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What’s it Like Traveling Alone?

For me, traveling alone has become second nature.

But when I first left the UK to travel alone, I had this tiny worry in the back of my head that people would think I was a bit weird. Perhaps they would think I have no friends or that I lacked social skills. Although this is far from the case, I felt that people would judge me because I wasn’t traveling with friends.

I also worried that maybe I wouldn’t make any new friends and I would spend my entire trip alone. Of course, that wasn’t the case. I met lots of other women traveling solo, and I made lots of friends. I still keep up with many of those people today via that brilliant utility that is Facebook.

I travel alone for 2 reasons:

1) Because I enjoy the freedom it gives me. I can go where I want, when I want. It’s incredibly liberating to know the only person you have to please is yourself. Traveling alone is character building and it really encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and talk to other travellers. My confidence increased ten-fold because I had to walk into a room and strike up conversations with complete strangers.

2) If I waited for my friends to come traveling with me, I’d be waiting a very long time. Most of my friends from the UK have 9 to 5 jobs and they can only get a couple of weeks off per year. I work as a ‘digital nomad’ and can take my job with me. I sometimes arrange to meet up with other long-term travellers if we’re going to cross paths, but we all tend to have different agendas and countries we want to visit.

The biggest step is booking the ticket.

The scariest thing is just taking that first step. But trust me, once you touch-down in your destination, you’ll wonder what you were ever worried about.

So, back to my question, what’s it like traveling alone?

On the whole, it’s brilliant. I usually stay in hostels so that I can meet other backpackers, so I don’t really notice that I’m alone.

I’ve made a ton of friends- more than I would have made back home. The last three years of travel for me, have completely changed my life. Here are some of my top tips for solo travellers:

Stay in places where you’re likely to meet people

Hostels are great places for meeting like-minded travellers. When you’re trying to choose a hostel, read the reviews and choose somewhere that gets a good write-up. In my experience, smaller hostels tend to have a more social atmosphere.

Strike up conversation and be social

When I arrive in a hostel, I make sure I introduce myself to the people in my room and shake their hand. I’ll strike up the usual conversation of “what’s your name/where have you just come from/where are you going next?” This conversation can get a bit monotonous when you’ve done it hundreds of times, but it’s the best way to get to know someone. In the evening, I buy something to drink and sit in the common area since this is the best place to socialize with the rest of the people in your hostel.

Don’t be afraid to ask “Do you mind if I join you?” if the friends you’ve just made are going out for dinner or drinks (Make sure you’re not too clingy though- see note below). Walking tours, pub crawls, organised day trips and other events are a brilliant way to make friends. If you spot a fellow solo traveller, then even better, as they’re usually keen to pair up to go sightseeing. Penetrating bigger groups can be a bit more difficult because they have no need for more additions to their circle.

Don’t be too clingy

I’ve overheard conversations in hostels before about that person that is being a bit too clingy. Try to gauge peoples’ reactions and behaviour towards you- if someone doesn’t seem particularly receptive to you, don’t push them to talk or hang out. If you’re getting along great and the person invites you to do something, then fantastic. But if you feel like you’re being given the cold shoulder, then find someone else to hang out with.

Be comfortable in your own skin

Traveling alone teaches you to be comfortable in your own skin. I do things for me and not for anybody else. I don’t need other people to enjoy myself, although company is always nice to have.

Let people know where you are and be aware of your surroundings

On a safety note, there are a few rules I try to follow. I am responsible for my own safety, so if I go out drinking, I always try to make sure I’m aware of my location and that I’m able  to get home on my own.

If I am moving between countries, I let friends or family know when I’ve arrived safely. I leave a copy of my travel insurance documents and scans of my passport with my parents. I always dress in appropriate attire for the country I am visiting.

If I’m walking through the street and I see a fight or something that looks dodgy, I take an alternative route.

I am trusting of other people, but I also like to think I am a good judge of character.

Bottom line: if something doesn’t feel right, then follow your instincts.

What are your top tips for travelling alone?

5 thoughts on “What’s it Like Traveling Alone?”

  1. Love this post from start to finish and could not agree more. It’s funny how even after a bunch of solo trips that decision to book to somewhere new is always a bit nerve-racking.

    The other thing i’ve found is the more I travel solo, the more select I have to be when traveling with friends. Not only because we need to be a good travel match, but because I need to be mindful of how my travel has changed with experience, vs. what the experience a novice or intermediate traveler wants/needs/and should be able to enjoy.

    Love the point about hostels and reaching out to people. It really is all about becoming a more confident initiator, more inclusive when you’re in the group, and about building comfort.

  2. Fantastic post, Victoria! I’m only a few weeks into my big solo-travel adventure and I can resonate with all of the above – well except the food thing. i’m a typical, bad multi-tasker of a man and I’m very comfortable eating alone.

    Solo travel is certainly confidence building and I agree that there is a labour of love when you see another solo traveller and get on well. One question – how do you manage to balance out your work, when in a hostel?

  3. I think it’s fair to say that traveling solo doesn’t mean you have to be alone, especially when there’s hostels & the Couchsurfing community. And I agree, I still get the jitters when I go somewhere solo, and I’ve been traveling for 7 years. But that’s what makes it still exciting!

  4. Nice post Victoria, I think you touch on a lot of things that people can identify with about solo travel. I’ve always enjoyed it, I’ve also gone off and lived in countries on my own (Japan and Spain). I find the daytimes are good, but the evenings can be lonely if you aren’t staying in a hostel as you say. Many female travellers have said the same thing to me, we aren’t always comfortable going into a bar on our own. You may be interested to hear about a website I’m launching in January, called Invite For A Bite (if not please look away now 🙂 ). Female travellers who don’t want to eat alone can use it to hook up with other women who don’t want to eat alone and. . . eat together! A kind of MealSurfing if you like. . . Some people are a bit too shy to say ‘Can I join you?’. I’ve heard about a female traveller who ate KFC for their entire holiday so as not have to appear lonely in a restaurant. A particular problem for women perhaps. . Happy travels!

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