This past January, I impulsively took my first solo trip: a two week tour around England, Scotland and Ireland. Here I am, 12 months and 12 countries (in Europe, Africa, and now Asia) later, and it’s almost laughable to think of how nervous I was sitting at my gate before that relatively tame first trip! I just wrapped up my last solo leg of my Asia trip, and am having a blast traveling through Vietnam with one of my BFFs Sophie at the moment. Though it’s equally awesome to travel with friends, there’s just something about solo travel that’s different and special.
John Mayer gets it.
Over the past year, I’ve been keeping a note on my phone of solo travel tips; some of these tips are related to safety and stress relief, others are more lighthearted. Disclaimer: the feminist in me cringes at how some of these sound, but I’m just trying to be realistic given my experiences. Hope they’re helpful!
- Get over the stigma. Solo travel isn’t antisocial, lame, exceptionally dangerous, or whatever other labels you’re assigning to it. I had my own hesitations, but it has given me some of the most crazy and enjoyable experiences of my life! Start small and safe, and build up to your dream destinations.
- Exude confidence. Always (at least initially) act like you know where you’re going, what you’re doing, or who you’re meeting- even if this isn’t totally true. Sure, walking out of the airport in Botswana with only a faint idea of where your hostel is or how to get there can be scary… but looking the part is half the battle!
- Beer, emails, and “where are you from?” This sort of became my routine, especially in Africa this summer. I would check in to the hostel and head out to the hostel bar for a leisurely beer and an email-checking sesh. Often, I would have people come up to me, or I’d strike up a conversation with someone, by the time I had finished my drink. It’s a great way to multitask: get organized, relax, and make some friends for the night/your whole stay!
- Don’t overindulge. With that said, my rule when I’m alone is one drink when I’m out. One glass of wine, one beer, or one cocktail. If I’m with new friends that I’m comfortable with then this can change- but at least initially, best to stay alert! Funny story that’s somewhat related- I was waiting for a train at a cocktail bar next to the station in Edinburgh in January, and had a guy send me a drink with the note, “you’re too pretty to be stood up!” Excuse you, sir (and thanks btw), I actually enjoy my own company!
- Enjoy the heck out of your meals! I find dining alone to be such a luxury. While I’m a self-proclaimed ambivert and really love a rowdy meal with friends or a one-on-one catch up sesh, there’s just something equally special about sitting in a restaurant with a journal or kindle, sipping your wine and enjoying every bite of your food without interruption! Does that sound bad?? Maybe I just love food too much 🙂
- Trust your gut. I would argue that the past year has been a crash course in how to trust my intuition, time and time again. Odds are, if the Airbnb feels sketchy, it is. If the cheap transport option seems too good to be true, it definitely is. Etc, etc, etc.
- If you’re ever uncomfortable, lie. Thankfully I’ve only ever had to employ this strategy a couple of times, but if my gut is sending uneasy signals up to my brain, I’ll lie to whoever I’m avoiding and say that I’m meeting a friend. I’ve faked phone conversations in earshot of cab drivers, lied to probably-harmless-and-just-overeager guys at bars, etc. It works.
- Enjoy your mornings! I’ve slowly become a morning person as a solo traveler, as this is when it’s most comfortable for me to be out wandering around alone, for both safety reasons and otherwise. Tea, blogs, books, itinerary planning, a yummy breakfast, and a way to beat the heat and the crowds. So many positives!
- Limit the social media scrolling. Sometimes the irony of these “social” apps is that they can make us feel the most isolated! Especially on Thanksgiving this year, I tried to stay off my phone to keep the FOMO at bay. Being present is such a hard thing to do, but traveling solo has been a great practice for me to practice that this year.
- Stay connected. In that same vein, though, social media can be an awesome way to feel included in your friend/family networks even from across the world. I’ve loved keeping up with group chats and family instas in my travels.
- Pamper yourself. I’m not talking spa treatments every day, but you know what I mean. Travel is hard work! Moisturize, floss, paint your nails, wear perfume, anything to take great care of yourself.
- Binge on blogs. One of the luxuries of solo travel is that you are totally uninhibited in the amount of time you can dedicate to leisurely reading. I’ve loved my Kindle content, but one of my favorite ways to kick a pang of loneliness to the curb is by reading some favorite blogs that remind me of the good ole’ US of A. Cupcakes and Cashmere for domestic tranquility and quirky culture, A Cultured Pearl for perusing all things preppy and intellectual, Studio McGee for design goodness and family vibes, and Lonestar Southern for lighthearted fashion inspo.
- Have someone keeping tabs on you. Have a detailed google doc itinerary that you can share with a family member or friend so you have a few guardian angels on your side!
- Do some yoga. Get those positive vibes flowing before or after a long day of sightseeing. I’ve been loving the Down Dog Yoga App as well as the Manduka 3mm EkoLite Travel Mat from Nordstrom for this precise purpose. The app creates playlists for your practice so you get some new music as an added bonus!
- Write it out. Solo travel is prime introspection time, so what better way to record these revelations than by writing them in a cute journal? My littlest Mady gave me this adorable personalized one from May Designs that I’ve been using on my trip.