Taking Your First Solo Trip

Taking Your First Solo Trip

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Taking your first solo trip can be scary and overwhelming. Having someone to travel with you feels like a safety net, so when you decide to go on your own, that safety net disappears. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can find other ways to feel comfortable and enjoy traveling solo. Here’s everything you need to know about your first solo trip.

Benefits of solo travel

First I’d like to remind you about some of the benefits of traveling solo. Yes, traveling by yourself can be frightening, but it can also be empowering. Traveling by yourself teaches you how to rely on yourself, which builds confidence and shows you that you’re stronger than you thought you were.

It’s also wonderful to travel alone because you decide how to spend each day. You choose where to eat and what activities to do. You don’t have to compromise like you would with a travel partner. The flexibility of solo travel is a great benefit.

You’re actually more likely to meet other travelers when you’re traveling by yourself. It makes you more approachable, and you’re more likely to approach others. When you have a travel partner, you probably won’t feel like reaching out to talk to someone new, but when you’re on your own, it’s much more appealing.

Where to go on your first solo trip

When you start planning your first solo trip, one of the first steps is deciding where to go. Is there someplace you’ve always dreamed of, that pulls you in more than any other destination? This might be a good start. Planning a trip to your dream destination is great motivation to follow through with your plan and actually take that trip.

Having a goal or purpose to your trip might help motivate you, too. Take a look through these 23 ways to travel with a purpose.

Also think about what locations are easier than others. A country where they speak the same language as you, or one that has a lot of tourist infrastructure is a good choice. You might even start closer to home with a destination within your home country that you’ve never been to before.

Check out the tours section for a little destination inspiration.

first solo trip

How to prepare for your first solo trip

For your first solo trip, I recommend planning things out ahead of time. Planning things out will help you feel more in control. Research your destinations so you know what part of town to stay in, and book your accommodations. If you’re going to more than one place, find out how to get from one place to the next, and book tickets if possible. Search for public transportation websites. Read up on the attractions you’re interested in so you’ll know when they’re open and how much they cost.

Consider booking yourself a day tour or two. They’re a great way to explore a new city because you’ll have a knowledgeable guide to tell you about the history and culture, plus you’ll have a few other people to hang out with for a few hours.

You don’t have to map out every single detail of your trip though. Leave some room for flexibility and spontaneity so you don’t feel so constrained when you arrive. It’s good to know what you want to see while you’re there, but you don’t have to schedule it all out. You can decide while you’re there which sights you want to see each day, or if you just want to hang out at a cafe one day.

Don’t pack too much. You won’t have anyone to help you carry your things. Having too much to lug around with you can also add to feeling overwhelmed. Remember, you don’t need as much stuff as you think you do.

taking your first solo trip

How to stay safe on your first solo trip

Despite your fears, traveling solo isn’t really any more dangerous than traveling with someone else. Almost all travel safety advice applies whether you’re traveling by yourself or with someone else. It’s true you won’t have someone there to look out for you, but realizing you can look out for yourself is powerful.

Always keep a business card from your hotel with you. If they don’t have business cards, have the name, address and phone number written down on a piece of paper. If you ever get truly lost, you can find a taxi to take you back.

Don’t drink too much alcohol, and know your limits. If you drink too much when you’re with a friend, you know they’ll take care of you, but you don’t have that on a solo trip. It’s a good idea not to get too drunk in any new place, solo or not, but it’s especially important when you’re on your own.

Always be aware of your surroundings. If you feel uncomfortable, turn around. If you feel like someone is following you, go into a shop or restaurant where there will be other people around. But please remember, things like this rarely happen, so try not to be paranoid.

Check in with someone at home every once in a while so they know you’re safe and having a good time. A quick email does wonders to ease the fears of family and friends at home.

Overall, use your common sense. What would you do at home to keep yourself safe?

Travel Solo But Never Alone

How to not feel lonely on your first solo trip

Make an effort to talk to other travelers, whether they’re solo travelers or not, though other solo travelers might work out better for you. Even if you’re nervous about approaching people, remind yourself that you never have to see these people again, so who cares what they think? And they might turn out to be really fun, interesting people. New friends, even just a friend for the day, can make the best travel memories.

If you want to meet other people while you’re traveling, consider staying at a hostel. Usually hostels have a social atmosphere, making them a great place to connect with other travelers.

If hostels don’t appeal to you, check out MeetUp.com or Couchsurfing.org. MeetUp has tons of groups based on interests, and one of them might be perfect for you in the city you’re going to. Couchsurfing also hosts gatherings in different cities, and you don’t have to crash on someone’s couch to participate. Even aside from their events, some people on Couchsurfing say in their profiles that they’re happy to meet up with travelers and show them around. Both sites are worth a look.

Booking a day tour is also a good way to minimize loneliness. Spending a few hours with other travelers who want to learn about the city or try a new activity or cook a tasty local meal gives you an instant connection since you’re experiencing the same things together. If you really get along with someone in the group, see if they want to meet up for dinner later that day.

Pay attention to when you feel most lonely. Some people feel less lonely when they keep themselves busy, while others actually feel the opposite. Listen to your gut and plan accordingly.

Search for day tours on Viator. They have options all over the world.

taking your first solo trip

What to expect on your first solo trip

If you’re not used to so much alone time, expect to feel a little awkward at first. You might feel like you stand out for traveling on your own, but I promise you’re not the only solo traveler out there.

Eating in restaurants by yourself might feel a little weird if you’ve never done it before. In some restaurants, the employees might say, “Just one?” Respond with confidence, “Yes, just one.” Even if it’s fake confidence. In other restaurants, they might not bat an eye. I find that the more casual restaurants are easier to deal with as a solo traveler, but don’t let that stop you from going to a fancy restaurant if you want to.

If you’re worried about sitting there for the length of a meal with nothing to do besides eat your food, bring a book. Or sit at the bar, if there is one. That way you can chat with the bartender or other people sitting near you. You have to eat, and after a few meals, you won’t feel quite so awkward sitting by yourself. You’ll even realize that no one is looking at you or even cares that you’re eating by alone. They’re too busy enjoying their own meal.

taking your first solo trip

You might have days where you don’t want to leave your hotel room because it feels too overwhelming. Push yourself out the door and give yourself permission to sit in a square or at a cafe or at a park. Read a book, enjoy a coffee or a soda, and just relax and watch the city go by.

Hopefully after a few days, you’ll start realizing it’s not so hard. That it can feel really liberating to be on your own. That it doesn’t matter what other people think. That traveling by yourself actually shows strength and confidence, not weakness.

Small things that seem easy at home will feel bigger and harder while you’re traveling by yourself. Acknowledge those accomplishments. Towards the end of your trip, treat yourself to an ice cream or a nice meal or a special souvenir to celebrate this awesome thing you’re doing by traveling alone.

It will slowly start to sink in that it’s not so scary to travel by yourself after all. A whole world of possibilities will open up to you because suddenly you’ll realize you CAN do this. You no longer have to wait around for a friend or a boyfriend or girlfriend to join you on a trip. You can travel solo.

Taking your first solo trip might even be the catalyst to a new travel addiction.

You might also enjoy:

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  1. Matthew Cheyne

    There are a lot of great tips here for the first time solo traveler. Getting out of your comfort is never easy, especially for people like me who suffer from social anxiety or better put, severe disabling shyness.For some reason, once I am on that plane and those wheels lift into the under-carriage upon take off, something changes within me and I find that I can talk to people a whole lot easier. I think it has something to do with being anonymous in that I don’t feel so conscious of being judged by other people. That said, hostels, although I’ve never used them would be an ideal first place for a new solo traveler to use as accommodation in the sense that you’ll meet people who are on the road just like you.

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Yes, exactly! I’m the same way, nervous before any trip, and as soon as I’m on my way, it fades. And I get what you mean about not being so self-conscious. I always worry what people think of me (which I know I shouldn’t do) but when I’m traveling, I let that go because I know it doesn’t matter. Traveling solo showed me that, and it spills over into my at-home life. Which is why I think I’m due for a solo trip soon! And yes, hostels are great for first time travelers because they make it easier to meet other travelers. Thank you for this comment Matthew, totally agree with you!

  2. James

    Too many people are afraid that they won’t make friends on the road, but it’s funny how I always meet more people when I’m by myself versus traveling with a group!

  3. Candice

    i wish i had read this before i did my first solo trip. but none the less.. i did consider many of these on my first and will consider the added points you gave on my third next year.

    it is an absolutely liberating and wonderful experience to observe and experience new cultures and landscapes at your own pace… and even change itinerary if you like.

    great article!

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Thanks Candice! Sounds like you’ve had really great experiences traveling solo, I’m so glad! Enjoy your trip next year!

  4. Nickie

    Hey!I am thinking to start traveling the next year.but i do not know how much money I must save.I will be a spa therapist..could I find a job while travelling for a few weeks perhaps??light me up please!!!!I am so jealous of your adventures!!!

    Looking forward for your answer!!!!

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Hi Nickie! How much you need to save for your trip depends on so many factors, like how long your trip is, where you’re going, what kind of accommodations you stay in (luxury vs budget hostels, etc.), if you eat at fancy restaurants or not, if you stay at places with kitchen access so you can cook to save money, if you plan on flying a lot or taking buses, what kinds of activities you’ll do…. So I don’t have an easy answer for you there! I’ve done long and short trips, some middle-of-the-road (comfortable hotels/guesthouses, but not fancy, not bare-bones budget) and some trips were more towards the budget end of things. I usually track my expenses, so you can look here for some of the budgets from some places I’ve traveled to.

      It’s really hard, if not impossible, to find a job in a foreign country for just a few weeks. Working in another country requires a visa, and in most cases the company hiring you would have to sponsor your visa in some way, and they won’t do that for you to work there for a few weeks. If you’re really looking for ways to save money, sometimes you can find a hostel willing to give you a free room in exchange for cleaning rooms or something, though that depends on what part of the world you’re in. Some countries have work-travel visas which allow you to get a job there, but again, most companies won’t hire you for just a few weeks. Australia and New Zealand are popular options for this (I think you have to be under 30 or 31 years old) because it gives you a full year to explore and the opportunity to get a job to help finance your time there.

      Other money saving options include couchsurfing, renting apartments from Airbnb so you can cook instead of eat out (plus sometimes the prices are cheaper than hotels), travel slower to cut back on transport expenses (plus you can often get good deals on renting an apartment for a month instead of just a few days or a week), taking long distance buses instead of flying (also depends where you are since there are some good low cost airlines out there), if you like museums, look for free or discounted days.

      Take a look at my travel spending page I linked towards the beginning, and then do some Google searches for travel budgets involving countries you want to go to. This post on researching a travel budget might be helpful too. How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matt Kepnes comes highly recommended, though I haven’t read it myself.

      I hope this helps, but let me know if you have any other questions!

  5. Lisa

    I’m planning on solo travelling the end of the year / beginning of next and I was definitely thinking about backing out and waiting for a friend to say they wanted to do it but this article just changed my mind 🙂 now I’m really excited again!

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Lisa, that’s so exciting! And I’m so happy I was able to help! It’s completely understandable, normal even, to be nervous about solo travel. I still get nervous before traveling by myself sometimes. But it’s a great experience and I love the feeling of getting out there and handling everything on my own. I’m sure you’ll have a fun trip!

  6. Jackie

    I am taking my first solo trip to Sint Maarten in May and I am so excited. Your article has eased some of my anxiety about going alone. But I had a window of opportunity and took it. Alone time on those beaches is what I need. Thank you.

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Thanks Jackie, I’m glad to help! Sounds like you have an amazing trip planned, and I hope you have a wonderful time!

  7. Carrie

    I’m planning to take a solo international trip in the next coming months and this article has been by far the most encouraging and helpful one to read!

    I’m so nervous and scared but I really want to do it! Thanks for this wonderful piece.

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Glad to help! Just focus on all the positives, all the great places you’re going to see and interesting things you’re going to do. Being nervous is totally normal, but you can do this!

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