Traveling Solo Like A Pro
Updated: Jun 19, 2022
Let’s get one thing straight off the bat: If the idea of solo travel scares you a bit, you’re not alone. I’m scared of it too and I’ve done it...A lot. That is precisely why I get so much out of it.
When a trip is ahead of me, I always worry. Will I be lonely? Will I get bored? Will I encounter a waiter like Jonah Hill in Forgetting Sarah Marshall? What if I get robbed? What if I don’t bring the right book? it goes on and on.
For me though, none of these things ever really happen or seem to matter whatsoever once I’m in it. Those are problems for home, somehow they never come up when I’m out there (ok, getting robbed can and has happened, but it was just a cell phone).
Traveling alone, you’re forced to step outside your comfort zone. So far outside in fact, that those things just don’t matter anymore. It’s a new and different version of you, a version that needs to survive in a completely new environment.
At 22 I inadvertently found myself on a solo adventure, mostly due to a major misread of a long-distance romantic situation. If that hadn’t happened, I might never have begun embarking on such travel.
As it turned out, that adventure, which ended up being the better part of a year living in Germany, still stands as one of the best experiences of my life. And I was utterly and completely on my own; until I met all my amazing international friends.
One of the big obvious upsides to solo travel is that you get to do exactly what you want when you want it. Take for instance the following examples:
“Guys! There’s a Roman coliseum right there! Can we please stop?” I pleaded with my fellow study abroad students as we drove through the town of Arles, France. It was raining and they had no interest. It would be years before I got to step inside of a Roman Coliseum.
“It’s the longest zip line in the western world though” I muttered, trying in vain to reason with my friend’s wife. We had to wait 30 minutes to do the big zip line, so she reasoned we’d do the medium one and if we really liked it, we could come back and do the big one. As of this writing, I have NOT done the largest zip-line in the western world.
If you’re anything like me, you might find it difficult to enjoy those kinds of things alone. One of the great lessons I’ve learned, once I got over that feeling, and it took a while, I started to learn so much about myself I never knew or paid attention to. It was glorious.
What did I ACTUALLY want to do? I’m not trying to impress anyone or improve a relationship or appease anyone. It’s still a work in progress but I’ve learned so much about myself this way.
As a caveat, I must say, solo travel definitely isn’t for everyone, and certain safety considerations should always be taken no matter who you are. Are you a 4’11” female? You probably shouldn’t travel alone indiscriminately without research (unless you’re a Kung fu master or something). However, if you are avoiding solo travel out of fear or loneliness, it might be just what you need.
I’m not going to delve into internet or smartphone resources here, but suffice it to say, those resources are abundant. So without further ado, here are some basic tips for your own personal solo adventure:
This will vary a bit from person to person, but no matter what make yourself aware of emergency services wherever you are, 911 doesn’t work outside the US, find out what number does. Be aware of what kinds of crime, if any are common. And always check the US Embassy travel warnings ( you don’t have to follow them, just be aware)
First things first, it’s imperative that you get your bearings. Study a map of where you’re going and know transportation routes and major streets should you get lost. Standing around holding a phone (if you even have data) trying to figure out your bearings is a sure-fire way to get marked for a scam. Or at least look like an idiot. Buy metro cards, etc ahead of time if possible, this will save a lot of confusion and headaches.
Where To Stay
Depending on where you are, hostels can be a double-edged sword, they can be great for meeting fellow travelers but can also be an easy way to get your things stolen or be kept up all night by rowdy travelers. Only stay in Airbnb’s that have been vetted by other people you know or that have significant positive ratings.
Whatever you do, DO YOUR RESEARCH ahead of time. Most importantly, try to keep yourself near city centers, or at least near transportation to the city center. This will give you the most amount of options at any given moment and you won’t spend half your trip in a taxi.
How To Avoid People
I take some inspiration from an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-air on this one. There’s an episode where Carlton is facing a potential brawl and knows he won’t stand a chance, Will’s advice is to move around like a crazy person and say nonsensical things.
Believe me, folks, this one works( years of living in NYC, I have proof). Practice repellant faces mutter to yourself, nothing over the top. Just look weird and crazy. Hopefully, the suitor of your dreams is not also nearby at this exact moment.
This one can be tricky, on one hand, you want to experience the best food options available in whatever burg you’ve found yourself in but on the other hand, You don’t want a repeat of the aforementioned scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Fine dining alone can be tricky but if you are going in that direction, I find it’s Best to find spots that also have lively bar scenes or some other attraction besides just the food like live music or theatre performance. This takes a lot of the weight off of encountering other people's intimate conversations unless that’s your thing.
Those are a few tips, there will be more. Most of all just make your journey your own and no one else’s.
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