Solo travel is a skill, and one I’m constantly honing in order to get the very best out of my experiences abroad. I’ve travelled through 45 countries, more than half of them solo, and it’s taught me so much about myself and the universe. I highly recommend solo travel to anybody and everybody – whether you’re 18 or 80, male or female, introvert or extrovert.
To help you figure out how to travel alone and take that leap of faith, or enhance your solo travels if you’re an old hand at this, I’ve tried to distil my wisdom into ten top tips for travelling alone. I hope they will open up new possibilities for you, and empower you to go out and meet the world.
1. Look At The People, Not Your Guidebook
No matter where I go or for how long I’m staying, the very first thing I do when I get to a new city or country, is go to a busy place, get a coffee, and just watch people in their element. An hour spent people-watching will usually tell you more about the culture and customs of a new country than your guidebook. I then use what I’ve learnt to shape how I interact with the people I meet, showing I’ve made an effort to understand and adapt to their culture. It’s a surefire way to make friends, and help you make deeper connections even if you’re only staying a few days.
2. Start Saying YES
It’ll either be a good time or a good story, but either way it’s one of the secrets of how to travel alone. Say yes to the coffee. Say yes to the hike. Say yes to leaping so far outside your comfort zone, that you’d feel like a foreigner if you ever went back. Say yes to adventure. The advantage of not being with a group is that you’re more likely to say “yes” to whatever serendipitous encounter that comes your way.
3. Learn How To Meet People While Travelling Solo
One of the best things about travelling alone, is that you have “HI, COME TALK TO ME” written all over your forehead. There’s no wall of defense in the form of friends who might block you from having an incredible and engaging conversation with a local or fellow traveller. People are curious, and when you look foreign, they want to know your story. In turn, you learn theirs.
All you have to do is show the world you’re open to new connections. The best way to meet people while travelling solo is to hang out in places where people can easily approach you: Coffee shops, public squares, museums, the hostel bar… Take a book with you, rather than looking at your phone – it’s much more likely to spark a conversation.
4. Know Your Limits When It Comes To Alcohol
In hopes of sounding like the mature adult I strive to be, it’s so important to understand your tolerance levels while out drinking. And I’m not just talking to the ladies. Getting messy drunk is actually a bit rubbish, especially true when you’re travelling. You’ll waste valuable adventure time nursing a hangover in your hostel dorm, and it doesn’t make a great impression on your new hostel buddies. By getting to know your limits, and working out how to hit the sweet spot of tipsy but not wasted, you can have a good time and still be a responsible adult while travelling.
I know, I know — what is this sorcery right?! It’s like magic. It can seem hard at first, but it’s very possible with practice!
5. If It’s Your First Solo Trip, You’ll Need To Unlearn Stranger Danger
This one is probably the hardest to achieve, because it’s been drilled into us since we were kids. If it’s your first solo trip, you’ll likely be closed and defensive with many of the strangers you meet. But the more you travel, the more you’ll realise that 99% of humans are innately good. And by keeping an open mind, no matter where you go, you’re more likely to get the most out of your travels. The word “stranger” has a negative connotation, but I firmly believe strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet.
We love, hurt, laugh, and cry the same. We all have emotions. We all like music. Find common ground in the most basic matters of life and strike up a conversation with someone you’ve just met.