Although I enjoy traveling with others, I tend to spend most of my trips traveling alone. Not only does this allow me to meet new people along the way but it also allows me the complete freedom to explore destinations in any way I want.
For for those who aren’t as used to traveling on their own it may be a little scary or even a bit lonely. Here are my top tips for those nervous about their first (or fifth) solo trip.
1. Smile and say “Hi”
If you’re looking to meet new people, be the first to say hi to someone. An easy way is to talk about the site you’re both visiting or compliment the other traveler in a friendly way. Perhaps you admire their camera or are carrying the same guidebook. These are great ways to start a conversation with a fellow traveler.
2. Arrive during the day
If possible, try to plan your travel to arrive during daylight hours. A new destination looks a lot more friendly when you can see it in the light of day. It also makes it easier to get a mental layout of the city. If you do arrive at night, make sure you have transportation arranged in advance to get to your hotel.
3. Have a plan and a purpose.
I tend to feel awkward if I don’t have a purpose while traveling. There’s nothing worse than wandering aimlessly trying to figure out what to do in a large city. Make sure you have something you want to do or check out each day to give you that purpose to go out and explore.If you’re eating by yourself and feel uncomfortable, bring a book along to read.
4. Ask for help
If you’re unsure of where to go or how public transport works, just ask! People will be more than happy to help and you’d be surprised at the new friends you might make or the great tips about the location they’ll share.
5. Carry a map
Whether digital or paper, carry a map with you. It’s easy to get lost in a new city and having a map handy will help you orient yourself. If unable to understand the language, it also helps to point out places on the map when asking others for directions.
6. Keep the address of your accommodation in your pocket
When you travel by yourself, it’s up to you to remember the addresses of the places you need to get to. Keep a copy or two handy so you’re never left wondering how to get home. It’s even more important to keep a paper copy in case your cell phone battery dies while you’re out exploring.
7. Research in advance
If you’re unsure of something – Google it. Chances are someone has asked the question before and the answer is floating around on the interweb. There are so many things I don’t know (public transport is often tricky and different in each city) so I look up the “how-to” before I get there – especially if I’ll be experiencing the destination in a different language
8. Pre-download apps, maps or information onto your smartphone
You might not have access to mobile data or free wifi, so download information in advance and store it offline on your cellphone. There are apps that let you download sections of city maps or travel information knowing you can’t always access the internet.
*Travel Tip: if you own an Android smartphone, you can download a route on Google maps in advance. When you leave the Wifi signal behind, the map will still remain active and track your route. I used this method as GPS when I was driving through Los Angeles on my own even though I didn’t have access to data.
9. Consider staying in accommodations other than hotels
Hotels can feel very isolating so consider staying in small guest houses, bed and breakfasts, or even hostels. You can get private rooms at hostels and don’t need to stay in dorms. A bonus is most hostels have access to a kitchen which is a great place to meet other travelers.
10. Enjoy the moment on your own.
It’s surprising the things you’ll notice when you have time to sit and enjoy them by yourself or the new people you’ll meet along the way. So don’t stress too much – enjoy the time spent traveling solo. And don’t forget, you can always book a tour or day trip with a group to meet new people.