Does the thought of solo travelling unsettle your nerves? Do you ask yourself questions like, why should I travel solo when I can travel with others? Will I feel lonely? Will I regret my decision? Will I be in danger? Will I come back alive?
I go through the same hesitations before every trip. I took my first solo trip back in 2017 when I was 18 years old and it gave me a whole new perspective towards travelling and living my life afterward.
Here’s a guide to help you take those first steps towards your first solo adventure:
Preparing for the Trip
Step 1: Decide the Destination
Obviously, this is the most important decision for your trip. No one says you have to go somewhere you’ve never been. No one says you must fly to a place far enough away to embrace that first solo adventure. No one says you need to make the first solo trip a one-week or one-month length. It isn’t a competition; you don’t have to get over-adventurous if you don’t wish to.
I got into solo travel at the age of 18 and started with a 3-month trip to South East Asia. I jumped in head first but for some people, those baby steps of a weekend trip are also a really good way to get some confidence in yourself and to see what you’re capable of.
2. Book that Trip
I find it easier to have someone either in person with me or on the phone for moral support, till I clicked the “Book” button for my flight. Of course, you have to find the right person who will encourage you instead of sidetrack you from doing it.
When the transaction went through, I knew there’s no turning back.
3. Overcome Anxiety/Regret
After booking the trip, you might get overwhelmed by thoughts arising from anxiety, or perhaps even question your decision. I too have lost sleep after making a scary travel decision, wondering what the hell have I done.
Stop for a minute and ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Halt any morbid thoughts of murder, terrorism, robbery or rape. The media often paints a frightening picture of a dangerous world out there. Indeed, it could be a dangerous world out there and villains can be everywhere (including your home town), but as long as you didn’t pick a place without a basic awareness of conflicts and crime rates, if you implement common sense in selecting a destination, you’ll probably turn out fine.
4. Research As Much As You Can About Your Destination
- Use The Lonely Planet travel guide books to get an overview of a place.
- Google thoroughly for deeper research on the key outlines. Use information from credible travel resources.
- Check top travel blogs with relevant experiences and expertise.
- Check out Instagram so beautiful places in your destination of choice.
- Pinterest is full of useful information
5. Pack Properly
Packing the essentials will bring you peace of mind. For a first trip, I think it’s perfectly fine if you overpack, sometimes you need those comfort items your first time away. Such as clothes, shoes, or even your favourite pillow.
Whether you are backpacking or have a suitcase, you may have to lift your pack or pull your luggage for a long period of time. So be mindful of how many comfort items you pack.
6. Tell Someone Your Plans
If you don’t have a set plan, then check in with at least one family member or friend regularly. Let a trusted someone (or a few people) at home know your trip’s rough outline on where you will be for the first few days. You should also use social media to your full advantage. It will ease family and friends’ minds and make them a bit jealous of where you are.
7. Mentally (& Financially) Prepare Backup Plans
Some people try Couchsurfing or Workaway and discover their hosts are nothing like they had said. Or sometimes, things go south, and you need to leave a place quickly for your own safety. Ensure you have the means to make alternative plans, if you need to book a flight or a different hotel at the last minute, you should be able to afford it.
During the Trip—Adventure begins
8. Embrace the Freedom!
Say hello to travelling on your own terms: waking up when your body wants to and only doing activities that you want to!
IT IS YOUR TRIP. YOUR THE BOSS!
9. It Helps to Keep to Some Rituals from Home
If you always have a morning cup of coffee back at home to perk you up, feel free to keep up that habit on your solo trip. As for me, I don’t really have any daily rituals I do at home or on any trip. I just do what I think my body or mind needs that day.
10. Be Ready for New Eating Experiences from Traveling Solo
I feel you. Eating at a restaurant solo, even in a city where no one knows me, is not something I will be excited to do.
Here are a few tips you can try to make your meals on your solo trips more comfortable:
a) Bring A Book / Kindle. Best time to catch up on a book your reading.
b) Eat Mindfully. Yes, we don’t have to be occupied all the time. During my first solo trip, I had no WIFI and no book with me, so I made do, and it was perfectly fine for me to simply focus on the bowl of Pad Thai right in front of me on the table.
c) Pack and Eat Somewhere Else. Have a mini picnic on your own on one of the beautiful beaches you passed by earlier, or at the park, or perhaps your hotel room if you prefer while catching up on your favourite Netflix series.
11. Take Photos, Keep A Travel Journal
Take photos for visual documentation of where you visited and things you did! (You will forget things, pictures are there to remind you of all your adventures)
Also, when you’re exploring new places overseas on your own, it’s normal to feel the sensations deeper than if you’re travelling with a bunch of friends. I think a lot, feel a lot and when I can, I like to write them down in a journal at the end of the day.
12. Sleep in A Foreign City Like A Baby
Sometimes, I find it extremely challenging to fall asleep in foreign places until I’ve been there for a few days. What I do is put Netflix on my laptop to a tv show I don’t necessarily want to watch and turn the sound way down just to have some noise. My mind calms down, so I drift off to sleep. The quite noise from the tv also makes the night’s silence a little less intimidating.
13. Stay aware of your Surroundings
Practice common travel sense and be mindful of your surroundings. Watch out for pickpockets, thieves, any forms of tricksters and stalkers. Always be aware of where your valuables are kept and have your eyes or hands on them especially during unfamiliar scenarios, or when someone tries to distract you.
14. Stay in Contact with People Back Home
Feel free to take a full social media break if you want, but you should still stay in touch with some people back home and let them know now that you’re safe and your location. Or use social media to its full advantage and post pictures ever so often to keep your family and all your friends up to date on what you’re doing instead of each person individually.
15. If You Feel Lonely, Know that You’re Never Truly Alone
You might be surprised to know that there’re lots of solo travellers out there. Even if you might be alone at times, learn to enjoy your own company! It will teach you a lot about yourself. But if you dont want to be alone, walk up to another solo traveler and ask if they want to go check out a near by attraction.
16. Keep an Open Mind
Stay open to new experiences — not everyone is out to hurt you. Get to know different cultures and the people you’ll come across during your trip, the exotic food you’ll be having and embrace all the new sensations. Travel may be exhausting but it is also invigorating, and I promise you that your first solo trip will be a memorable adventure!
17. Most importantly, Have an Unforgettable time and embrace every part of your journey.
“Traveling leaves you speechless but turns you into a storyteller”