If I had waited for somebody to travel with me every single time I hopped on a plane, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I don’t consider myself a brave and bold person in general, so it took a lot of getting out of my comfort zone, planning, and putting myself out there.
The first time I traveled kind of “solo” was to Finland — I had a friend who was studying there for a semester and I really wanted to visit her because I was missing her and thought it’d be a great opportunity to discover Scandinavia.
Fun fact — I actually booked my flight there before she even booked hers, that’s how impatient I was!
I remember being absolutely terrified of flying alone. I was used to traveling by train and bus a lot and was really comfortable around public transportation in Paris – which can be tricky for some people – but for some reason, I had no idea how to get around an airport. A couple months prior to this trip, I went to Barcelona with some friends, and I took a lot of mental notes of everything they were doing, where they were going, and overall HOW TO FLY!
Still, I was extremely anxious about flying there and meeting my friend in the city. Needless to say that everything went smoothly – well, except for the fact that she didn’t wake up and I had no internet connection so I took a random train from the airport to Helsinki and magically found her at the train station in town? –
That same trip, I lost my wallet – or it got stolen – with my French ID, credit card, etc. Thankfully, I was in Europe and had my passport at my friend’s place – which is why you should always travel with at least 2 forms of ID, refer to my blog post on My Ultimate in-Flight Starter Pack -.
This was in 2016 and I was 19 years old. Since then, I have moved abroad 3 times, traveled solo in Europe, Mexico, and more!
Why Should You Travel Solo?
So let’s take this step by step. First things first, why should you even consider traveling alone? Isn’t it more fun to travel with friends?
The answer is – yes, and no. You should travel solo, but you don’t ALWAYS have to.
Yes – Traveling with friends is so much fun. Creating memories with people you love and connect with is something you should always pursue.
No – Because traveling solo from time to time forces you to connect with yourself, and helps you grow in every way.
In short, traveling solo:
1. Is relieving.
2. Brings opportunities.
3. Can be easier.
4. Is cheaper.
Let me explain.
Traveling solo is relieving because it makes you go way out of your comfort zone, trust yourself and spend time with yourself. It is refreshing and I promise, you will thank yourself for it later.
Traveling solo brings opportunities because you will meet people from all over the world, and have to spend time with locals. You can create new friendships, and even end up changing your travel plans and itinerary because some locals told you about this incredible place that no travel guide features!
Traveling solo is easier because you get to decide everything about your trip – your dates, your itinerary, your activities, where you want to eat, sleep, and so forth, without having to take into consideration other people’s wishes and opinions.
Traveling solo is cheaper because you get to decide on every aspect of your trip, so you are in total control of your finances. You don’t need to do an activity that is over your budget just because your friends want to do it.
Traveling solo educates because it forces you to speak another language, even if it’s just a few words – check out my 6 steps to learning a foreign language -. It allows you to encounter different cultures, points of view, food, and traditions. In the end, it will make you feel small – and I mean that in the best way – and open your eyes and mind.
Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone
I feel like the phrase “get out of your comfort zone” is often misunderstood. It doesn’t mean that you should do things that you don’t like just for the sake of doing them.
It means doing things that you aren’t comfortable with doing, but you know deep down you want to do them, and/or they will take you to where you want to be.
E.g – I met my now-husband virtually thanks to friends, and we talked over FaceTime for over 9 months before we saw each other for the first time – he was living in Hawaii, and I in Sweden -. Was I nervous to fly to the U.S to see him? Yes. Did I know it was the right thing to do? Also, yes. Today, we have been together for over 5 years, are married, and live together.
Now, when it comes to traveling solo, here are a few tools I can give you. I have been doing them ever since I started traveling by myself and still find them super helpful.
First, write and visualize. If you want to do something, writing it down will be the first step to making it reel. Create a bucket list of the things you want to do this year, within the next couple of years, and even 5 years from now! Write it down on paper, close your eyes and picture yourself being on that trip for 5 minutes a day. Doing this will help you capture what feelings you are seeking by going to that specific place, and comfort you in knowing it’s the right decision for you.
Then, plan. Research as much as you possibly can. Visit blogs, and official websites, check out the local and international news on that country or place, find people on Instagram who are living or traveling there and don’t hesitate to ask them for advice. Trust me, people LOVE talking about what they’re doing, especially if they post it on social media.
Lastly, Execute. Book that trip. Enroll in that school abroad. Commit to volunteering for this charity. Once you do the paperwork and legal stuff, you will be less likely to give up or chicken out!
A Few Safety Tips For Solo Travelers
1. Always make sure someone you trust knows your plans, and share your location with them. When a loved one is aware of your whereabouts, especially if you’re going hiking alone, they can easily alert authorities if something happens to you and you will be rescued in a much shorter amount of time.
2. Make sure you are properly insured in the country you are traveling to. You could break your leg – no big deal but the medical bill can cost you thousands of dollars. Worst case scenario, you need absolute emergency and life-saving procedures, in which case, not being properly insured could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills, if not more.
e.g. When I was doing an internship in the U.S, I cut my finger and needed stitches. Because I had health insurance, my co-pay was only $20. The bill was $600. For 3 stitches on my finger.
3. Secure your valuable things. I always carry a lock or two with me for my suitcases. Keep your passport in a very safe place, and make copies – scans and email – of all of your important documentation and IDs. Make sure they are in a secured bag that you can watch at all times.
4. Make sure your behavior is on the safe side. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Don’t tell strangers where you are staying, nor that you are alone – you can tell them that you are about to meet someone you know! Don’t walk at night in neighborhoods that are known to be most unsafe. Pay attention to what’s going on around you.
5. Research. Don’t book a week’s stay in a hotel that is located in an unsafe part of town, or has mostly bad reviews. Always make sure you know enough about the place you’re visiting in terms of safety, pickpockets, etc.
I hope you never have to use these tips, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Life is scary and will always be. What can change now is how you approach these things. I was just as scared at 19 years old as I am today – well, maybe a little less now, but you get it! – but I go for it because I know what I want, why I want it, and how to get there. I’ve got all the inner tools to go for my dreams, so why shouldn’t I?
Once again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading me and trusting my voice! I love writing so much and showing up every single week is something I’m extremely happy about and proud of.
Let’s connect on Instagram and be friends!
3 thoughts on “A Few Tips for Newbie Solo Travelers”
#1 is so important, not just for cities, but also if you head into nature a lot. There’s always so much that can go wrong, and it’s reassuring to know that if something happens, there’s a time-stop before someone starts looking for you. Anyway, thanks for this post!
Definitely!! Thank you so much for your insight 🙂