able to return the favour.
Eating alone can be the loneliest part of the solo travel experience, especially in the evening. For many people, the idea of solo travel is a challenge, because they’re not used to just being in their own company. There are plenty of ways to fill your time, and it’s the perfect opportunity to do the things you don’t have the time for in your usual everyday life. A piece of underrated advice: take a book with you. Spend some time writing a letter or email to your friends and family back home, or carry a journal with you and write down your feelings and experiences so far. If you're in the writing mood, put some blog articles together and work as a freelance travel writer to finance more travel. You can also get creative in other ways - edit some of your travel photos, listen to music or a podcast, or even brush up on the local language.
If you feel homesick, think about why you chose to explore in the first place. If you were at home, you would probably be missing adventure, and wishing that you were somewhere else in the world. What you’ll probably be missing is familiarity - so take some small home comforts with you. Think about what you enjoy doing at home. If you enjoy yoga, attend a yoga class. If you enjoy running, find a local running group. Chances are, you'll meet people who share the same interests as you, and you'll feel more at ease in the big wide world.
Three top tips for travelling solo:
1. Research your destination - write down detailed plans for each day, from the bus number you need to catch, to how many stops before you need to get off. Preparation is key!
2. Learn the basics - get familiar with the local language. Learning some simple and useful phrases can make all the difference when gestures and body language just aren't enough.
3. Don't miss out on photo opportunities - just because you're alone, doesn't mean you shouldn't capture great photos of your travels. Pack a small tripod and use a timer, or ask someone who looks like they know what they're doing to take a photo of you.
Three top tips for staying safe while travelling solo:
1. Confidence is key - The worst thing you can do for yourself is look worried or fearful. Even when you’re lost or in trouble, remain assertive and attentive at all times.
2. Act, think, and dress like a local - One of the best ways to stay safe is to blend in. Observe how the locals do things and follow their lead. This way, you won't be taken for a tourist target.
3. Stay connected - keep your family and friends up to date on your whereabouts. Keep a note of contact details, so if you lose your phone or your battery dies, you can let them know you’re safe.
Overall, travelling solo is an incredibly rewarding and challenging experience. I love seeing other fierce, independent, and free spirits head out into the world and live on their own terms. If you haven’t already done so, give it a go! It won’t always be easy, but it will definitely change your life.