Solo traveling. Some people jump with joy when they hear these words, others shudder in fear. No matter where you are on this spectrum of reactions, just know that traveling solo is an experience everyone should try at least once in their lives. My own solo trek through Poland was one of the best memories of my four month European adventure. I met strangers who became instant companions, learned to navigate a new city on my own, and I conquered my fear of being alone. By the end of the trip, I was a more confident, independent, and travel savvy version of myself. To help you have the life-changing, attitude-boosting trip of your dreams, here are my go-to tips to having a successful solo travel experience.
Have A Plan
While some people live for the spontaneity of not knowing where life will take them, it is extremely helpful to have an itinerary of your travel plans. Make a loose outline of where you plan to stay, how to get around, and basic useful information (Does this place speak English? Do all the shops close at 8pm? Do you have a map of the area?).
Bringing the right equipment with you (see my article on what to bring on your study abroad) will also ensure you are well-equipped for almost all the situations you encounter. For those of you who count your phone as the only essential travel tool you need—which is a highly useful one, don’t get me wrong—consider having a backup plan if your phone dies or gets lost or stolen. That way, you won’t be that unfortunate tourist who has no idea how to get back to your hostel when you no longer have Google Maps to rely on.
Like I specified in the paragraph above, it’s great to have a loose itinerary so that you have a backup plan in case you find yourself confused or lost. However, making a rigid schedule that dictates your entire trip—I’m looking at you, color-coded schedule makers—takes a lot of fun out of your experience, too.
It’s okay to have some wiggle room for unplanned adventures or new travel companions joining you on your trip; sometimes the most memorable moments in life are the ones that take you by surprise.
Go Out of Your Comfort Zone
Talk to a stranger, try new foods, walk around a city on your own… solo traveling is the perfect setting for doing things that challenge you. I used to overthink anything I ever had to do on my own (to the point where I usually scared myself out of doing something as simple as going to a new coffee shop), and I let that decide what I could and couldn’t do in life.
Traveling on my own provided me with the perfect time to finally confront these fears and try things that I never thought I’d be able to do. You’re only abroad for so long, so take a risk (within reason, of course—this is no excuse for you to suddenly drop out of school and join a hippie cult in Copenhagen). At the very least, I guarantee you’ll have some amazing stories for all your friends and fam back home if you follow this advice.
Accept That You’re Learning
One of the biggest factors that always prevented me from doing things on my own, like taking public transportation, was the fear that I would make a fool of myself. I was always afraid of people judging me if I made a mistake or did something embarrassing in public. But the fact of the matter is that everyone has to start somewhere. I had to accept the fact that I would never learn how to take the subway if I never tried.
There were times where I circled the station more than I’d like to admit because I couldn’t find my train, and MANY times where I had to stop and ask a local for help. In the end, I never missed any of my trains/subways/buses (I did miss one flight but that was because I booked it for the wrong month… oops…).
Even more importantly, I came to terms with being a novice at traveling on my own.
By the end of the trip, I was more proud of myself for at least trying to become the independent, female traveler I had always aspired to be than I was embarrassed at any failures or mistakes I made in the process.
Now that I’ve shared my best advice about solo travel with you… what are you waiting for?! Go book that ticket to Europe ASAP and get your solo travel on!
Also published on Medium.