On my first day of preschool, as my mom got out of the car to walk me inside, I insisted I didn’t need her help and waved goodbye, marching myself up the long sidewalk to the school doors. Excited little two-year-old me was ready to start the first day of the 20 years of schooling ahead of me.
That independence and yearning for knowledge and new experiences are characteristics that have only flourished with age and have played a major role in my passion for travel, especially solo, that was triggered when I studied abroad in college.
More and more women are traveling solo, and once you experience the energy and fulfillment that comes with it, you may find yourself addicted to traveling on your own. You get to do exactly what you want to do, without having to compromise with travel companion(s) or follow a set schedule.
If you’ve never traveled solo before, there is no better time to start than now! It’s the beginning of the new year; why not make your resolution to take a solo trip in 2016?
Use these tips for first-timers as your guide to taking your first solo adventure of many.
1. Take baby steps.
Making the leap to travel by myself was actually not a leap at all. It took a lot of baby steps to get there.
I traveled with family, friends, and groups first, and I did short weekend trips on my own around the United States, my home country. By doing more activities by yourself close to home, where the learning curve of adjusting to other cultures isn’t quite so steep, you can start getting used to being out of your comfort zone and navigating your surrounding by yourself.
Start with something small, like going to the movies alone or eating at a restaurant by yourself. Take a day trip into a nearby city to explore on your own. You could even stay the night in a hotel or hostel in that city. Simply getting used to spending time with yourself will make a big difference in being comfortable with solo travel!
2. Remember your purpose.
Are you embarking on your solo trip to explore new cultures? Maybe you want to give back to the community. Or are you simply heading off for a relaxing getaway?
Whatever your intention when jetting off on your own, let that be the guiding light to keep you positive along your journey — and before it. Having doubts before you depart (and even while you are traveling) is totally normal, but remembering your purpose will help to diminish any negative thoughts.
3. Hold your head high.
Not all negative thoughts you might experience about your trip will be internal. Sometimes your closest family and friends won’t support your decision to travel on your own, making it more difficult to feel confident about your upcoming endeavor.
Above all, know that your loved ones mean well, but hold your head high and stand behind your decision to venture off on the epic adventure you’ve been longing for.
4. Learn from others who have been there.
Use Wanderful or any other networks you have to find blogs that share advice about the destination to which you are traveling or someone who has already visited. Ask questions about what to pack, any cultural nuances you should be aware of, and other practical advice for that place.
Jen Palmer, Wanderful Pro Member, recommends asking your contact who has been there if they met any local contacts that you can reach out to if you need support and guidance on the ground. Not only is that useful as a safety pre-caution, but it’s also one of the best ways to find the local hotspots!
Putting in some extra time to prepare for your first solo trip will help ease you into your new environment as well. Learn some basic phrases in the language of your destination, research transportation methods before you arrive, and have a place to stay already booked by the time you get there.
5. Be open to meeting new people.
Traveling solo does not mean traveling alone. If you are aiming to spend quality “you” time with yourself, great! But if you would rather find other people to spend time with, there are so many opportunities for you to meet both locals and other travelers.
Wanderful member Lindsay Rubsam advises joining meetups through Meetup.com and renting a private room from Airbnb:
I look for hosts that take their airbnbers out, show them around, and bring them to hang around with their friends. I do this every time so even though I am solo traveling, I’m not really alone.
6. Embrace the unknown.
Find joy in the fact that you can eat dinner at 10 PM, wake up at dawn, or sleep until the afternoon if you want to. You may not know what you’re going to do the next day — and that’s okay!
While it may be more challenging when you are first adjusting, once you appreciate the interesting and unique aspects of each culture and place that you travel, you can embrace the spontaneity of solo travel.
I’ve come a long way since I was that two-year-old preschooler. Not only do I step out of my comfort zone for solo travel experiences, but I also cherish the time I have to spend traveling with myself. You may be surprised to learn how much you don’t know about yourself!
What solo travel tips would you add to the list? Share them in the comments below!