This is a guest post from Danny Newman from What’s Danny Doing about first time solo travel and tips for travelling alone for the first time. See below the post for my own travel tips and resources!
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Tips for First Time Solo Travel
Traveling alone for the first time? Your first solo trip can be a daunting prospect. After all, first-time solo travel is a big deal. Read on for encouragement and advice on how to travel alone for the first time.
Travel is No Mean Feat
It may look and sound like fun and games. And, to be honest, it usually is! But in many ways, it’s also a real challenge.
Travel is scary. It is lonely. It’s tiring. It’s full of uncertainty and it is disconcertingly prone to pushing the boundaries of what feels comfortable.
Indeed, a part of us knows this before we even go.
As aspiring travelers, we look at the world. Then we look back at the comfort and security of home. Then back at the world. Then back to home. And once more back to the World.
And we think, “Hmmm. That looks scary- exciting, sure, but also scary”.
As excited as you may be at the prospect of living the dream, the thought of travel can still be a difficult one. Especially if you’re going to travel solo.
I wanted to put a piece together to help any aspiring solo travelers. Don’t let fear put you off the trip! Interested in traveling alone for the first time?
Keep reading to discover some inspiration, advice, and general assurance for the trip ahead.
The Trouble with First Time Solo Travel
Your first solo trip is a particularly difficult prospect.
Looking ahead, you know that all the uncertainty and challenge to come will be confronted and navigated alone.
There is no one else to rely on. No shoulder to lean on, no hand to hold, no reassuring voice to tell you what to do or how to do it.
It’s just you.
And of course, this is exactly why solo travel is so powerful and life-altering: the increase in self-knowledge, esteem, and confidence that comes from navigating and overcoming adversity, alone, while traveling, is incredible.
You come away a significantly different person to the one who first gets on the plane.
But you don’t know that before you go. No, prior to departure everything feels a little up in the air.
With that in mind, here’s some inspiration to help you commit to the coming adventure!
Inspiration for Travelling Alone for the First Time
Let’s begin by going through some of the reasons traveling alone for the first time is so awesome.
Advantages of Solo Travel
There are many great things about being on the road by yourself. Here are a few:
Total freedom and control
When you’re traveling by yourself you can literally do anything you want. There is no-one else to take into consideration, and it’s amazing. Go where you want, stay where you want, eat when you want, move whenever you want…just generally experience a country on your terms.
Just don’t let this be to the detriment of your trip.
For instance, the people you’ve just met in your hostel invite you out with them to a nearby bar. You’re feeling sad and lonely and just want to stay indoors and think about home. That’s totally fine- this is, of course, your trip!
However, forcing yourself to do the thing you don’t want to do might actually be the best thing to do…if that makes sense. Accept the invite, make friends, create a memory, and cheers yourself up in the process. And remember to take some pictures to remember it by (on the best backpacking camera possible!).
Sometimes having someone to make a decision for you is very helpful. Other times, having someone else around when a decision needs making just complicates things- especially if you disagree.
Being alone when you travel means this isn’t an issue.
As above, you get to do when you want, when you want, with no-one else getting in the way. This speeds up the decision-making process and liberates you from spending your time away doing things you wouldn’t otherwise be doing.
Travel is an amazing tool for self-development.
And, as I mentioned in the intro, doing it solo only serves to magnify the effect.
Traveling alone confronts you with all the personal neuroses and issues that you can tend to overlook at home. With no one to help you out in a tricky spot, you’re reliant on your own decision making and problem-solving ability.
Navigating and overcoming issues by yourself on the road increases your self-confidence and self-esteem like nothing else: you develop a self-belief that carries through into all areas of life.
This can be a bit of a mixed blessing, as too much of your own space can quickly lead to feeling lonely and isolated. However, having space and time to be alone while traveling can also be amazingly helpful.
Depending on where you are, it’s actually rare to have no-body at all-around when you’re traveling- even if you set off solo.
In hostels, hikes, city tours, even in a waterproof tent up the side of a mountain, there are almost always new people to meet and spend time with. But, with no obligations to anyone other than yourself, if things are getting a bit much (which they easily can) you have every option to step away and be alone.
It’s far harder to make your excuses when you’re traveling with other people.
Quotes to Inspire First Time Solo Travel
I love a good travel quote. Here are a few of my favorites that I hope will help inspire first-time solo travel.
“Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time.” — Hannah Arendt
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure.” – Freya Stark, Passionate Nomad
“A subject to which few intellectuals ever give a thought is the right to be a vagrant, the freedom to wander. Yet vagrancy is deliverance, and life on the open road is the essence of freedom. To have the courage to smash the chains with which modern life has weighted us (under the pretext that it was offering us more liberty), then to take up the symbolic stick and bundle and get out.” ― Isabelle Eberhardt
“The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” — Henry David Thoreau
“A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.” Roman Payne, The Wanderess
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain
How to Travel Alone for the First Time: Top Solo Travel Tips
Moving on from inspiration to advice then. What tips would I give myself if I were to have a conversation with my pre-solo-travel self? Here’s how I reckon people should travel alone for the first time.
By this, I mean seizing opportunity when it arises.
Remember, you’re going to be out of your comfort zone a lot when traveling, and when an opportunity seems particularly beyond what you’re happy with (eg sky diving, eating insects, skinny dipping…) it is all too easy to turn things down.
Force yourself into the habit of saying ‘yes’ as a routine response. This way, you’ll find yourself in memorable, amazing situations that you’ll look back on thinking, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I did that’.
Traveling and solo traveling require bravery anyway, so you’ve already ticked this box by deciding to do it.
But keep it up when you’re on the road. Push yourself whenever you can- when meeting people, when exploring a new place, when deciding an activity; be courageous and tenacious.
Be Sensible and Safe
A lot gets said about safety while traveling.
It’s important, of course, but don’t let it get you paranoid about the dangers involved in travel.
Take the same precautions you would in any new place, look after your valuables, get travel insurance, don’t be overly conspicuous and you should be totally fine.
Be Comfortable Being Alone
This one takes some getting used to and I’m still pretty rubbish at it.
But traveling solo understandably requires a level of comfort being alone in your own space.
It’ll feel funny to begin, going out for meals by yourself, taking selfies and cooking for one. However, it gets easier. Know that far fewer people are probably looking at you than you might think.
See it as a learning opportunity: how does it feel to be alone at the bar/restaurant/cafe/museum etc? What’s going on inside? How is the emotion manifesting itself physically? By acknowledging these things you’ll come to understand more about who you are.
This one’s a pretty basic part of travel, but super important!
By yourself, there’s no sharing of kit between backpacks, so it’s literally all on your shoulders.
Take the absolute bare minimum of stuff. You’ll be thankful for it later and anything you happen to miss can almost always be acquired on the road.
Be the First to Say Hello
It can get lonely traveling solo on the road. Especially for first time solo travel.
So, if you’re looking for company, be the first to say hello to people you meet. At hostels, out and about, on a night out- wherever you are, get comfortable being the first to introduce yourself to those around you.
You’ll have the same conversation a million times, but that’s fine- it’s a necessary part of meeting someone on the road and you might find a bunch of new friends to share the adventure with.
The beauty of being alone is that if you don’t get on, then you can simply carry on your way.
In a desperate attempt to see everything and miss out on nothing, it’s easy to rush around when you’re traveling.
This approach is tiring and prevents you really experiencing the place you’re in. Instead, slow down, take your time, move slowly, and immerse yourself in whatever you’re doing.
Take Time Out
Travel can be intense. Constantly on the move, one place to another, meeting new person after new person; it’s important to take some time every now and again just to chill.
Take a mini holiday from traveling. Set up shop in a hostel somewhere, wash your clothes, eat good food, read, relax, and rejuvenate. Don’t feel any pressure to keep on moving. If you’re tired, take a break.
Take the Path Less Trodden
There’s value in getting off the main tourist track while traveling. It’s totally up to how you want to spend your time, but heading to lesser-known places in lesser-known towns down lesser-known paths can be remarkably rewarding.
Nothing is insurmountable
There will be difficult times when you travel. It’s almost inevitable. Accept this from the outset.
But know that whatever it is, you can and will get through it. It might not be pretty, but you will come through the other side and it will have been a valuable part of the trip.
Remember this Guide to First Time Solo Travel
There you have it, a brief guide with inspiration and advice for a first time solo traveler.
The idea of first-time solo travel can be daunting. It’s a big deal that requires a lot of courage and a leap of faith. Hopefully, though, this article has been helpful in settling any nerves and preparing you for the adventure ahead.
It’d be great to hear your thoughts!
Were there any particular points that stood out from the ones above? Or, are there particular concerns you have that weren’t addressed? Drop a comment below to let us know!
Danny Newman is currently writing and traveling his way around the world in a bid to figure out exactly what he’s doing with his life. He’d love you to follow along with his journey over at What’s Danny Doing and on his Facebook page.
5 Things to Bring for Your First Solo Trip
Packing for your first solo trip shouldn’t be stressful! Just make sure you bring these five things:
A Lonely Planet guidebook. It can be kind of a pain to find the major guidebooks once you land, or you’ll find them overpriced. I always like to pick mine up ahead of time.
Full-Sized Travel Towel This is the best travel towel in the world. It’s pretty enough for the beach, large enough that you forget it’s a microfibre towel, and quick-drying, which is crucial if you’ll be headed to the beach or staying in a hostel.
A Go Pro for underwater and action photography. These are great for solo travelers because you can get for photos and videos of yourself in the shots. Also great because they’re so lightweight.
Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS, and general travel genie.
More Solo Travel Resources
I have traveled solo on five continents! When I left, I traveled alone and didn’t know anyone. Now, I accidentally ended up with close friends, a business partner I met on the road, a fiance that I met on the road, and a baby that I gave birth to in another country. It’s really possible to start out traveling solo and build a whole world from the people you meet!
Here’s my advice for making friends while traveling solo!
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for your trip make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance when traveling solo so loved ones back home can assist if you end up needing help. Make sure someone back home has your policy information!
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for three years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.
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