Traveling alone takes resilience and an open mind. It takes courage and stepping out of your comfort zone. Traveling solo is something everyone should do at least once in their lives. It helps you learn to be comfortable with yourself … to appreciate silence, and most importantly it helps you uncover the deep ends of your cognitive spectrum. The biggest excuse I hear all the time is, “I really want to share my experiences with someone else, that’s why I’d never travel alone.” You don’t always have to share your experiences with someone else – you’d be shocked to discover how different your surroundings are when you see them through your own lense without anyone else’s two cents. And hey, nowadays everyone is always texting so you can, technically, share your experiences with someone else real time ! I took my first real solo trip to Paris & Barcelona, spending three days in each. Both places were incredibly wealthy with beautiful places to see and things to do, so I was always busy. Below are some things I learned to do (and not do) during my trip.

Do’s

1. PLAN

I’ve traveled many times without a plan of action but when traveling solo you want to make sure that you’re always keeping busy. Click here to see my preliminary itinerary for Abu Dhabi / Dubai. I had a plan A, B, and C just in case. This was extremely helpful with time management and kept me busy all day, every day. The internet is a great source of information for all types of activities and prices and I recommend that you pre-book any tours or events that interest you ! If you’re looking for more in-depth guides, one of my favorites is Approach Guides.

2.FIND PHOTOGRAPHERS

I am always scared of asking people on the street to take photos because I once saw a young man run away with a woman’s camera after she asked him to take a picture. I don’t run so fast so I don’t want to take my chances. But there is no way I am leaving Paris without a picture in front of Versailles ! Asking photographers is the best way to not only get a very professional photograph of yourself, but to also feel safe that your phone or camera is likely in good hands. You know that guy with the huge camera lense, the one that’s  getting on his knees or even laying down to get a good shot  ? – Yeah, ask him.

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3. TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY

It goes without saying that you should have a working phone while traveling alone. Make sure to call your telephone provider and set up international roaming on your device or buy a sim card overseas. Equally important is telling your friends and family members about your whereabouts. I like to tell whomever I speak to the most about what I am doing and where I am going. We always establish a “cue” word, so in case anything happens to me, I send the cue and they take action.

4. LIE

Yes, you read that correctly. While I love making friends all over the world, it always takes some time to become friendly and trustworthy. If you’re traveling solo, don’t boast about it. Unless you feel absolutely comfortable, and unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t tell anyone that you’re traveling alone or where you are staying. 

5. READ & WRITE

If you are always keeping busy and following your itinerary, you will seldom get lonely. I always keep my journal around and enjoy sitting in beautiful places and writing. A good alternative to the latter is reading. Writing will help you have a discussion with yourself about what you see – factoring out anyone else’s preferences and prejudices. If writing’s not your thing, an interesting book can take you to some wonderful places and help relieve the potential feeling of loneliness. One of my favorite travel books is Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott.

Dont’s

1. EXCHANGE MONEY

While it’s important to have some cash on you at all times for emergency situations and what I like to call “play money” (street food, souvenirs, etc), exchanging money in a foreign country can be very pricey and even dangerous. Airports and trusted names like Western Union charge sky high fees for money exchange. If absolutely necessary, exchange money before traveling – otherwise, consider getting a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. In big cities you can check out with major credit cards practically everywhere so set up a budget and use a card. 

2. USE POPULAR BOOKING SITES 

If you’ve never noticed before, itineraries become significantly more expensive when you choose one passenger as opposed to two or more. Rather than using websites such as Expedia or Travelocity or Orbitz … use tripmasters.com, which has some great customizable itineraries for solo travel. Or, consider booking your flight and hotel separately. I’ve found that booking separately for a single passenger can save you a significant amount of money and it gives you a lot more freedom to choose flight times and hotels that you want rather than what websites offer you as combination deals. 

3. LISTEN TO FRIENDS & FAMILY

When I first told some people about my solo travel plans at a family party – they told me that I am out of my mind. There was even one family member who voiced her concerns to my parents, suggesting that they talk me out of my crazy idea. Hearing condescending things like the latter can be seriously harmful to your plans. There will always be people who disagree with you and in many cases it’s simply because they have never done it. You should always be taking advice only from those that have previously done what you’re planning on doing. Even so, avoid having any preliminary conversations about your plans with anyone that you feel won’t appreciate it as much as you do. 

4. BE IGNORANT

I’m guessing that you chose where you want to go because you are genuinely interested in exploring and learning during your trip. Don’t make the mistake of not researching common practices and etiquette of the place you’re visiting. What may seem normal to you can be considered disrespectful or rude somewhere else. You should always respect the places you are visiting and by doing so you also avoid any extra or unnecessary attention to yourself. Likewise, prep some essential local language skills and know how to ask for things such as directions, and basic needs. Not knowing how to say simple things can put you at an extreme disadvantage when you’re in a foreign country. 

5. BE ALONE

What do you mean don’t be alone if I’m traveling solo ?

Staying in public places will help you feel more safe. Don’t constantly remind yourself that you’re on your own, because you’re not. Remember, someone back home has to know about your whereabouts at all times. Likewise, if you ever feel like you’re in an uncomfortable situation and want to get out of a conversation you should always say something along the lines of “I’m meeting my friends here, nice to meet you though !” or “My parents are meeting me here for dinner so … BYE!” 

My friend wrote the following in her journal before traveling solo to The Netherlands:

“I’m going to enjoy every second, and I’m going to know I’m enjoying it while I’m enjoying it. Most people don’t live; they just race. They are trying to reach some goal far away on the horizon, and in the heat of the going they get so breathless and panting that they lose sight of the beautiful, tranquil country they are passing through; and then the first thing they know, they are old and worn out, and it doesn’t make any difference whether they’ve reached the goal or not.’ – Jennifer Leah Faybusovich

 

This speaks a lot of volume – consider it before you go away. Explore: explore the world, explore the deepest parts of your mind, and live the only life you’re given.