This article was written by our wonderful friend, Chelsea Sauve, from Wandure.
Solo travel is invigorating, inspiring, and incredibly fear inducing for many. But fear not, solo travel is an empowering journey that will allow you to embrace the globe, and yourself along the way.
My bags were packed and I was ready to go (thank you, John Denver). It was my first solo trip. I was going to Panama for a month, and was feeling only slightly anxious (ok, super anxious) about the experience. I was going to work with an Indigenous population in Bocas del Toro (gorgeous islands in the North of Panama). I didn’t speak the language, didn’t know a soul, and didn’t know what the cell service would be like. I was leaving behind everything I knew toward nothing I knew, and I was what some may call, terrified.
Let’s be clear, I was not Columbus. I knew what to expect in terms of my safety and had planned ahead, but still, you don’t have to be embarking on a “new world” to feel daunted. And I was certainly daunted.
While that trip was filled with ups and downs (including a brutal stomach bug at a Purple Hostel, and lice – oy I know, it was an adventure), it was also incredibly empowering and showed me that I had the confidence and strength to travel on my own, form strong bonds, and even enjoy and relish in the experience. In fact, it began what would become a number of solo travel adventures that have infused my day to day life with thoughtful lessons and remarkable memories.
So while the notion of traveling solo may conjure panic for some, take a deep breath with me because it can also be a completely remarkable opportunity to foster an experience you won’t soon forget. Ok, here we go—here are five tips to help you along your solo travel journey.
1. Choose a destination that makes your heart sing
For the longest time, I wanted to meet an elephant. A living, breathing, elephant. It was important to me that the elephant lived in a sustainable environment that privileged its well being. And on one solo trip, I made it happen! And it certainly made my heart sing, and dance, and filled it with incredible warmth.
It was beautiful, cumulative, and so “me”. So honour and cultivate your own unique travel style by visiting a spot that has long called to you, and explore all that it has to offer. Indulge in that one sight-seeing experience you’ve long wanted to explore. Or, if you don’t have that one spot, follow your instincts and choose a spot that calls to you.
Not hearing the call but feeling the solo travel bug? Try spinning a globe and see where your finger lands, and then (barring unsafe or impractical spots) make that your next destination! Don’t like where your finger landed, spin it again. This is your trip, and YOU have to be happy.
And if you’re undecided and looking for a great place to start this solo travel journey, check out Barcelona. It’s a great spot to take in the sites solo – here’s a great post on traveling to Barcelona solo.
2. Dabble in the art of enjoying your own company
Once you overcome the hurdle that solo travel can present, it becomes the perfect time to do exactly what you want, when you want.
Ever traveled with a friend who must read every inch of written word at the art museums on your visit to Italy? Ever wanted to hike when your travel buddy wanted to sleep? Been eager to travel to one small, charming city and find that your travel friend would rather travel to a different city that’s a bumbling metropolis? Solo travel allows you to do away with travel dilemmas and embrace your own agenda. We love our friends, but we also love following our own paths and traveling alone gives you the time and space to do just that.
No matter where life takes you, no matter how much you love your family, partner, and friends, cultivating time alone and learning to enjoy your own company is key.
As the saying goes “wherever you go, there you are” – no matter our geographical location, we have to live in our skin and be comfortable with who lives within. So be patient and kind with yourself – solo travel is a new experience.
Relish in a quiet day, speed it up with an adventure infused day. Find a yoga class or zip lining adventure on Wandure (we have experiences to suit both your quiet and loud days). Take yourself out for a morning coffee and stroll around your surroundings. Go to a museum. And self-reflect while you stroll. Do whatever your heart fancies – the day is yours and yours alone.
3. Find community when you crave it (or need it)
While your own company can be brilliant, there will be days when you want to be with other people! And rightfully so, meeting people abroad introduces you to a slew of interesting, intriguing people from all over the world. A total treat. And one benefit to solo travel is that you’re more likely to meet them if you’re traveling on your own!
So be friendly, open-minded, and enjoy the spirit of those around you. So how do you find community when you need it?
Well you can seek out group activities. Get into the groove of the people staying at your hostel. Not at a hostel? Join a free walking tour. Join a group activity (check out Wandure). Or if you’re feeling the need to do an activity with a new buddy, find one! You can find a travel buddy, and find something to do together. It’s now totally easy to find a travel buddy in the same area as you using app based matchmaking systems!
4. Stay flexible with your plans and know your budget
That said, I’d recommend being flexible and buying that local dish you want to try even if it doesn’t totally fit the budget of the day. And doing that amazing activity your new travel buddies want to do – like trying out surfing! Because when will you be back to try it?
When you’re open to new experiences, you may end up traveling with an awesome group of people who are headed to a city you hadn’t thought to visit. When I was living in Thailand, I had planned to go to the beautiful Northern city of Chiang Mai, but postponed the trip so that I could go to a lovely little city called Kanchanaburi (home of the Bridge on the River Kwai), and had a wonderful time. As a result, I was able to visit BOTH cities and am the better for it!
So follow your instincts and be open to the flow of it all. Embrace the spontaneity and serendipity of the solo travel experience, right from the start.
5. Stay safe
The joy of traveling solo is evident, but so are the risks that can be associated with it. There are some basic travel musts that everyone should heed, whether traveling solo or in a group. Like traveler’s insurance for example – essential for all! But here are some tips specific to solo travelers.
When traveling alone, make sure that you secure a cab from the airport to wherever you’re headed. Depending on the country you’re in, there can be any number of dangers that lurk in unlabelled cabs – so arrange your transport in advance, either through a car service or wherever you may be staying!
And always make sure someone knows where you are! Seek out a travel buddy when you want some company, and let someone back home know your general itinerary and stay in touch during your travels!
For an awesome, comprehensive solo travel guide, check out this great source.
This is your own life, and in the wise words of Drake, “you only live once.” While it may sounds cliche to say, it’s up to you to write your own story. So, write it, live it, and love it.