Traveling solo is an empowering and deeply personal experience. Everybody’s solo travel story is different. Although it’s a unique and eye-opening experience it tends to get tough, lonely and scary.
If you’re about to embark on a solo traveling venture for the first time, congrats – that’s a bold move. To make your experience as less uncomfortable as possible, here are some suggestions to keep in mind.
First and foremost:
It’s going to be uncomfortable
Accept this and make the most out of this feeling. There will be nights when you just can’t get a good night’s sleep. Maybe you won’t be able to communicate what you need in a grocery store. Maybe you’ll have to be more demanding than you’re used to. Maybe you’ll have to come up to strangers to ask questions, more than you’re used to. Maybe you’ll have to come up to strangers to make friends, because you’ve been feeling kind of lonely. All of that is part of the “traveling solo” process.
But, feeling uncomfortable is okay. Don’t feel guilty or spoiled because of that. It gets easier with each new turn. Maybe you’ll find out that you’re not really that shy and that you actually like meeting new people. Or that you don’t really have that big of a problem with asking what you want – new surroundings and new situations help you discover some personal qualities that were buried somewhere deep inside your comfort zone.
Prepare all, but be ready to improvise
As with all travel plans, it’s a smart move to be prepared for anything: find accommodation, check the food prices, learn something about the culture of the country you’re visiting. The last thing you’d like is to insult somebody for entering their home while still wearing shoes – which is insulting in some countries. The good news is that according to market research firm Technavio, the global adventure tourism market will grow at a CAGR of nearly 46% during through 2022 and it will be even easier to travel solo in the future.
Keep in mind that even if you plan out everything perfectly, there will be times where you’ll maybe miss a train – so you’ll have to find accommodation for an extra night you’re staying there. Maybe you’ll get sick, and you’ll be obliged to stay in one place for more than you planned on staying. In relation to this – it’s an extremely smart move to find the right health insurance, especially if you plan on traveling to exotic countries. Be ready to be flexible and to improvise, but take care of things that you can control. You can always learn some survival techniques and find an adequate anti-theft backpack.
So, prepare an “anxiety toolbox” for yourself, which will help soothe your anxiety in these situations. It might be a body scan meditation or a grounding technique. What I find most effective for myself is to stop, take a deep breath, observe and list five things that are surrounding me. This brings me back to my rational self that tells me it’s going to be fine and what are the next steps (e.g. asking someone on the street for the nearest hostel). But, this is what works for me; you should find something that will soothe you the best.
And, last but not least:
Traveling solo can be tough. You’ll get tired, lonely, indifferent. Things, once buried deep inside you, will come up. While solo travel will make you get out of your comfort zone a lot, you can and should take a break on occasions, especially if you plan on traveling for longer periods of time. Listen to your body and your emotions. Sometimes, things can just be too much for us. Don’t push yourself too far.
If you’re tired – stay in a hostel for the day, watch your favorite series, call a friend, enroll language school or download an app for learning the language. If you’re lonely – find a group hobby in a place you’re visiting. Almost every city now has a yoga studio, which can be a win-win for you. While doing yoga you can meet new people and it can help you relax and feel better about yourself. So, maybe consider bringing a yoga mat and yoga pants with you.
Whatever emotions you’re experiencing during this process, recognize and accept them. Don’t judge yourself. Solo travel can be hard, and while it brings lots of joys, new experiences, exciting new stories – don’t feel like a failure if, at times, you’re feeling low. It’s all part of the process. At the end of the journey, you’ll see how many boundaries you’ve pushed and how you became a stronger, more resilient self, without even noticing it.