The idea of solo travel can be scary. Especially if the travel is for pleasure, not business, where your time will be occupied with work-related events and meetings. The idea of leaving it all behind—traversing the globe all by your lonesome—can be frightening for
It certainly was for me. But after I got tired of waiting for others to get on board with my travel desires, I was forced to pull the trigger or give up. I chose to pull the trigger, and it was one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. I had such a memorable experience that I would definitely do it again in the future.
And you can have the same thing. But before you embark on that journey, there are some considerations to take to ensure an unforgettable trip. Below are my reflections, having just taken my first solo trip, for newbies and experienced travelers alike, on how to have an amazing solo excursion.
1. Know thyself and to thine own self be true.
You are planning a trip for yourself. You don’t have to take anyone else into consideration, and only have to worry about yourself. That is so liberating.
If can also be daunting. In order to do this, you have to know yourself. Sit down, think about, and even make a list of what you want and need in a vacation. Put together a compilation of what you are trying to accomplish and what you are trying to avoid relating to your trip. Assess the type of person that you are. If you are introverted, putting yourself in a situation of forced communication or mixing and mingling may doom your trip before you start. Conversely, an extrovert may not need to go to a silence retreat (unless you are searching for something you believe silence can give you). Assess the type of person you are and what makes you happy. This is all about happiness and expanding your horizons, so it pays to know what your horizons are.
2. Choose a destination/hotel/activities that fit your needs.
Tying into tip #1, make sure to assess your wants and needs for this particular adventure, and make sure to research various aspects to help achieve what you are looking for in a solo excursion.
Are you looking for cultural exploration? You may want to consider a guided tour. Burnt out from work? Then perhaps a relaxing beach vacation would be up your alley. But if you are looking for quiet reflection and relaxation, New York City may not be the answer for you (newsflash: It is NEVER quiet). Assess all that you are looking to accomplish and pick a destination that allows for those activities and options.
3. Manage Your Expectations.
Your solo trip will be what you make it. That being said, remember that things don’t always go as planned and stuff comes up. You can’t plan every detail of any trip, and inevitably, unexpected things happen. So manage your expectations on perfection. Adapt and go with the flow. Don’t expect everything to go without flaw. Nothing in life works like that, so why would your trip be any different?
4. Occupy Yourself.
One of the biggest tricks of solo travel is to occupy yourself. While you don’t need to plan every minute of every day (you want to leave some room for spontaneity based on how you feel that day), plan out some activities for yourself. Everywhere has various options for travelers to the area. Just know what you like to do, and assess what occupies your mind before you go. Love to read? Pack lots of book and magazine options. Love photography? Go on a walking tour of the city or a bus tour to a scenic, nature setting. Love to be pampered? A spa is the answer. Foodie? Check out local food tours and cooking classes and get recommendations on the best local spots to try.
5. You will feel lonely at some point. And that’s okay.
Don’t expect to go the entire trip without having a lonely moment. Or longer than a moment. It’s natural. Human beings are social creatures. When we are alone for an extended period of time, it is normal to feel a bit lonely.
But you can use that loneliness to your advantage, to better yourself. When I had a lonely moment, I reflected. I thought things over. I used that time to determine what was really making me lonely, or was there something underneath that I needed to process. And once I went through that exercise, I came out the other side for the better and much stronger. If you prefer a different approach, use that loneliness to push you to meet new people. Everyone hangs out by the pool, the bar, etc. Go down and chat with new people. Make new friends. You never know, those people you meet may turn into something greater going forward.
6. Savor the moment and take it all in.
Just as with any trip, savor your time away. And especially with a solo trip, relish in your alone time. It won’t be long before you are back to your daily grind, with spouses or children or bosses or co-workers making demands on your time and energy, so enjoy the solitude away from it all. For most of us, it is not often that we are able to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. So live it up while you have the chance.
If you tend to be extroverted and social butterfly, connect with travel communities or ask well-traveled friends if they have any connections where you are going. You may be surprised, as I was, that there were a number of connections in Panama at the same time I was, and I was able to have a great mix of alone time and time spent hanging out with others and experiencing local life from a different perspective.
8. Go where you are comfortable…but step outside the box.
Also know as don’t be so scary. Of course, certain factors have to be taken into consideration, especially regarding solo travel. If you are a woman traveling alone, after conducting in depth research, there may be certain destinations that you decide you want to avoid. Additionally, political, social, and religious climates may also be a factor to consider. Wherever you choose based on your needs, you want to decide on somewhere that you think you can feel somewhat comfortable because you don’t want to be so worried about safety that you are paralyzed with fear.
But that being said, still step outside the box and explore. Go somewhere that makes you slightly uncomfortable, so that you can grow and evolve. You don’t want to totally shelter yourself, and remember, nowhere—even at home—is 100% safe. Branch out a bit so you can learn more about the world.
9. Reserve Judgment. Do it once.
We can think of excuses to get out of everything. Or perhaps you just don’t think solo travel would be something you would enjoy, for any number of reasons. But reserve those judgments and just do it once. If you don’t like it after trying it, then you don’t have to do it again, but at least you will have some foundation for your decision. But it is something that I recommend everyone try once. Who knows… you may learn more about yourself than you think.
Sound off! For those who have taken a solo expedition, what are some of your tips for solo travelers?
Photo Credits: Suitcase: Shutterstock/ Tlikoff Photography. Swing: Shutterstock/Antonio Guillem. Signs: Shutterstock/ Strejman. Hands: Shutterstock/Junial Enterprises