Your first trip alone can be a daunting challenge. There are so many questions to answer before departing. For instance: Where should I travel alone for the first time? How should I prepare? What should I do when I’m there? Anyway, I hope my list of suggestions on how to travel alone for the first time will help you have a great first trip!
“People who have never traveled alone often describe their first solo trip as an almost religious experience. Traveling alone gives you the chance to indulge yourself fully, as stated by Smarter Travel”
Personally, I’ve traveled solo several times now. Also, my every next trip is better than the last one because I try to immerse myself in the local culture as best as I can. It may sound weird, but the more you travel alone, the more you hang out with different people. I was struggling at this at the start, but now I’m pretty confident about sharing fun experiences with complete strangers.
Traveling alone is much different than traveling with your partner because most of the times you won’t have anyone to talk to. You have to learn to enjoy the present moments and find someone to talk to.
There’s a common misconception that flying alone for the first time is very dangerous. However, I will try to explain why it’s no different than journies with your partner or friends below.
Where to travel alone for the first time?
When looking for the first place to visit, it should be somewhat familiar and comfortable.
Maybe there’s a place where you’ve been before and really liked it? For instance, I had visited England several times before finally traveling there alone (My first solo trip). It took the stress off the first time, plus I was already familiar with the country specifics.
Also, you should look for a country where English is easily understood and where you’re not the single tourist in the whole city. The reasoning behind this is that you will be able to immerse yourself with the natives easily and have some other tourists to talk to. Otherwise, your trip can get really lonely, especially the first one.
Some good destinations would be Croatia, Greece, Italy or Spain (if you like the warm weather), western Europe or Scandinavian countries. After your first trips, when you become accustomed to solo travel you can continue your exploration to further regions like Asia or India.
Before leaving, let your friends know where you’ll be
Before departing on your solo journey, you should let your family or loved ones know where you will be going. Even if you’re not close with your family, inform your closest friends.
It’s a good idea to send them your travel plan or maybe just let them know the city you’re staying in, just for the worst case scenarios. For instance, if someone goes missing, how would the local police know who to look for?
Also, if you’re active on Instagram or Facebook, you can use the location tagging feature to let everyone know your location.
Preferably, stay in a hostel or a guesthouse
If you don’t like hostels and guesthouses, you can quickly skip this tip. However, I advise you to participate in other social activities instead (Explained in the next tip).
When traveling alone for the first time, it’s best to stay in a social apartment, like a guesthouse or a hostel. You can easily connect with other tourists and travelers that are staying in the hostel. When making the dinner or when you’re on your way to your room, start asking how’s their day, how’s their trip so far, e.t.c.
By doing this, you will meet a lot of interesting people and most likely get to participate in other fun activities that they’re doing. For instance, once I started talking with the couple next doors, and it turned out that the next day we’re all planning on visiting the same place, so we went together.
Be active and join social activities
When flying alone for the first time, this must be my number one tip for enjoying your trip.
Usually, I like to sign up for at least one social activity for every day of my travel. Some examples could be kayaking, walking guides, hiking, food and wine tasting and so on. It leads to many rememberable experiences and new friends.
It’s easy to fall into tourist traps if you’re visiting a tourist-packed country during the season. You can avoid this by first checking local facebook groups for group activities, reading TripAdvisor reviews first, by talking to local people that you meet and if you’re staying in a guesthouse or hostel, from the other visitors or hosts. Be careful with hosts though, because sometimes they have some arrangements with tour guides.
At the end of the day, the success of your solo trip is determined by what experiences you got from it. And here’s a pro tip of mine: The best lessons come from activities experienced with other people. Even better if they’re complete strangers – That’s what makes the experience unique and worthwhile.
How to travel alone for the first time: Start talking with strangers
Many fear that solo travel can be depressive and lonely. However, I completely disagree with this.
Before solo traveling basically, I wasn’t talking to anyone. I don’t enjoy talking to strangers that much, however, it has helped me enjoy my solo travels. Not only that, you will become more knowledgeable and grow your social skills.
If you don’t follow this advice, especially if you’re a first-time solo traveler, you may start to experience loneliness. By talking with native people and other travelers, you will have better experiences and get to know their culture.
To some, this comes naturally, but my first conversations went really awkward. Don’t worry though because you will get better at it and just the first few seconds may be uncomfortable. Afterward, the discussion starts to flow naturally.
Make pictures with you in them
On my first solo trip, I mostly made pictures without myself in them. After the trip was finished and I was home, I started looking at my photos. At the time it didn’t strike me as a bad idea, but I was pretty disappointed that there were almost no pictures of me in them.
Basically, you have two options: Either you take a selfie or ask someone to take a photo of you. Or do you? Everyone has forgotten about the possibility in most cameras to take a delayed picture. Well, get used to it because it will become your savior.
I prefer to take photos in remote places where there are not many tourists. That way I can spend more time on making the perfect photo with the delayed timer. At the end of the day, you will have better pictures to share on your social profiles and something to remember your past experiences.
A backpack and a carry on is enough
You should enjoy the freedom that comes with traveling alone. And you can’t do that if you’ve brought much stuff with you. If you bring just a backpack and a carry-on, you will be much more flexible. Also, if you need a new carry on, you can read my massive guide on how to choose the best luggage brand for your needs.
My best 6 tips on how to pack light:
- Bring only one pair of comfortable shoes and one pair of sandals or flip-flops (Shoes take up a lot of space. Here’s how to pack shoes in a suitcase efficiently);
- Always roll up your clothes to save space;
- Leave the hair-dryer at home and pack all your toiletries in a toiletry bag;
- If you’re traveling to a warmer climate, leave the bulky jackets at home;
- Low-maintenance clothing is key to packing light: Mostly synthetic clothing;
- Purchase most toiletries at your destination country.
If this short list of tips wasn’t enough, be sure to check out this guide by Tortugabackpacks on how to pack light.
When traveling alone for the first time, it’s better to be safe
How to travel alone for the first time and be safe for the whole journey? Well, traveling alone for the first time isn’t that dangerous, but you should take some security measures for the worst possible scenarios nevertheless. It’s better to be prepared, right?
Firstly, I’d suggest that you e-mail a copy of your documents to your e-mail as well as to your loved one, in case they get stolen. Also, write down the local emergency numbers and consider purchasing travel insurance against theft.
Secondly, you shouldn’t be irresponsible. Most of the problems occur under the influence of alcohol. You can and should be enjoying yourself at the local bars, but be responsible and leave before midnight. (Nothing wrong if you stay a few hours more)
Lastly, listen to your guts more than anything else. If something feels like you’re getting scammed, get out of there and don’t worry about the situation getting awkward.
Try to look less like a tourist
To be safe, your wardrobe should value practicality over fashion. Don’t wear your most expensive clothes and accessories not to bring up too much attention and alert the nearest thieves. Also, you will have to carry less in your luggage.
When packing, go through this quick checklist to see if you’re dressed properly.
6 rules that will help you look like a local:
- No fancy clothes;
- No expensive watches;
- Keep your DSLR and phone in your backpack;
- Leave your expensive accessories at home;
- Follow the countries traditions (For instance for girls nothing too visible in the Arabic countries);
- Try to blend in with the locals.
Enjoy the freedom that comes with traveling alone
When else have you had the ability to cancel a hotel single-handedly or decide to stay at the hotel the whole day? When traveling with a partner, you’re limited to what the other person has to say, and sometimes it can be a bummer.
Your solo trips should be spontaneous and free. Don’t rush to make reservations for the whole trip and to plan your entire trip by the hour. The people you meet might suggest other more fun alternatives.
My advice is to leave some time for spontaneous stuff. For instance, you can go for a walk around the city and do everything as you go. This often leads to more fulfilled evenings and remarkable experiences.
Start practicing meditation
Lastly, I’d like to share a tip that helped me a lot with traveling alone. The thing that has helped me a lot is mediation. At first, I was kind of skeptical of it, until I tried it for a month.
Basically, meditation teaches you to experience the present moment and your surroundings and rest your mind for a few minutes per day. It makes you more present every day, more resistant to stress and anger and to be happy by yourself.
Being present and happy by yourself is exactly what you need to learn to fully experience the wonders that solo traveling can give you, so you might consider doing meditation. A good app for this that I personally use is Calm, but there are many other great free alternatives as well. They have many great free courses to get you started. By the way, if you know better alternatives, please let me know in the comments!
The last few pieces of advice for solo travelers
You should always prepare for your individual travels as well as regular trips. Traveling alone isn’t that much different.
Be sure not to look too flashy and stand out from the crowd. Take with you only what you need and let your friends know where you will be staying.
Lastly, remember to be spontaneous and have conversations with the locals. Immerse yourself, and you will thank me later.
That’s it. You’re all set and ready on how to travel alone for the first time!