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Traveling Alone: How to Travel Alone for the First Time

Since 2008, I’ve been traveling around the world – most of that time alone. Sometimes I’ve travelled with boyfriends or friends for a short period of time, but generally I fly solo. 

It was both nerve-wracking and exciting the first time I ever traveled alone. However I can honestly say that traveling solo has changed my life and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

How to travel alone

Traveling alone will make you AWESOME because it’ll make you grow as a person. You’ll make so many friends, feel liberated, and you’ll become so much more confident in your own skin. I think even the biggest introverts would benefit from taking a solo trip!

There are so many benefits to traveling solo. You meet so many more people this way BECAUSE you are alone.

Yes, solo travel will make you way cooler. 

  • You’ll be more sociable– When you are alone you have 2 options: sit there in your room alone twiddling your thumbs, or go out and talk to people. If you don’t have a group of friends to fall back on, you are are forced to socialise and make new friends. You learn how to talk to strangers and get better at making conversation.
  • It’s a huge confidence boost- Once you’ve mastered talking to strangers, your confidence will increase and you’ll come out of your shell a lot more!
  • You’ll have friends around the world- When you travel solo you are never really alone. In fact, sometimes you would actively have to try to be alone! By the end of your travels you will have so many new international friends, which is great because you can go visit them in the future!
  • You become strong and independent- When you have to organise flights, accommodation, transport and directions all by yourself, you become self-sufficient and a much more capable person. When friends travel together there is inevitably one person that does all the organising, while the other takes a back seat. I have been in that situation where I have let someone else do all the planning, and I felt a little bit useless.
  • You get smarter and sexier– Being strong and independent is kinda sexy don’t you think? Travel makes you smarter because your geography improves, you discover new cultures, learn new languages and develop all sorts of new skills. People are attracted to that.

If you’ve stumbled across my site and you need some convincing to get off your ass and travel on your own, read on, because I’m going to give you some bad-ass tips on how to travel alone.

First, let’s deal with the question…is it weird to travel alone?

You might be wondering “will people think I’m weird if I travel alone?”

No, they won’t.

There are plenty of people who travel solo. Like me!

I see men and women traveling alone all the time, and I don’t think it’s weird.

Sometimes people say to me, “Wow you’re so BRAVE traveling alone!” Well I don’t think I’m particularly brave because it comes so naturally to me, but at least I don’t get people saying, “What’s wrong with you?! Why do you have no friends?”

I have friends, in fact I’ve met most of my friends from traveling around the world!

The thing is, most of my friends are not travel writers or bloggers. They have jobs, homes and commitments so it’s difficult for them to schedule a vacation or time away.

I also happen to enjoy traveling alone because I can do what I like, whenever I like! I love the freedom it gives me and the only person I can argue with is myself. If I’m enjoying a place and I want to stay a bit longer, I can. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission or come to a compromise.

That’s not to say I don’t like traveling with people, because I do enjoy having someone to share things with, but it’s a completely different experience.

So have I convinced you to travel alone? Yeah? Good.

Here are some tips I’ve gathered from all those years of traveling alone.

Solo Travel Tips

Decide where to go

If you’re a little nervous about traveling solo then your destination can make all the difference. For a first time traveller I recommend somewhere like Australia or Europe. The east coast of Australia has a well-trodden backpacker circuit, lots of hostels, and you can easily get around with the Oz Experience bus pass.

Similarly Europe is safe and backpacker friendly, with lots of luxury hostels and party hostels popping up all over the place. You can easily travel from country to country with a rail pass from Rail Europe. Start with countries you are most comfortable with, then perhaps work your way up to Southeast Asia or South America, where things might be more of a culture shock.

Let someone know where you are

I have to confess, I am pretty bad at this one because I never have a set itinerary and when I’m having fun, the last thing I think about is calling home! If you know your flight details, dates and accommodations, write it all down on a piece of paper and leave it with your mother, father, relative or friend.

Don’t end up like that guy in the movie 127 hours, who didn’t tell anyone where he was going and ended up trapped under a boulder.

Photocopy your passport and driver’s licence, then email it to yourself just in case these documents get lost. I always keep my travel insurance policy number in my purse, along with any emergency numbers.

Keep in contact with people via text message, email, Facebook, Twitter or Skype whenever you can, so that someone knows you are safe and sound. If you’re going off-the-grid for a few days, for example on a trek, let someone know.

This might sound a bit strange, but I have a secret code word with my mother, so that if something is wrong, I can tell her over the phone without anyone knowing. If you’re going to do this, I suggest picking an obscure word or phrase that wouldn’t come up in your normal conversations, as this could lead to confusion!

Stay in hostels

Hostels are definitely THE best place to meet people. They are full of solo travelers! It is so easy to meet people in your dorm room or in the hostel common areas, plus some hostels have their own bar where you can socialise over a few drinks!

I have found that picking smaller hostels with good common areas is best because it is easier to socialise. Read the reviews on Hostelworld to see what people say before you book and check out this awesome list of the best party hostels in the USA if you’re planning to travel the US.

These are the most social hostels I have ever stayed in and the ones that stick in my mind the most:

Check out my guide to booking budget accommodation. I have booked my hostels through Hostelworld ever since I started traveling.

Be prepared for some alone time

Sometimes, you will be alone. Yes you will meet lots of people, but sometimes you have to say goodbye and move to another location. But rest assured, you will meet NEW friends in the next place! Don’t be afraid to move on.

I always carry my Amazon Kindle everywhere with me, just in case there’s that awkward moment where I’m sitting around waiting and I don’t know what to do. Carry a book, a newspaper, a magazine, iPad or something to do for those long journeys or when you’re dining alone.

As much as I like socialising and partying, I also like my alone time and rest now and again.

Consider a Tour

If you’re not so confident about traveling solo, you might want to consider booking a tour so you can make friends with people in your tour group. If you pick the right tour, it can be a lot of fun! The best tour I ever did was my Paddywagon tour of Ireland; I’ll never forget it. I have never laughed so much and drank so much Guinness!

If you’re looking for reputable tour company, try G Adventuresor STA Travel.

Respect the local culture

Make sure you respect the local culture in the country you’re visiting. For example, when I visited Morocco, I covered up my arms and legs by wearing leggings and a cardigan. I didn’t want to be hassled, and I didn’t want to attract any unnecessary attention. If you’re in a poor country where you know theft is very common, don’t wear your best jewellery and flash your cash around because someone is going to notice!

Pre-arrange accommodation

You don’t have to plan ALL your accommodation in every place you’re going to visit. Sometimes it’s nice to go with the flow and be able to change your mind on a whim. Sometimes you meet some cool people and decide you want to travel with them for a bit.

But DO pre-arrange your accommodation before you arrive at your next destination. If you know the address and directions, then you can get there swiftly and safely without any hassle. In Vietnam every time I got off a night bus there were people waiting trying to get me to stay at various guesthouses, and I had no idea where they were or  what they would be like. By pre-booking, I managed to bypass all the hassle and I could quickly tell a tuk-tuk driver where I needed to go.

Which brings me to another point; it’s a good idea to ask the owner of your accommodation how much it should cost to get there so you don’t get ripped off.

Follow your instincts

If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Remember how grown ups always told you “Don’t talk to strangers”? Well when traveling I actively ENCOURAGE you to talk to strangers. But trust your own judgement. If someone seems a little weird or your accommodation is a bit sketchy, get out of the situation as soon as you can!  Most of the time it’s just about common sense.

If you’re a solo female…

Solo Female Travel

I regularly receive emails from females who are thinking about traveling alone, but need some reassurance.

You will NOT be the first female to ever travel alone!

I have met lots of other solo female travelers on the road and they ROCK!

The biggest concern for women traveling alone is safety.

Ladies, as a female in a foreign country you may get some extra attention from the men. I have blonde hair and blue eyes, which means I can get quite a lot of attention in countries where most people have dark hair and dark skin. Which is why I follow these rules:

  • Cover up in certain countries– In places like Southeast Asia and North Africa I dress conservatively to respect their culture. I dress on the conservative side by covering my knees and shoulders, and I carry a scarf in my bag just in case. If you go to Tunisia and wander the streets in teeny tiny shorts and a tank top, people will stare, and they will hassle you! So don’t have the attitude of “I’ll wear what I wear at home”, because it is actually very disrespectful. I wore leggings and a cardigan in Morocco, and I bought a long skirt for my time in Myanmar.
  • If strange men whistle at you or try to talk to you in the street, ignore it- In Europe the guys tend to make a hissing sound when I walk past, but I just don’t make eye contact and keep on walking. If you hear a guy whistle at you, or someone approaches you in the street and asks you where you’re going, it’s fine to ignore it and just walk on by. If you make eye contact and engage in conversation, it’s a lot harder to get out of the situation.
  • Be vague about where you are staying– Sometimes you might be on a bus or a train and you’ll get chatting to someone new. Sometimes it’s easy to divulge too much information, so try to be vague about your accommodation and perhaps say you are meeting friends. If I feel uncomfortable in any way, I try not to make it obvious I am traveling alone.
  • Try to look like you know where you are going– I always walk with purpose and not look lost (even if I am). I try to carry a map and use the GPS on my phone so that this never happens! At night time stick to well lit areas or walk with others, and avoid any areas that you know to be unsafe.
  • Don’t get your drink spiked– Sadly there are people out there that will spike drinks. Always keep your drink in sight and only accept drinks from people you trust. If it looks like your drink has been tampered with or it tastes funny, put it down.

Some people suggest carrying pepper spray or a safety whistle, but I have never carried any of them. If you’re looking for some practical tips, I suggest reading my long list of solo female travel tips which features over 50 practical tips for solo female travel.

So there you have it. Don’t be afraid to travel alone, because it is such a rewarding experience and your life will never be the same again! You will grow so much as a person, develop confidence and even do things you never thought you’d be brave enough to do!

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