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There are lots of reasons you might decide to pursue solo travel. Perhaps you want to go on a trip and no one else is available when you want to go, or maybe you just want some time alone to reflect on life and explore. Traveling by yourself also has some practical advantages because it lets you set your own schedule and pace, go where you want to go, and try things you want to try. If an opportunity arises, it’s only your schedule you need to worry about.
Whatever your reason for traveling by yourself, learning how to travel alone can give you valuable skills, experiences, and a sense of self-reliance. Follow our guide and learn how to travel alone for the first time and the benefits of traveling alone. Who knows, you might discover that you love it more than you could have ever imagined!
We’re all for spontaneity, but before you ever hit the road, you’ll want to make at least some preparations so you don’t get stuck on your adventure. Here are a few things you can do before you start traveling by yourself.
Save Your Money
Without a doubt, nothing will keep you from heading out on your solo trip like a failure to plan and save. It’s always nice to be able to come back from a trip and know you don’t have a huge credit card bill waiting for you. Take a little time, get a second job—do whatever it takes to save up what you need for traveling solo.
Determine Your Budget
As you start saving for your trip, you’ll need to set a budget for how much you’re going to spend. Learning how to travel alone is nice because it allows you to plan around what you can afford without worrying about your travel companion’s budget. This means whatever you can save up for, you can do!
Determine Your Destination
Another factor that will determine your budget is where you decide to go when traveling by yourself. Maybe there’s somewhere you’ve always dreamed of going and maybe you don’t care where you go as long as it’s an adventure away from home. If your budget is tight, you might consider South America or Southeast Asia as a destination because travel is much less expensive there. If you have your heart set on London (or another expensive location), travel during the off-season to save yourself some money.
Get Travel Insurance
You’re young, healthy, and invincible, right? Wrong. Things can and do go wrong when you’re traveling by yourself. Part of learning how to travel alone is being responsible and prepared for anything. Get travel insurance. It’s not as expensive as you think and can save you a lot of money if something goes wrong.
Pack Right and Pack Light
Depending on where you go, tank tops and flip-flops might not be acceptable clothing to wear and will make you stand out in a crowd. Alternatively, this kind of clothing may not be socially acceptable in some parts of the world. Part of learning how to travel alone is making sure you check the local clothing customs of where you are planning to go.
Another side of packing is learning to pack light. When you’re traveling by yourself, there’s no one else to help you lug your 50-pound suitcase up and down the stairs at train stations. Finding the perfect carry-on bag can encourage you to pack light and take only what you need. Packing light also allows you to leave at a moment’s notice if you need to and will help you get around faster. No more waiting for your luggage to resurface at the baggage claim after a long flight.
Keep in Contact
Even if you’re trying to get away from everyone and everything, you still need a way to keep in contact in case of emergencies—or just to update your family on where you are. There are lots of options you can use, from purchasing a sim card for your phone or even just hooking up to the local WiFi at Starbucks.
Don’t Compromise Your Identity
If you go the WiFi route, you’ll want to use a VPN to make sure no one gets any of your personal information. This is especially important if you need to access personal information like paying bills or doing any online banking while you’re on the road.
Find the Right Place to Start
When you’re traveling by yourself, it’s important to choose the right location to jump-start your journey. This might mean you simply pick a spot you’re interested in, or, if you’re more gregarious, you might look for places that attract other solo travelers you can hang out with.
Now that you’ve prepared and arrived at your destination, learning how to travel alone for the first time also means getting used to where you’re staying. Here are a few tips for getting comfortable.
Take Your Time
Don’t worry if you don’t feel at home the second you walk out of the airport. Visiting a new place and feeling comfortable there takes time. Allow yourself to explore, relax, and take it all in.
New city? New country? It’s easy to get lost or feel disoriented. Study a map of your area before you get there and continue to explore with your map once you arrive. Some cities have major landmarks (like Central Park in New York City, or Gwanghwamun in Seoul) that you can use to orient yourself with as you learn how to travel alone.
You can’t have fun if you’re constantly worried about your personal safety. Learning how to travel alone involves taking some basic safety precautions along the way. Follow these quick suggestions to stay safe while traveling solo.
First off, it’s probably best to leave any expensive clothing, electronics, or jewelry back at home. Flashing expensive items attracts unwanted attention and makes you a target for potential thieves looking for an easy opportunity.
Don’t Stand Around
Not sure where to go? Standing around looking lost isn’t going to help you get where you need to go and could make you a target. Ask someone where to go if you’re unsure. Most people are friendly and willing to help you out.
Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
A lot of people think that because you are traveling by yourself, it means you are more likely to end up in a dangerous situation. Fortunately, this isn’t true, and paying attention to your surroundings will help you avoid the most unsafe situations. For most people, the most trouble they will have is with pickpocketing or petty theft. Remember that insurance you purchased before your trip? It can help replace your belongings if you find yourself the victim of theft.
One of the great skills you’ll master while learning how to travel alone for the first time is how to get around on your own. While it might be intimidating—especially if you don’t speak the language—don’t be afraid to get a little lost along the way, and you’ll begin to figure things out.
Get Out and Walk
One of the best ways to see a new city is to take it slow and walk. You’ll catch things and discover places you never would have if you’d been on a bus driving by.
Travel Like the Locals
When you do need a lift, forgo the expensive taxis and take local transportation. Ask the host at your hotel, hostel, or accommodations on how to get around using local transit. There may even be discounts available for tourists.
Plan for Plane Travel
When learning how to travel alone, it’s important to plan your plane travel carefully. Arrive at the airport and get settled early so you don’t have to stress, and make sure you pack some snacks with you on the plane. Whether it’s a short flight or long flight, it’s a good idea to come prepared.
Take a Road Trip
Sometimes the best way to get from place to place is out on the open road. This is especially true in countries that have large road systems, but not much public transportation like the U.S., Canada, or Australia.
Probably one of the most difficult things for solo travelers is eating alone. Sure, you’ll save lots of money if you just go to the grocery store for all your food, but sometimes you just want a nice sit-down meal. Don’t worry. As a solo traveler, you’ll learn the art of eating solo and enjoy the time to yourself. Here are a few tips to help you feel more comfortable about eating on your own.
Frequent the Same Restaurants
Going to the same place lets you get to know the staff and build friendships with other locals who have the same habits.
Eat at Communal Tables
In many countries, especially in Asia, it’s common to share a table with other guests. You might be surprised by who you end up dining with and have a great conversation. If there are no communal tables available, head to the bar for a seat.
Eat Lunch at Restaurants
When you want to have a restaurant meal, make it lunch. Prices are cheaper, food is just as good, and fewer people are likely to be dining with a significant other.
Bring a Book
When all else fails, bring something to read. It lets people know that you’re fine eating alone and gives you something to do when you don’t have anyone to chat with.
Don’t Overthink It
In the end, learning how to travel alone is about getting comfortable in your own skin. Don’t worry about what others think if you dine alone and enjoy the time you have to yourself to watch the world go by.
Just because you’re learning how to travel alone, doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. There are plenty of ways to meet other travelers and locals alike and forge new friendships along the way. Here are a few suggestions on how to meet and get to know some new people while you’re traveling by yourself.
Stay in Solo-Friendly Accommodations
Some accommodations are better than others when you’re traveling by yourself. Hotels, hostels, homestays, B&B’s, or a private room in an Airbnb can all give you a chance to meet other travelers and have a fantastic host show you the ropes.
Get Involved In Group Activities
Meetups, walking tours, cooking classes, scuba diving, etc… All these activities are great for travelers learning how to travel alone because they give you the opportunity to meet new people who share similar interests. The more people you get to know in different places, the more your travel network will expand and the more opportunities you will have to meet amazing people.
One of the simplest ways to make some new friends is simply to smile. If you’re approachable, people will feel comfortable talking to you and getting to know you no matter where you are.
Travel off the Beaten Path
The further you are from the typical tourist attractions, the more likely it is you will get to know the other tourists you meet. For starters, you’ll already know that both of you like to explore new places that others rarely go.
Learn the Language
You don’t need to become fluent, but learning at least a few words or phrases of the local language shows you care enough to try and communicate. Locals will respond in kind and appreciate your gesture.
Obviously, you should always use your best judgment on which places are safe to visit at night. Some countries and cities are completely safe to explore after dark. In other places, it’s best to stick to daylight hours. Here are some quick tips to keep yourself safe while having fun during a night out on the town.
Check the Safety of Your Location
Always double-check with your host whether where you plan to spend your evening is safe or not. The locals know the area better than you do and can advise you where to go and where not to go once the sun goes down.
Don’t Drink Heavily
Having a drink or two isn't’ a problem, but going past your limit is. Don’t drink to the point that you aren’t aware of your surroundings or your senses are dulled. Drinking too much makes you an easy target for theft and other crimes.
Let People Know Where You Are
If you’re headed out for the evening, leave a note with your host and let them know where you’re going and when you intend to be back. This way someone always knows where you are.
Guard Personal Information
While it’s fun to get to know new people, learning how to travel alone means being cautious of giving out too much personal information. Only give out your first name, travel back to your accommodation alone, and never tell anyone where you are staying.
You might be able to take a train or bus on the way there, but buses and trains might not be running by the time you’re done having fun. If this is the case, plan for a taxi so you can get back to your accommodation safely.
Aside from all the fun of traveling by yourself, there are also a lot of benefits of traveling alone. If you’re learning how to travel alone for the first time, you might be surprised by some of the things you will have learned when you return home.
Improved Mental Health
Travel is stressful, and traveling by yourself can be just as taxing. However, pushing past your self-doubt and booking your first solo trip is a great way to start conquering emotional health concerns.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
You can’t stay in your comfort zone and learn how to travel alone for the first time. It’s a challenge and every new experience will push you a little further from what you thought you were capable of.
We all have weaknesses and traveling by yourself can be a great way to overcome them. Instead of letting your weaknesses get in the way, you will have to face many things head-on. Communicating in another language, learning to put things in perspective, and becoming more flexible with your travel are all ways you can learn to adapt and grow.
Become a Lifelong Traveler
Once you’ve traveled, you’ll never want to stop. There’s something addictive about seeing new places and learning new things. Learning how to travel alone will keep you hungry to see the world for the rest of your life.
You can’t learn how to travel alone and remain dependent on the people you’ve left behind. Traveling by yourself requires you to learn how to navigate new places and meet new people, without the help of your friends or family back home.
Learn About the World
Lots of people have preconceived notions about the safety of the world around them. Once you get out and start traveling by yourself, you’ll discover that the world isn’t nearly as dangerous or scary as people seem to believe it is. Learning to see the world in a different light will affect how you view other people for the rest of your life.
There are so many benefits to learning how to travel alone that it’s impossible to list them all here. Getting out on your own and exploring the world will give you your own insights and benefit your life in incredible ways—what are you waiting for?
While learning how to travel alone for the first time is exhilarating and exciting, it’s certainly not for everyone. You might even come to find out that you don’t like traveling by yourself. That’s okay! Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that you’d rather travel with a friend or family member and plan your next trip accordingly. On the flip side, you might come to discover that you love traveling by yourself and enjoy the time for self-reflection. Traveling is all about discovering who we are and exploring new places.
When you’re getting ready to travel solo, finding the best bag to accompany you on your journey is an important step to take. WANDRD bags are perfect for solo travelers looking to keep their packing minimal. Check out WANDRD’s collection of bags and backpacks, designed to meet the needs of travelers, and start learning how to travel alone for the first time.