10 Tips for Solo Adventurers, Especially Women
Why travel solo?
When travelling alone, all choices and planning (logistics, itineraries, who’s going to watch the luggage while you duck into a bathroom?) fall to you. This can be challenging, but it’s also freeing. You get to call the shots 100% of the time: what do you most feel like doing / seeing / eating today? Want to loll about in a sidewalk café, sipping coffee and people-watching? No prob. A zip-line adventure or a day in an art museum? Done.
Travelling alone brings you face-to-face with the culture you’re visiting. If you want conversation when you’re solo tripping, you have to talk with a stranger. Travelling solo builds great confidence (and be warned, it may whet your appetite for more). It’s something you do for yourself, the deepest kind of self-care. When a trip is finished, you proudly exclaim, “Wow! I did THAT!”
• To travel alone takes moxie, insouciance and bravery. It’s a mindset. Because so much of the world goes 2-by-2 or in groups, travelling solo takes cheekiness. You’re thumbing your nose at convention.
• You’re stepping out of familiar surroundings, putting yourself in situations that require awillingness to look less-than-expert (silly, even). You might have to ask questions of people who don’t speak your language. You have to be willing to ask for help sometimes, too. Pantomime might be required.
You’ll have to rely on yourself and trust your instincts. There are no opportunities for reality checks with your travelling companion. You are tasked with interpreting what you see and figuring things out all by yourself.
For the intrepid, solo travel is incredibly rewarding, a great character-builder. It jolts you, a little (or a lot) out of your comfort zone. There’s the rush that comes with overcoming fear. No heroics are required, only a willingness to be unconventional. And quite possibly, you’re too impatient to wait for would-be companions to decide.
Here are some tried-and-true tips for travelling alone:
1. If you’re a rookie, start small & simple: try a night or two alone at a hotel in town. Or book a weekend at a bed-and-breakfast in the next town over. See how it feels. As you get your ‘sea legs’, roam farther. Even a couple of nights away and alone can be life-changing.
2. Don’t expect to feel “comfortable” –not really. Even after many overseas trips, seasoned solo travelers still admit to feeling a thrill (a ‘good kind of discomfort’) at what lies ahead.
3. If possible, have a local connection at your destination, not to spend all your time with, but as a touch point. For example, one traveler asked friends who visit Bangkok annually to connect her with their hotel-manager friend there. That made visiting Bangkok much less intimidating. Another solo traveler stayed at the hostel next to the her Quito language school, so she knew one person in Quito: her tutor. In Hong Kong, a third traveler met up with a friend who lives there. Having a local connection can be a big comfort. It also offers an opportunity to dive deeper than the typical tourist experience.
4. By booking with Airbnb or VRBO rather than with big, impersonal tourist hotels, it’s easy to have a more authentic stay in a new city. Be sure to read the reviews and check in with your intuition.
5. Before you go, get an idea of local customs and dress. It’s preferable not to stick out too obviously. Try not to be that person standing on a street corner holding a big map or taking loads of photos.
6. Once you’re at your destination, sign up for day tours to get a sense of the place you’re visiting. Viator.com can get you connected with everything from local-interest tours to shuttle rides to and from airports.
7. As with any trip, don’t book yourself solid. Leave gaps for downtime and unforeseen experiences.
8. While you’re travelling solo, keep your mind clear and pay attention. If you’re going to drink alcohol, do it very lightly. If something feels off, trust your intuition.
9. Be open to detours and diversions. Some favorite travel memories happen while being lost. Be safe, but be willing to follow your curiosity.
10. Enjoy yourself! Keep a journal, take a few pictures, eat at local restaurants, talk to locals and tourists from other countries. There are potential friends everywhere.
So give solo travel a try. Buck the fear, be insouciant and unconventional and go by yourself. While you’re there, stay out from behind your camera. Eat local foods, and immerse yourself in the sights, scents and sounds of your adventure. Your solo trip will be over all too quickly, but when you’re truly present, as you are when travelling solo, you’ll have memories to last a lifetime.
Because: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller