I am personally a big fan of solo travel, but it’s definitely not for everyone. For my 25th birthday I took a trip to Thailand by myself, and I’ll be honest, after telling people my plans I was often met with: “Why?” / “Aren’t you afraid to go by yourself?” / “What do your parents think about this?” / “But who will you talk to?” / “You’re gonna get taken!” / “Are you crazy???”
And I just laughed them off. I realize that it may seem undesirable to a lot of people, but solo travel makes so much sense to me. I love being able to do exactly what I want to do, eat exactly what I want to eat (let’s be honest, this is most important) and follow just my own schedule. The thing about traveling abroad, or even domestically, is that your time is precious. You probably spent good money to get somewhere and only have a limited amount of time to spend in that place. Do you really want to spend three hours of it in an obscure museum you’re not interested in? Or get stuck eating Kentucky Fried Chicken in Amsterdam? Unfortunately speaking from experience on that last one – don’t judge, it’s a long story!!
Traveling in a group certainly has its benefits – it’s nice to have someone to share dinner with! I’ve traveled abroad both with friends and on my own multiple times, and thoroughly enjoyed both types of experiences. The idea of traveling solo is daunting and freaked me out a bit at first, too. Truthfully, it’s not for everyone, so I’ve put together a list of questions you should ask before embarking on a solo journey.
1: Have you ever eaten dinner alone?
If you can’t dine alone in a restaurant, then solo travel just probably isn’t for you. You’ve got to be able to enjoy your own company 🙂 I would spend dinners planning out my next day, studying the language of the country I was in or reading a book. Try sitting at the bar and making friends with other solo diners. Or sit outside and just take in the scenery and hustle and bustle of a foreign city.
2: Does walking alone at night freak you out?
Traveling alone, especially as a woman, can be scary. I never had any negative experiences being alone, but I did get nervous sometimes being by myself at night. I don’t drink a ton, so I never stayed out too late on my own. On trips where I traveled alone, going out bar-hopping wasn’t on my agenda, so I didn’t have to worry about that. If you want to experience nightlife, I would recommend staying at a hostel with a younger scene (check reviews on TripAdvisor or Hostelworld) and making friends to go out with. Some of my most fun nights in Europe were with friends I made at hostels! Or look for ticketed late-night bar crawls or tours. My outlook is that bad things happen to people all over the world. I could get attacked walking to my car late at night in Lexington, KY, just as likely as walking the streets in Paris. I personally don’t let fear rule my life, but I know that not everyone shares my attitude. Know yourself and if traveling alone is something you’re not comfortable with, then there are other ways for you to see the world!
3: Can you read a map?
This one is kinda important… traveling alone means that you are solely dependent on being able to get yourself around a strange place and communicate in a foreign language; and that’s not always easy! You have to be resourceful. Study maps and transit systems prior to arriving to your destination. See if you can download offline Google maps, because you usually can’t depend on data while traveling. I would usually look up a route while on wifi, and then screenshot it on my phone to refer to after I lost connection. While I was in Europe, the first thing I did when I got to a new city was pick up a paper map. And you best believe I was often that girl standing on the corner of the street looking lost into a map! Which is actually a great way to get approached to ask if you need help with directions, by the way 😉
Speaking of… Don’t be afraid to ask for help! While many people abroad have a good grasp of English, you should still learn the basic phrases of the native language. I would save the basic phrases in my phone so I could easily refer to them or you can usually find free apps for most major languages.
4: Can you strike up conversation with a stranger?
It will get pretty lonely if not. I look for a good balance of doing things on my own, and putting myself in situations where I can interact with others. Group tours, cooking classes and outdoor activities are all ways to meet people while traveling. I’m the type of person who enjoys doing things on my own, so I can go a whole day without having a full conversation with someone and not get stir crazy. But if you’re the type of person that likes to have a buddy to run errands/go to the gym, then you may not enjoy solo travel.
5: How badly do you want to see the world?
When it comes down to it, if you want to see the world, you’ll find a way to see the world. I have this uncontrollable desire to see new places, and I’ll get there anyway I can. The likelihood of me finding a friend who had the time and resources to drop everything and go to Thailand was very slim, so I decided I was going to go when I had the chance to go. If you don’t think you can manage traveling by yourself, there are tour companies that organize group travel. I had an awesome experience with Intrepid sailing in Thailand, and have heard great things about Contiki. Us wanderlusters have a common bond, so you’re sure to make friends quick!
I hope I’ve convinced you that you need to take a trip by yourself! I’ve had such meaningful, and honestly life-changing experiences while traveling on my own. You’re forced to spend time with yourself and end up discovering things about yourself you may have never known. I always return from a trip feeling fulfilled and inspired. Please feel free to ask me any questions about solo travel if you’re thinking about taking the plunge! Is anyone taking a fun trip for the upcoming holiday weekend? I’m headed to Denver, this time with friends, and am so excited! Have a great one, friends!
Biscuits & blessings,