I speak to women all the time who say they could never do what I do. And men too for that matter! They can’t understand how I manage to head off to a new country by myself, travel around and not freak out. Travelling alone for the first time wasn’t a big deal for me, I just decided that I wanted to go, so I went! However, I realise that not everyone is as lucky as me in that respect. So if you are feeling nervous about taking your first solo trip, here are my top 10 tips to help you learn how to travel alone for the first time.
First off, well done! If you’re thinking about taking a solo trip, that is the first step! Travelling alone is an incredible experience, and although it might not be easy, it could be the most rewarding and exciting thing you will ever do. Before you take the plunge though, it is understandable to be a little nervous about your first time. But once you pop your travel cherry you will never look back. I travelled alone for the first time when I was 19 and have been in love with solo travel ever since! Now it’s time to find your love of solo travel too.
Remember that you are Not Alone
Welcome to the world of solo travel. Regardless of your gender, there are thousands of solo travellers out there just like you, so you are never really alone. Online and face-to-face communities are a great way to meet like-minded people to talk about travel. Check out local events on Couchsurfing where you can meet locals and travellers together. Join travel Facebook groups to ask for advice and inspiration, and to see real photographs and hear real experiences from other travellers.
Now you’re thinking about a solo trip, have you also thought about where to go? One of the main reasons for my big solo trip to South America was having met lots of fabulous friends from South America, who inspired me to go and visit their countries. Perhaps you love Mexican food and want to try some tacos in Mexico. Perhaps seeing the pyramids of Giza is making you want to go to Egypt.
If you have some ideas about where to go on your first solo trip that’s great, but if you don’t then start to think about where you might like to go. And if you have no idea, then head online for inspiration – or even flipping through magazines and brochures for pretty pictures, wonderful stories and incredible scenery might spark some excitement in you. Pinterest and Instagram can be a great source for visible inspiration – but remember that everything you see in photographs will only tell a tiny part of the story and might be filtered to within an inch of its life.
You don’t have to book a round-the-world ticket for your first time travelling alone. You don’t even need to leave your hometown if you don’t want to! If you’re worried about how you will cope with spending time by yourself, then just start to do a few activities alone. This could be things like going to the cinema alone, taking an exercise or art class alone or even booking a staycation & spend the night at a hotel by yourself. When you know you can do this in your own town, then you can do it anywhere! If you’re still feeling nervous, how about a weekend city break somewhere in your own country? In the UK we can travel easily by train, plane or automobile to a new city and explore somewhere close to home, so you can get home quickly if it gets too much. Choose somewhere with a variety of things to do so you can try out various activities.
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Follow Your Hobbies
A great way to start travelling alone is to do something that you already know and love. If you are into sports like diving, surfing or horse riding there are lots of active holidays where you can do these kinds of activities to keep busy, and meet some people who like to do the same things. If you love food, a cooking course in Italy could be perfect for your first solo trip, or a yoga retreat could be just the ticket for budding yogis. No matter what you are into, there is bound to be somewhere you can go to do it.
Consider Taking a Group Tour
A lot of people don’t realise that solo travel doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be alone. If you want to travel but aren’t quite ready to go it completely alone, group tours can be a great way to travel alone with other people. For my first solo trip when I was 19 I booked a two-week tour of the US east coast. When I went to South America for the first time I booked a tour from Bolivia to Machu Picchu. And more recently I have explored Ireland and Scotland on group tours. Group tours are designed to make everything as easy as possible, where you don’t have to worry about getting from A to B or booking accommodation. All you have to do is turn up and make friends with other people on the tour. Or at the very least have a conversation with them! And enjoy. However, tours are often more expensive than travelling independently, so if you are on a tight budget, check out these other ways of meeting people while solo travelling.
READ MORE: How to Meet People While Travelling Alone
Have a Plan
Everyone I’ve met travelling has a different kind of plan when it comes to planning. Some people like to do things on the fly, just turning up and seeing what happens. Others plan everything to the tiniest detail with spreadsheets, printouts and military precision. Most of us are somewhere in between, and that is what I would advise for your first solo trip. Have some sort of plan regarding where you are staying, how to get there, and at least some idea about what you would like to do there. Maybe book a tour or two, reserve a table in a restaurant, book a transfer etc, but don’t overdo it, because if something doesn’t go according to the plan it is likely to stress you out. Delays happen, as do cancellations, unforeseen circumstances and a whole host of random annoyances may happen, and that’s ok. Shit does happen, but don’t let that ruin your trip. There are very few things which will cause a major upset to your travel plans, mostly they will just be bumps in the metaphorical or literal road. Don’t sweat it, that is part of travel!
And a Plan B
Having said that, it is always a good idea to have a plan B in case the shit really does hit the fan. I am lucky to have my parents available should any real disaster strike (like when my passport and credit card was stolen), so it is useful to have someone you know and trust back home to use as an emergency contact or just an emergency shoulder to cry on. Give them a copy of your travel itinerary, travel insurance details and a copy of your passport so if you need anything they will be able to help you from afar. If you don’t feel like you have anyone to rely on, that’s ok too, just prepare a copy of this information and keep it somewhere safe and easily accessible. I like to have a paper copy and an electronic copy so I can get everything I need off my emails.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Speaking of Plan B, I can’t stress enough how important having travel insurance is. Most of the time you will not need it, but for that one time when you do, it is definitely worth it. Get a quote from World Nomads for your travel insurance here:
Don’t Let Other People Put You Off
This is a major factor for many people who want to take a solo travel trip. Friends and family repeatedly tell you not to go because it’s too dangerous, because you’re not capable of doing it, because the country isn’t safe, because they watched Taken and now believe every Eastern European is going to kidnap you. Explain to them that you appreciate their concern and their love, but you would really like their support because this is something you truly care about. If you’re reading this article it means you haven’t just booked a solo trip on a whim, it means you have been thinking about this for a while so it is obviously important to you, and the people in your life should understand that too.
Just Fucking Do It. I don’t mean to sound harsh here, but sometimes the hardest part is taking the final step and doing it. If you are still afraid about travelling alone for the first time, please just give it a try. And remember that no matter where you are in the world, there will always be people willing to help you, and you will be just a phone call away from friends and family. If this is something you have dreamt about, then now is the time to make your dreams come true. You can do it! You are a strong, confident person and you are going to get out there and see the world.
Don’t forget to send me a postcard!
What else can I do to help you prepare for your first solo trip? Anything you need to travel alone for the first time I’m happy to help.
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