Though I only technically had one night and two days travelling a new country/city on my own, I still think it counts for something! Through this experience here are the things I learned about solo travel – illustrated in gifs, cause our generation loves that shit.
1. Book on Hostelworld
This website is the hub of all hostels and my saviour when it came to planning all my trips. I probably stayed at 15 or more hostels during my time abroad, and not once was I sketched out. Hostelworld compares all the hostels in the area by price and rating by previous guests. There’s an overall rating shown (I stick to ones with overall ratings of 80+) and ratings for things like security, atmosphere, facilities, staff, location, cleanliness, etc. Especially as a solo traveller, I weigh my options more heavily on location (so I can walk around at night), atmosphere (so I can meet people), and security (for obvious reasons). Staying in a hostel will save you so much money, and is an experience that everyone should have.
2. Map your routes beforehand and take screenshots
Maps.me and TripAdvisor Guides were the most useful apps. Maps.me was an offline app where you could track your location and your orientation in any city. You just have to pre download the map of the country or region before you go. TripAdvisor Guides work offline so you can star the spots you want to see and determine how far you are and how to get there. It’s also a good way to keep note of all the places you want to see. Other than the apps, make sure to screen cap directions getting to and from your hostel, etc. It makes things so much easier! Don’t get lost.
3. Selfies are embarassing
Selfies are embarrassing to take in public places, so I mostly took scenery shots. I only managed to take two selfies, and as you can see from the post’s featured image, I was feeling a bit awks. Selfie sticks are more embarrassing but produce better results (I didn’t have one though). Asking a stranger to take your picture is easy, just make a judgement call and ask someone who’s unlikely to steal your phone/camera (I may be paranoid on that front). Warning, when a stranger takes your photo you will most likely do a boring/awkward smiling pose.
4. Make sure you properly charge your phone (and your backup charger)
We all rely on our phones; it’s a life support. But you never realize how much you rely on it until your phone charger doesn’t work and you are in a foreign country by yourself. I 100% recommend buying an external battery to give your phone a second life. To my luck, both the phone and the charger were on the verge of death, and it wasn’t even night yet! There was no one roaming the hostel, I even tried knocking on a door or two. So with my last bit of battery, I emailed the hostel front desk (which was oddly on the other side of the city) and someone came to the rescue. They had a box of chargers that were left behind by previous guests, I just needed to return it when I checked out.
5. You can eat whatever you want whenever you want
Are you constantly hungry? Do you want to try ALL the foods? Then solo travel may be just what you need! I’m not saying I stuffed my face with food, but whenever I wanted to eat and whatever I wanted to eat, I could just go and eat it! I had mussels and fries for dinner at 3pm and a Belgian waffle for dessert at 7pm just cause that’s what I felt like doing.
6. Your schedule is totally flexible
Do what you want when you want! Feeling lazy? Sleep in longer. Want to cram all the attractions in one day? Put on those comfy walking shoes and go! Hungover? Get a detox juice and sit in a beautiful park. You do you.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
People are really helpful. If you come across the odd asshole, move along! I was normally worried about getting on the wrong train to the wrong place. Confirming with someone that I was in the right place made all the difference. Don’t give yourself unnecessary stress.
8. Meet new people!
My solo trip wasn’t long enough to meet new people, but If your trip is longer you should definitely make an effort. The first thing I would have done is sign up for a bar crawl or a free walking tour (any tour really – but look to see if it’s more catered to the youth). When I went travelling with just one other friend, we would chat up the people in our hostel. At one place we made friends with a solo traveler from New Zealand and all went out to dinner. The next night, he met some more people and asked us out to drinks with them. Another time, my friend and I did separate activities that matched our interests. I was just walking along the Old Town Walls of Dubrovnik (an hour walk) and as I approached the end, an Australian guy just started chatting me up. We were having a fun conversation so when the walk ended we got gelato, sat on a cliff by the sea, and talked for over an hour. It’s as easy as that folks! Put yourself out there and meet some new people.
9. It’s not scary! It’s freaking nice!
Take the leap. If you are skeptical, start small like I did. You’ll begin to realize how nice it is traveling on your own terms. I am the kind of person who loves to be around friends nearly all the time (not too fond of hanging out by myself) but taking a trip by myself felt necessary and to my surprise, I loved it!
Have you ever traveled solo? Let me know in the comments!