It might feel daunting to travel alone, but can be so worth it.
It might be overwhelming and even scary planning and taking a trip alone, but talk to anyone who’s done it and they can’t recommend it enough. It’s a chance to push yourself out of your comfort zone, discover things you wouldn’t otherwise with a friend or a group, and gives the ability to do everything you want. We spoke to Beth Santos, founder of Wanderful–a global lifestyle brand and community that specializes in helping all women travel the world–to get all her advice for traveling solo.
Do you recommend going on a solo trip? Why?
Of course! Solo travel is in my opinion the best way to not only learn about the world, but also to learn about yourself and your place in the world. It teaches you patience, humility, flexibility, and to rely on yourself, and, yes, to even forgive yourself when things ultimately go wrong! It is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves to take a trip on our own and I highly recommend it to everyone to try at least once.
What’s great about traveling solo?
Traveling solo is great and challenging for the same reasons. On the one hand, you are experiencing everything on your own which means you get to do what you want to do at the very pace that you want to do it. At the same time, it means that all of the responsibility is on your shoulders to plan and manage the trip (and even keep yourself occupied during the trip). When you travel by yourself, you don’t have other travel buddies to act as a buffer between you and a new experience. You experience everything firsthand which, in my opinion, means that everything is that much richer.
What are some ways to make traveling solo more fun?
Stay at a hostel to meet people–many of those are filled with solo travelers looking for other travel buddies. Or sign up for a class (even a one day photography class) or walking tour, or attend an event (our Wanderful meetups now happen in 50 cities around the world!). Try Mealsharing if you want to have a dinner buddy, or VAWAA if you want to apprentice with a local artist and pick up a new skill. Get out and be open, and don’t be glued to your phone and you’ll meet people all over the place.
What should you consider before picking a place to travel solo?
Anything you might want to consider when traveling is in hyperdrive when you’re alone. If you are concerned about safety, make sure you take extra precautions when you’re by yourself. If the language barrier is difficult for you to manage, it will be extra challenging when doing it by yourself. I am all for a good adventure so these precautions should be taken in stride, but just keep in mind that when you are alone there is more on your plate to manage overall. The destination you pick may play a role in that.
And by the way, you don’t have to travel a long distance in order to have an amazing experience. Some of my favorite trips have been just around the corner from my home. As long as you are trying something new, stepping out of your comfort zone, and learning, that’s as much travel as anything else.
What should you consider overall when traveling solo?
Make a “half plan” for yourself. Make a list of all the things you want to do, and make sure to leave about half of your schedule open for spontaneity. Traveling solo is when you can be the most spontaneous, so lean into that. Give yourself the chance to meet people and to sign up for an impromptu event or concert or to take a long walk and see what you discover.
On your first day, make sure you take some time to get to know your surroundings. Take a walk in daylight around your neighborhood and notice the local spots. Or take a walking tour or food tour, or even a hop-on-hop-off bus tour so that you can get the lay of the land. It’s so easy to opt for a taxi to get from place to place quickly but you miss so much opportunity to really experience the place that you’re visiting. You might find a neat adventure just taking the public transit system and since you’re traveling by yourself you can afford to take a little bit longer to do things than if you have other people relying on you.
What are things to keep in mind when traveling solo?
Packing light is really important when you’re by yourself because you can’t rely on someone helping you with your luggage or even hanging onto it while you explore something. Apps like Luggage Hero are also really good solutions if you’re traveling before or after a flight and can’t leave your luggage anywhere — they’ll let you store your luggage with a local business for an hourly fee.
In general, be really good at documenting when you’re alone. Both for safety, like writing down your hotel address in the local language and leaving a copy of your passport and credit cards with friends or family at home, but also for yourself, through journaling. There are even companies now like Flytographer that allow you to hire a local photographer so you don’t end up with all selfies on your trip!
Any other advice or tips that you would give a solo traveler?
Just get out there and do it. It’s easy to find reasons to not go. Sometimes what you need to do is book a non-refundable flight to convince yourself to take the leap. And you will be glad you did!