Ever since I began taking time to explore the world solo on certain occasions a few years back I’ve been meaning to write today’s post. If you’re curious about solo travel, I hope you enjoy my thoughts on why it is rewarding and some tips for doing so.
Whenever I tell people I’m taking a trip solo I am always met with remarks like “You’re going alone?” or “Wow, I could never do that” or “Wait, you’re not meeting anyone there?” It gets easily judged but ever since I started doing it, I realized how good solo travel can be for your soul. I now try to take one solo trip a year and I find it to be one of the most rewarding, refreshing & inspiring moments in my calendar year.
The thing about solo travel – like many things in life – is that you’ll never know whether you like it until you give it a shot.
When you travel alone you can really embrace mental clarity I find. You are alone with your thoughts and are freed up to read solo at a bar, take in the sights and sounds in a more real way and soak up little things you may not have recognized otherwise. I find it empowering to be in your own company and the ability to plan every detail of your trip without someone else’s input is pretty great, too. I’ve had so many thought provoking conversations with myself while traveling alone and revel in the time to really think more critically about certain things away from many distractions of every day life. (This post I pretty much wrote in my head while on a solo trip in Paris.)
I also love that traveling solo can open you up to interesting conversations with people from other walks of life. On my most recent solo trip to Scandinavia I met and chatted with a bartender from New Jersey who ended up working the bar on cruise ships and then settled in Stockholm, a cardiovascular surgeon from Denmark and two women who lived in a neighboring town to the one in which I grew up!
If you’re curious about taking a trip alone, I truly can’t recommend it enough. I’d say dip your toe in it by choosing a place that doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch. I’ve had great solo trips in Paris, London, Bordeaux, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Nantucket and those are all spots that are great for traveling alone. Particularly London which is English-speaking and has loads to do.
A few tips for traveling alone:
Don’t just pack your bags and go. If you’re not prepared, you’re opening yourself up to unforeseen and potentially unsafe situations. Be sure to share your itinerary with loved ones (hotel reservations, flights, etc.), have the U.S embassies contact info on file and you can also register your trip with the State Department. The latter is something I actually didn’t know about until my most recent trip overseas but took the five minutes to do so for some added peace of mind.
Consider hotels over airbnbs.
I’m actually a huge fan of staying in apartments when I travel vs. in hotels but I had an Airbnb experience a couple of years ago where not once but twice someone was trying to get into the apartment I was staying in. I could hear them trying to unlock the door and every horrible scenario possible was flashing through my head as this happened. No one actually got in and I think it was a mistake rather but I resolved that when traveling alone it’s best to stay in a hotel. My one exception for apartment stays is Paris because I really love the smaller apartment rental agencies over there and I’m super comfortable in that city. Hotels can also be great assets for securing cabs, providing directions and booking you restaurant reservations – especially when there may be a language barrier.
Use Google offline maps.
While I’m all for getting lost on purpose when in a new place, if you’re alone it’s best to at least be somewhat familiar with where you are. Once you have a destination (say for example “Copenhagen”), put it into Google maps on your phone, click on the destination and then download the area. Google will save it for you within Maps so you can “walk around” the area despite having no data or wifi. You’ll see streets and the infamous blue dot will follow you. You can also easily look up addresses of places you’re looking to get to because Google has the area saved and is able to recall destinations. This is a lifesaver!
Use common sense.
You may feel fine walking home late at night in your home city or town but when you’re in a foreign place, spend the $10 and take an Uber or cab and ensure you’ll get home safely.
Pick places appropriately.
Thus far I have stuck to solo travel in Europe and North America because they are easy and not too intimidating. When it comes to picking places, I’d recommend going places that you’re going to feel safe exploring. I personally wouldn’t go anywhere too exotic or with a huge language barrier by myself.
Get over feeling awkward.
I’ve had so many people inquire after how I feel eating by myself saying they would feel too awkward to do so but frankly, I don’t mind it. Studying abroad in Paris taught me the normalcy of solo dining and when I travel alone nowadays I bring a book or I saddle up to a bar seat to enjoy a meal and chat with the bartender or guests surrounding me.
Lose the headphones.
I am not a person who always has headphones in but I know a lot of people addicted to doing so. When you’re traveling solo it is best to be more aware of your surroundings and not distracted so I recommend ditching your headphones when walking around. Plus, it is so much better to enjoy both the sights and sounds when experiencing a new place in my opinion!
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Honestly in the end, life is short and there’s so much of the world to see…so take the trip!
Hope you found this helpful! Tell me…have you ever traveled alone? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience! (By the way Conde Nast Traveler has a great list of places to travel solo in case you want to be inspired!)