My very first solo trips started as a longer stay abroad. A two-week exchange to an english school, a three-month au-pair trip to madrid and finally I stayed for one-year in australia. Even though I travelled alone, it was always in a safe setting. I visited locals who felt more or less responsible for me. So it didn´t really challenge me to start those journeys.
I started my first real solo-trip, because I didn´t had much choice. In the faraway australia I wanted to experience as much as possible and didn´t wanted to wait – and possibly waste precious time – until I had made some new close friends. So I planned a small trip to three places and was way more concerned about my first upcoming scuba diving experience, than I was about the itinery itself. Now that time has passed I can see more clearly that this was where it all started, where my love for solo travels was born. Time has passed and I traveled to more countries just by myself than I can remember. So I decided that today I share with you my experiences and tips for a solo journey. So grab a hot chocolate or fancy drink and let´s get started!
#1 Go with the flow to enjoy it fully
First of all it is important, that even those who only travel alone out of a necessity, give the loneliness a chance. Cause when you´re regretting that you´re traveling without company all the time, you won´t give your trip a real chance to turn out good. It´s absolute normal that you might feel lonely sometimes: Like for example when you´re sitting in a restaurant between all the couples and groups of friends, while you´re alone at a table. So instead of looking frantically for new contacts at the destination, I rather recommend you to accept the solo-trip and enjoy how many new experiences you are making now. And don’t worry, you will always get in contact with new people, but not immediately. Sometimes you get lucky and already make new friends at the ckeck-in of your hostel. On other trips you only get to know someone great at the last night. But that is also a good thing, because many experiences on a solo journey are experienced much more intensively than you would ever do when you´re in a group. That’s why my first tip is to be open minded and go with the flow.
#2 Your pace tells you way more about yourself than you thought
The beauty of traveling alone is that nobody rushes you. Not only can you experience everything at your own pace, but also learn quickly which things really interest you and which ones you´ve only showed interest to on previous trips, because you had the feeling you´d have to. Those who have no interest in museums or churches don´t have to visit them only because they are famous sightseeing spots. It´s the same with countries or experiences. Just because everyone feels the need to do a bungy jump or only because a work and travel trip to australia is trendy, doesn’t mean that you have to force yourself to do it aswell. At the same time it doesn´t mean you have to stop yourself from doing it, just because you have the feeling, there were already too many of your friends. Travel where you want to, when you want to and with whom you want to. Those of you who are not yet sure of their priorities and preferences will be more self-knowledgeable at the end of your solo journey.
#3 The only wrong decision is to not make a decision at all
If you are traveling alone, you won´t only learn new things about yourself – the long journeys will give you so much time with your own thoughts that you will get to know yourself, your needs and wishes better – you will also learn how to take full responsibility for yourself. Because on a solo trip there is no one who makes the decisions for you. This can be liberating, but sometimes quite tiring aswell, when you realize how many decisions you have to make each single day. Usually at some point you get the fear of missing out on something, because you are never really aware of all the possibilities that a place offers to you. After a while it will get easier to relax and go with the flow. You will learn how to listen to your gut feeling and to spontaneously decide what is right for you.
As for myself on some days I still need to force myself to be fully open to all the new impressions. Then I try to push myself to overcome my own fears. Try to concentrate on the progress of getting to know myself better, be more adventurous and make new experiences. With every experience it gets easier, the self-confidence grows.
#4 It’s great to get lost
I discovered the tastiest macaroons on my penultimate day in a side street in Rome, when I wandered away from my usual paths. I would have never tasted the best sushi in New Zealand when I wouldn´t have run out of water and didn’t needed to stop in a little shop for a refreshment. I also only discovered my absolute favorite handbag on a tiny leather market in Madrid, because I took the unusual path. And I only jumped off a cliff into the wild ocean with a friend, because the long way back over a rocky wall in the heated air of Portugal appeared too far for us. So don´t be scared of getting lost, ´cause you will find the best adventurous on the unusual paths.
#5 If you leave the travel guide at home, you will experience a fresher and more exciting journey
I´ll recommend you to try this tip on your next trip: Don’t look up your destination before you get there and start with fresh eyes. In Barcelona for example I decided to not open up a travel guide after half of the journey has passed. I was surprised to find out, that some of the places I discovered by accident were pretty often famous spots in the travel guide. But as I´ve found the places by myself I felt way more connected to them, because I discovered their beauty by myself instead of just following the paths of other people that have already been there. So for me it felt like I looked at the streets and (famous) spots with opener eyes and greater enthusiasm, than if I would have purposefully run to a sightseeing spot just to check it out.
#6 Hostels: Your roommates are either send from heaven or hell
I was not even aware of how quickly another person could make me furious with rage in a few minutes, before I stayed in a hostel for the first time. Clearly there are also the good roommates, in some you even fall in love with (cheers to my gorgeous boyfriend), but mostly you rarely have the same daily routine as your roommates. Those who like to get up early will be annoyed by night owls, who rush into the room at dawn, throw down chairs, turn on the flashy ceiling lights for something that feels like hours and leave bathroom door open, so that you can listen to their little toilet concert – thank you, Nate. Is was really great. Every. Single. Night!
Even dirty rooms and unwashed roommates can bring you to the edge, but luckily most roommates are quite respectful and friendly. In mixed rooms I have also had more positive experiences than in pure girl dorms. So I mostly recommend a mixed room to you guys.
#7 Be whoever you want to be
You´ve always wanted to slip into someone else’s identity? Here’s your chance! Because if you ever looked for the perfect opportunity to let out a different side of yourself it is a solo trip. After all there is no one who knows you, so who´s stopping you right? Most people you meet on such a journey you won´t meet again anyway. Of course you should be careful and a little creative by using white lies. Like changing your name isn´t smart when it comes to your roommates for example, but it’s easy to change your origin country or take on a fun or creative profession when you know it´s only for a short time.
Funfact: When I met my boyfriend on a rome trip, he loved to bring me out of my shell. So he thought it would be funny to introduced me to new people as Amelia from Iceland. Not the best choice as I have never been to Iceland before, so I wasn´t able to respond to all the interested and enthusiastic questions I got. When I asked him afterwards how he came up with this crazy idea, he answered with a big grin that it would be quite boring to travel to Italy as a german girl. On my last evening I could be a little bit more creative.
#8 The desire to give something back will grow
Traveling will change your relation to things. It’s crazy that nowhere in the world I feel so comfortable in my own skin as when I travel. Beauty issues or medical conditions don´t seem so important to me anymore, comparing to the wild world and all the other human beings. Instead I always feel a gratitude for the things I am allowed to experience, the food I try and the people I´m allowed to meet and exchange conversations with. When you´re traveling alone you concentrate more on the people you meet and they have a bigger impact on you. The change of perspective leaves you striving for a more minimalistic life and the desire to help other people and vulnerable animals will grow.
#9 Rather take too little than too much
Anyone who has read some of my early blogposts already knows about the most important travel rule. Because on my very first backpacking trip in New Zealand I learned the hard way: Always take only as much as you can carry yourself. When is comes to traveling with a backpack, it is always better to pack minimalistic, because otherwise you will be forced to stop every few meters to rest on a bench. And believe me that´s not cool at all!
#10 Accept failures and don´t get too bothered about them
Perfect journeys don´t exist. Whether it is a delayed train to the plane, a flight that has been cancelled or a lost baggage – sometimes things go wrong and as much you try to organize everything perfectly you can´t help it. Traveling mostly doesn´t happen as planned and anyone who is prepared for the failure and ideally even has a plan b will be able to enjoy his journey more relaxed, than the ones who get angry about every little change. In case of a broken credit card it helps to back some cash just in case. A forgotten towel can often be borrowed at the hostel and who asks nicely usually also finds someone who is willing to help with other problems.
Storytime: When I was stuck in the airport of paris in the middle of the night on a sunday and it took the airport a hole hour after the flight should have been to announce that there will be another opportunity to get to the destination, it would have been easy to freak out. Of course I would have liked to speak french and to be able to understand what´s going on, but on the other hand I made some new friends with other travelers from my delayed flight who I wouldn´t have met otherwise. So even though it´s not easy in that kind of situation to stay calm, it´s always better for yourself to not let the stressing situation get control over your hole travel experience. It´s just one tiny part of it, if you don´t give it the power to ruin your trip.
So when you travel alone there will be sometimes overwhelming situations, that wouldn´t stress you out as much, if you would have company. This is absolutely normal and nobody should feel bad, just because he wishes for some help. But usually it´s exactly these little travel challenges that you learn out the most and grow from, because you found a solution in the situation and managed it just by yourself. And after all they also give some nice anecdotes for home.
#11 You will appreciate company
Being alone is not always great, just as it is not always great to crouch on a trip with friends or family. So many evenings I sat in restaurants and looked at the couples at the other tables and wished to have someone to talk to or share experiences with. But just as often my gaze slipped farther to arguing couples who didn´t enjoyed their moment of togetherness at all, who perhaps envied me for my rest. I’ve learned that it’s perfectly okay to miss someone. Not every moment on a journey has to be perfect. That doesn´t mean it´s bad journey at all. Because no matter how much went wrong on a trip, not once did I regret a trip. Ever. Sometimes when I was in places that were so incredible that I swore to myself I have to show them one day to a future partner or other important persons I started to write them on a list in my head. Because who travels alone also learns to appreciate how beautiful it is to gather experiences together with someone and to review the memories after the journey together.
Travel reports of women traveling just by themselves are currently quite popular, but this does not mean that everyone should do so. Only those who feel drawn to travel alone, for whom the thought is a delightful adventure, should actually go for it. Because if I have learned one thing in my travels then this (assuming you do not harm to a third party): Always do only what you really want to do. Then you will find your happiness all by itself.