My friend Amanda, recently traveled to London on her first solo trip. This wasn’t a business trip or a school trip, this was last-minute due to a ridiculous coach award ticket on USAir direct to London she found for 30k points (normally 50k). Exploring London is so easy to do as a solo traveler that I often cite it as a starting point for a first time solo trip international so I had no worries that Amanda was going to have a fantastic four-day trip. When people ask me about solo travel, I tell them that I was thrown into it when abandoned in Paris before the internet and mobile phones and had to figure it out on my own with a few missteps. My experience can’t be replicated today but it’s easy to start traveling solo if you follow these 7 steps (solo travel tips):
Solo Travel Tips to Begin Your Adventure
Start Dining Solo
Have you dined solo in your hometown (takeaway and drive through doesn’t count)? I’m a big believer that you need to not care about what others think and enjoy your meal alone. We all deserve the opportunity to enjoy good food – it isn’t limited to couples and groups. So embrace it here at home so that you feel good on the road. Embrace meeting new people at the bar, talk to your server and try the communal tables. I won’t deny that dining solo allows me to be gluttonous with good wine and desserts.
Go to the Movies (or Theatre) Alone
I’ve been traveling solo to film festivals for years so seeing movies alone is easy for me, preferable really. I don’t need anyone to sit next to me (and eat my popcorn) to enjoy the show. When I visited New York City in December, I wanted to see the show If/Then but my friend didn’t so we ended up at the Christmas Spectacular (a compromise on my part). If/Then is about choices in life and what happens with you chose this path over the other. A bit like solo travel, you don’t know how it will play out but you need to chose the path unknown. Last month, I was able to see If/Then on a solo visit to NYC.
Be A Tourist in Your Hometown
When I’ve gone out with friends for dinner in the city, I often opt to stay in Philadelphia overnight so I don’t have to drive home. Staying in the city at a hotel is a bit indulgent and I savor each minute – going to brunch, wandering the neighborhood and playing tourist. Can you stay local in your hometown and play tourist? Can you see your city in a new way and take time to look up, around and see what you so often overlook?
Be Still with your Thoughts
This is a big one for me – being still with my thoughts. Sometimes my inner monologue tries to get me down and doubt myself (usually when I haven’t fed it enough cookies or chocolate) for being solo and alone. It loves to start a pity party for one. Sometimes I’ve given in to this along the way, especially in Cape Town. I still struggle with being still and accepting of myself in the world. Being comfortable with being alone is key to solo travel as there will be times when it’s just you. If you are good to be alone at home, then you are ahead of the game.
Check Your Expectations
Traveling solo can be rewarding if you keep your expectations in check. I’ve met many people who hated Paris (like my friend who abandoned me there) because they expected this movie version of Paris full of romance and dream like images. With those expectations, the city can only disappoint. I travel with few expectations so that I can be surprised.
Play Twenty Questions
Get ready to answer all of the questions your friends, family and strangers will have for you. When did you go there alone? Weren’t you lonely? Is it safe? Why aren’t you married? How does your father or husband allow you to travel alone? Why did you choose this? Aren’t you brave? So many questions over the years that I’ve had to answer when really is it’s anyone’s business? As a solo traveler, you will get questions so have fun with the answers at the ready.
Roadtrip for One – the Rehearsal
Travel for a weekend in a city or town within two hours of your hometown. Trying to plan a weekend trip to the city is a dress rehearsal for planning a larger, more complicated trip with different budgets. For example, to NYC, I can take the bus, local train, Amtrak or drive each affecting my budget and time. The lodging options can range from couchsurfing, AirBnb, budget to luxury hotel to name a few. Then there are the activities, the foods, the shopping. Lots of research and planning to contend with which can be fun or something you want to outsource to a travel agent.
You don’t have to do all of the solo travel tips steps above before you start out on your own solo adventure but I think it helps. Solo travel can be so richly rewarding as you learn how resourceful and strong you are in control of your own journey – which path will you take?
Do you agree or disagree with my Solo Travel Tips – 7 Steps to Adventure? Have a few to add? What have you done to prepare yourself?