How to Travel Alone: Overcoming Limiting Thoughts and Planning Your Solo Adventure
Traveling alone is trendy. However, it’s not for everyone. Some people aren’t cut out to explore the world this way, and that’s okay! For others, this experience is natural and extraordinary. For some, it is an attractive idea that’s also quite scary. If the idea of going on a solo adventure appeals to you but also triggers anxiety, keep reading. I’m going to share all my tips on how to travel alone and minimize stress.
In this blog post:
The Benefits of Solo Travel
Traveling alone not only allows you to discover the world, learn foreign languages, and explore new cultures, but it also helps you grow as a person. Here are some benefits that solo travel can bring you:
- Independence: You have no choice but to make all your decisions alone and navigate unfamiliar territories without anyone’s help. This makes you more independent and, as a result, boosts your self-esteem.
- Self-knowledge: Spending time with yourself helps you get to know yourself better and understand your preferences and aspirations.
- Freedom: You’re in charge, so you create the travel itinerary that suits you best and make spontaneous decisions to have the best experience. Were you supposed to get up at 8 a.m. to visit the museum, but you’re tired? Stay in bed longer! No one will blame you.
- Cultural immersion: When traveling as a couple or with others, you tend to stick together and have less contact with the local population. When you travel alone, the opposite happens!
- Disconnecting: Since you’re alone, you truly break free from your daily routine, which can sometimes be associated with a partner or a close friend. Plus, you do exactly what you want and rest as much as you desire.
- Self-confidence: Managing language barriers, understanding a new transportation system, dealing with accommodation issues, etc. When you travel solo, you’re on your own in handling problems, which boosts your self-confidence.
- Decision-making: You don’t have anyone to consult when making choices, so you have to think alone and trust your instincts to make the best decisions. This improves your ability to make the right choices.
- Overcoming fears: Traveling is an excellent way to overcome the fear of the unknown, being alone, or taking certain risks.
How to Travel Alone? OvercomE YOUR Limiting Thoughts
Traveling alone is still stigmatized, especially if you’re a woman. Society has conveyed the idea that exploring the world should be done with at least one other person to avoid danger and boredom. But, what do you do when no one can come with you? Travel alone!
Yes, but the pressure from society is present. It’s difficult to shake off. Not to mention that you might also be a victim of your own limiting thoughts.
The first step is to limit the influence of society. This often involves the opinions of your loved ones and friends. First, know that when they express doubts about your choice to travel alone, it’s only because they are projecting their own fears.
Traveling alone is not more dangerous than any other activity. Moreover, solitude doesn’t necessarily mean boredom; quite the opposite!
Start by identifying your limiting thoughts regarding solo travel. Do you think you can’t plan an itinerary? That your Spanish is too limited to travel alone? That as a woman, you won’t be able to avoid problems? That you’ll get bored alone?
Next, ask yourself if these thoughts are founded. Try to find examples that prove your capabilities. For example, can you go from your house to the closest metro station? Then you can organize yourself to go from point A to point B. Did you help that Colombian student find the nearest post office? Then you can manage in Spanish.
If you think you have specific weaknesses, like your Spanish level or the fear of getting bored, you can work on them gradually. Watch your favorite Mexican TV show in its original language, or spend a morning on your own without your phone.
If you have certain fears, like being a solo female traveler, connect with people in your situation to get feedback on their own experiences and ask them questions. A quick look on Instagram and you’ll easily find someone.
In any case, don’t pressure yourself. Traveling alone is great, but it’s not for everyone. If you want to try it, go for it! If you do it and don’t enjoy it, that’s okay too!
How to Travel Alone? Start Small
The first thing to do if you’re afraid of doing this activity alone because you fear others’ judgment or getting bored by yourself is to start with other activities.
Go to the movies, have a picnic in the park, dine at a restaurant, etc. You can do a whole range of activities before packing your backpack.
Once you’ve decided to embark on your first trip, start small! Go a few kilometers away from home; it’s reassuring to know that you can easily and quickly return home. You speak the language of your destination and are familiar with its cultural and social system, so the change will be real but minimal for the first time.
Afterward, go a bit further, and visit a different country with the same language and culture. Push a bit more by going to a destination where the language is different, but the culture is similar, and so on.
How to Travel Alone? Apply These Safety Tips
Whether you’re in a couple or with friends, you need to be vigilant while traveling, but it is true that you need to be even more careful when you’re alone.
Here are some tips to apply no matter where you’re going:
- Arrive during the day. This is especially true if it’s your first time in the destination. During the day, crime is less common, there are more people on the streets, and it’s easier to navigate.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. As a tourist, you’ll often be solicited to enter a shop or take a guided tour. When you’re alone, some people might also offer you a drink. If you’re not interested, simply say no.
- Always have Google Maps open on your phone when you’re traveling by taxi or Uber to ensure you are being taken to the right place.
- When meeting someone for the first time, do it in a public place. Share your location with a hotel staff member or a friend to feel safer.
- Keep your valuables secure, avoid wearing imposing jewelry, and don’t take out large amounts of money from your pockets. This prevents drawing attention and becoming a victim of theft.
- Trust your intuition. If you feel like your interlocutor is trying to confuse you, that the route you are taking doesn’t seem safe, or that the booked hotel is not secure, follow your intuition. Leave and change your plan.
- Keep your passport safely stored at home. Carry a copy with you, unless you’re traveling near a border, as you might be asked for it during a check. If you have multiple credit cards, take only one with you in case of theft.
- Scan all your important documents and send them to your email address or save them in the Cloud for easy access.
How to Travel Alone? Make Friends
Meeting people while traveling alone might seem like a real challenge. In fact, it’s easier than it seems. When you travel solo, you’re rarely alone.
Here are some tips to easily make new friends, meet extraordinary people, and have truly enriching experiences:
- Choose homestay accommodations to be in contact with locals who will be delighted to show you their daily life and invite you to spend time with them.
- Frequent the same cafés and restaurants. After a while, customers and employees will recognize you and come to know you.
- Participate in workshops or classes to learn to dance, yoga, the local language, or make ceramics.
- Take a free walking tour in your first few days. You will likely meet other solo travelers there.
- Use social networks. On Facebook, groups of expats or digital nomads organize meetups. You can also search on Instagram to see if other travelers are in the same destination.
- Volunteer. It is an excellent way to meet new people and learn about your destination’s social, economic, or environmental realities.
- Be open. It is simple, but if you maintain an open mindset and show your desire to meet new people, it will be noticeable from the outside, and people will approach you. Smile, look people in the eye, and ask questions.
How to Travel Alone? Enjoy Your Own Company
Many travelers are afraid of getting bored while traveling alone. A good solution is to learn to enjoy your own company. Indeed, if you enjoy your own company, you won’t have trouble traveling alone. Here are some tips:
- Focus on the present moment and observe the world around you. Describe what you see, pay attention to sounds, and notice your thoughts and sensations, etc. This is a great way to reflect on yourself and what is around you and discover interesting things.
- Spend time doing activities alone. The list is long: cooking, reading, painting, walking, etc. There is something you enjoy and can do while traveling.
- Spend time outdoors to learn to appreciate the beauty of nature and marvel at it.
- Take time for yourself by getting a massage or a facial treatment. These are solo activities that work just as well at home as on a road trip.
- Eat mindfully and alone. This allows you to have a moment to yourself and truly savor each bite without being disturbed by someone or absorbed in conversation.
By engaging in small solo activities that bring you pleasure and help you get to know yourself better while observing the world around you, you will learn to enjoy your own company.
How to Travel Alone? Plan Your Solo Adventure
Organizing your first solo adventure can be as motivating as it is intimidating. So here are some tips to guide you and ensure you have a pleasant trip:
- Choose your destination carefully. Select a place that doesn’t intimidate you too much, where the culture is close to yours, and where a language you understand is spoken. Of course, consider your preferences and budget to make the right choice.
- Set a budget. After a little research on the cost of life in your dream destination, including the price of the flight, accommodations, transportation, visits, activities, and food, set a maximum budget. This way, you will avoid unpleasant surprises.
- Pick dates. Avoid the high season when the crowds might overwhelm you. The same goes for major events that always attract a lot of people. Check the weather to see if the climate suits you.
- Create your itinerary. Be kind to yourself and avoid having a schedule that forces you to rush around. Prioritize slow travel and allocate relaxation time.
- Research safety guidelines. This will help you avoid dangerous neighborhoods and understand the recommendations that local authorities provide to travelers. Be careful not to become overly paranoid. Sometimes reading this kind of information can be scary, even when there’s not much reason to worry excessively.
- Get travel insurance. This will cover you in case you need to cancel your trip and provide good coverage in case of health issues. It’s even more important when you’re traveling alone. Remember to get the recommended vaccines.
- Pack light. Make a list of your essentials weeks in advance and cut it off as the days go by.
- Include a first aid kit. You never know what might happen. Band-aids, pain relievers, motion sickness tablets, anti-diarrhea medication, and allergy medication are some essentials to have.
- Plan transportation. There is nothing worse than landing and not knowing how to get to your accommodation. Research the possible modes of transportation and choose two options in case the first one isn’t available on-site. Make sure to have some local currency with you in case you need to take the subway or bus.
These are the basic tips you shouldn’t overlook when preparing for your first solo escapade. Don’t forget to stay open-minded, flexible, and remember that no matter what happens, there is always a solution.
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My Journey as a Solo Traveler
I’ve always dreamed of traveling for as long as I can remember. The problem is that once I reached adulthood, I didn’t have money or anyone to travel with. In my early twenties, still in the same situation, I decided to go solo and spend as little money as possible.
So, I started making small trips when I was living in Nancy, France. First, by taking day trips to cities like Metz or Strasbourg, which were extremely close and where the language and culture weren’t different since they were in the same country. Later, I ventured a bit farther by taking incredibly cheap buses to Belgium and Luxembourg. I still had not experienced a complete change of environment, as these were countries where French was spoken, and the culture was very similar.
Then, I stopped traveling for a few years due to a lack of money. At 24, I moved to Amsterdam alone. You could say that this was stepping out of my comfort zone, but not entirely, as I was living with French people. For three months, I didn’t do much, so no risks were taken. I did take the opportunity to visit cities in the country for a day.
At 25, I went on an Erasmus exchange to Bilbao. I took advantage of this to make excursions to cities like San Sebastián, Santander, or Burgos, which were all nearby and where Spanish was spoken. After that, I started traveling farther, to Italy, using Couchsurfing to avoid paying for accommodations.
Over the years, I began traveling outside Europe, sometimes to countries where I didn’t speak the language and the culture was very different, like Thailand, Jordan, or Mexico.
After a four-year break from traveling, I started again with short episodes as a digital nomad in Spain, where I was living. Then, I did a three-month trial by traveling to Brazil. After that, in September 2022, I became a full-time digital nomad.
During these years of travel, I faced quite a few challenges, including racist attacks, police checks, a violent robbery, and third-degree burns. I got lost in the desert, got into the wrong Uber, and faced harassment in taxis, etc. Traveling alone isn’t a guarantee of a 100% wonderful life. But it also allowed me to…
Sleep in the mountains of Jordan, learn Portuguese, make beautiful encounters, experience el Día de los Muertos from the inside, walk in the footsteps of the Mayans, taste a variety of delicious dishes, and live completely improbable situations that I wouldn’t exchange for anything.
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