Your backpack is packed. Your budget is set. Your mom has told you repeatedly to remember to stay in touch. And you’re filled with nervous anticipation for your first solo trip! Maybe your friends were busy, completely broke, or simply not interested in traveling. Or maybe a solo adventure has always been something you’ve dreamed of and you finally worked up the courage to do it. Whatever the reason, you’re about to take off on what is bound to be a life-changing adventure! If you’ve never traveled solo before, here are a few things I wish I’d known before I set out on my first solo adventure:
Be vigilant with your valuables.
When you travel with a friend you have a higher margin for error. Sure, having your wallet and bank card get stolen or lost is a major annoyance, but at least a travel buddy can lend you some cash until you get sorted out. As a solo traveler, losing your wallet, money, or bank card can put you in quite a predicament. Separating your credit card or bank card from your wallet and stashing it in a pair of dirty socks or using a backpack with a secret compartment can be a real lifesaver. At least if your wallet and cash reserve goes missing, you’ll have a way of accessing more money to get by.
You’ll get lonely from time to time.
Even if you’re the most extroverted person in the world, you may occasionally find yourself off the beaten path and without the company of fellow travelers. This can be a new experience, but unquestionably one of the biggest lessons you can experience on a solo trip. The best opportunities for introspection are provided in these times and you’ll walk away with more self confidence than you ever imagined from having to figure everything out on your own in a foreign country!
You’ll get used to dining alone.
I bet you don’t spend much time dining solo at home. That’s about to change. The first time you stroll into a cafe or restaurant and request a table for one, you may feel a bit weird. Fortunately, you get used to it quickly and may even find yourself longing for a solo meal in the future. Left alone, you’ll find that restaurants frequently present amazing people-watching opportunities and the chance to actually appreciate the food unburdened by carrying on a conversion.
You’ll be forced to talk to strangers.
Your parents may have told you not to talk to strangers. As a solo traveler, it is time to throw that advice out the window! When presented with an opportunity in a restaurant, or in your hostel, jump on the opportunity and talk to the stranger beside you. Sure, you may meet a few very eccentric travelers that you may regret initiating conversation with, but these individuals tend to be the exception and not the rule.
You should always opt for the dorm room.
Sure that cushy private room with the soft mattress and private en suite looks comfortable. The problem? It makes meeting people a challenge. The fastest and easiest way to meet new people is to room with them. The minute you step into a dorm, you’ll be given the opportunity to introduce yourself to anyone who may be hanging around, which is the perfect springboard for a new travel friendship. In my experience, the 4-6 bed dorm is the ideal size, not too big and not too small.
Slow and uncomfortable transportation are your friends for meeting friends.
I know, I know, a 16-hour bus or train ride doesn’t sound like fun, but with a little luck and a friendly attitude it’s the perfect catalyst for meeting both locals and fellow travelers. Sure that 1-hour flight may be a more efficient means of transportation, unfortunately I can’t say I ever met a lifelong travel pal on a quick hop flight.
Think twice before ordering just one more drink.
Travel is all about getting caught up in the moment. One minute you’re sitting alone at your hostel wondering if you’ll ever meet another human being again, the next you’re being swept off to a crazy party with a bunch of people you just met. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a few drinks and letting loose, but be conscious of your limits. As amazing as your new travel companions are, the last thing you want is to have to shoulder them with the burden of “escorting” the solo traveler they just met back to their hostel room. It’s a serious buzz kill…
Smile and get off your phone.
It’s easy to gravitate to the comfort of Instagram or texting your friends when you find yourself sitting alone in a hostel. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to meet anyone when your head is buried in your phone. Head to the hostel common area, grab a drink, and start smiling at random people (not in a creepy way) or saying hey! You’ll be the hit of the hostel in no time!
So there you have it, a few tips and tricks that I wish someone had taken the time to tell me before I stepped out on my first solo adventure. You’re in for the trip and education of a lifetime, so take a deep breath and go enjoy it!