I’ve been asked many times by fellow young females if I would write a post about solo traveling for the first time. I noticed that there are many young girls who would love to try it, but either are not allowed by their parents, can’t muster up the courage, or simply don’t know how to go about it. Although I am far from being an expert (the longest I travelled alone was one week), I like to give you my best tips.
1. Start with a weekend trip
To get used to the idea of traveling alone, I always advise people to start with a weekend trip. Even one night can be enough to get used to the idea. There’s no rule that states you have to wander through Asia on your own with a backpack for six months to qualify as a solo traveler, a weekend alone in a city you’d like to see is also a solo trip. By going away for the weekend you probably don’t have time to get homesick, but you still have to make a few decisions for yourself and get used to the feeling of independence that comes with it.
2. Choose a place where you feel comfortable
As I said, you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world. My first solo trip was to Copenhagen, a city that was on my wishlist for a long time. Moreover, Copenhagen is not only fun and trendy, it is also safe and clean and has a culture that is similar to ours, and where everyone speaks English. That gave me a very good feeling, and it was the perfect base to go on my own journey of discovery.
3. Make a plan
Nothing can ruin your trip as much as arriving in a city and then being bored to death. There is little chance that this will happen if you check in advance what you would like to see. You can craft a plan around it, so you always have something fun to do. But the good thing is that you can let this plan go if you make new friends, with whom you want to hang out. The plan can either be your guide or you backup, whichever you want.
4. Book your accommodation
To remove a point of stress on your trip, I would choose your accommodation in advance. If you feel comfortable with it, you can book a hotel. But I would strongly suggest you to book a hostel. Hostels are full of people like you: young, alone, and looking for a cozy evening with like-minded people. It is impossible to not immediately make friends in a hostel. I’ve never spent more than five minutes on my own in hostels, I always instantly made friends.
5. Make contact
If people don’t come to you: muster up the courage and talk to people yourself. People in hostels are open to contact, they like it. Ask the standard questions and you’re guaranteed of having a conversation: Where are you from? How long have you been here? Where are you going? And if no one wants to talk to you (I doubt it!), then you can always go out for dinner by yourself and read a book in the evening. Also not bad, right? (Seriously: don’t be afraid to ask a group if you can join them to dinner. The chance that they say yes is very big.)
6. Stay in touch with the people at home
This is not only for yourself, but especially for your parents, who are probably sat at the couch with clenched buttocks since the moment you stepped out the door, and kneel every ten minutes in front of a shrine with your picture and say a little prayer. The media has influenced them a bit, you know… They love you, and for every day they don’t hear anything from you, they see headlines with your name in it. Let them know what you plan to do every day. In that case, if something happens, they know where you were. Moreover, it can help you against homesickness, because you can have a conversation with them and let them know what you experienced.
7. Trust your feelings and gut
Traveling alone is not dangerous. Of course you have to pay attention. And yes, there is always a chance that you’re unlucky. But if you trust your feelings and intellect, you probably won’t have any problems. Always pay attention to your belongings, don’t tell strangers where you sleep (why would you?) and don’t walk alone at the streets at night. If you get a bad feeling from someone, don’t feel obligated to continue talking to that person. And if you feel that you can trust someone, don’t be afraid to join a bunch of strangers for a night out. Most people in your hostel can be trusted. But with traveling solo it all comes down at trusting your instincts.
And that’s the beauty of solo traveling: you get to know yourself very well. You will learn exactly what you want and don’t want. I learned that I’m an extrovert. I love to be around people, especially in the evenings. I like to share experiences, although I don’t mind visiting some highlights on my own. I learned to just trust my intuition. I made new friends and had the evening of my life. You can do whatever you want and don’t have to keep with anyone elses wishes in mind. What’s better than that? Enjoy!