Sometimes you don’t have an option!
Straight up, sometimes you want to travel with your friends but it’s not possible! When I was planning my trip to South America I had a lot of friends saying they wanted to come, but whether it was their lack of free time or lack of money, it didn’t work. So does that mean I’m not going to go? Hell no.
Freedom to do whatever you want
Whether it’s the activities you want to do (or don’t want to do) or it’s the cities you want to go to, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want! You can change your mind on a whim and don’t have anyone’s interests to consider but your own! It sounds selfish…and it is! But when else in your life do you get to be really truly selfish without consequences?
Forced to meet people
I am a very social person, but that being said… when I travel with a friend I am unintentionally less social! When you travel alone, you’re forced to walk up to a group of people at your hostel and get to know them so that you have people to hang out with the next day, when you’re with a friend you tend not to do that as much.
Solo traveling means you and only you are carrying your bags … make sure you can carry everything!
Make sure you have the essentials! This means making sure you have a first aid kit, various medicines and any gear you may need (headlamp, batteries, chargers.. etc). This also means, spend more time packing! If you forget something, you’re not going to have a friend there saying “oh don’t worry I’ve got mine!” That being said… there was a lot of stuff I didn’t have, but for the most part I could get anything I needed in any of the bigger cities.
HOSTELS HOSTELS HOSTELS
I honestly almost forgot this one because to me it seems so obvious. STAY AT HOSTELS. Seriously… you will get lonely af if you’re only staying in hotels or Airbnbs. Hostels are a ton of fun, it’s the best way to meet other travellers, and the best spot to get reliable information! Which falls into my next point…
Talk to People
… a lot of people. Hostels are great for this. People WANT to meet you… trust me. They want to know where you’re from, they want to know where you’ve been and where you’re going… they are also dying to give you all the advice they have! Get tips for places to go and places to stay. This is more reliable than any TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet rating… trust me.
Bring a book and a Journal
So now you’ve got your hostel, you’re chatting everyone up… that’s all fine and dandy but that can’t be 24/7. You are going to find yourself alone at times… and that’s ok! But to avoid feeling lonely… read a book or even better, this is a great time to update your journal! Writing about all your crazy experiences and all the amazing people you’ve met will probably allow you to appreciate your down time a bit more.
If you want to do the entire trip on an organized tour that’s cool! But if that’s not your thing… another option is to just throw a couple 1-day or multi-day organized tours in the mix. This will give you a nice break from being forced to walk up to random people trying to make friends… and will make meeting people a lot easier. It’s also kind of nice to have someone else plan your day (or few days) for once!
Learn how to say no
Seriously… sounds easy… but just wait until you’re staring up at a sign in a foreign language trying to understand what the hell anything means, and some local guy comes over and offers to take you where you’re trying to go or offers to help you in some way. 90% of the time they really mean no harm, and this is where your instincts come into play… but if your instinct is telling you no, then you need to learn how to tell this guy to bugger off. It also goes for people trying to sell you things or tours. You’ll be surprised how often you have to actually use the word no… it gets easier with time.
For the love of God, please just stay safe. This means keeping someone back home in the loop of where you are going. Before I left for my trip I tried to give my mom a general itinerary… it changed within 5 minutes of me landing in Peru… so that means keeping someone back home updated on where you’re staying that night … let them know what activities you are planning for the next day… and let them know when you will be out of touch for a few days. A few more safety tips:
- Be aware! You don’t have to be crazy paranoid, but just have your wits about you.
- Try to travel during the day. Overnight buses are amazing, and I’m a huge advocate of them… but try to do that when you’ve hooked up with another traveller, or in areas that aren’t sketchy or if you’re with a reputable bus company. If you take an overnight bus make sure you keep your stuff between your legs. NEVER put your stuff on the top shelf where it’s easy for someone to grab when you’re asleep.
- ALWAYS have a working phone on you. We live in a generation where cell phones are a thing…. Take advantage of that! Use it for maps and directions, and of course for calling for help.
- Act like a local. Don’t look super flashy with tons of jewelry, or walk around with a huge map looking like a total naive tourist just waiting to get robbed.
Make sure you’re ready for this!
Before a solo trip you will definitely be nervous and a bit scared… but it shouldn’t be something that overcomes the excitement. If you are having serious anxiety about the idea of going alone or you don’t feel like you’ve developed the tools to do it yet then maybe you’re not ready… and that’s ok!! Try to take a smaller trip by yourself first, or travel a little more with friends before you embark on your own major solo trip!
Last but not least,
HAVE FUN AND TAKE IT ALL IN!
This is such an exciting time in your life, one day you’re going to be tied down to too many responsibilities and won’t have the flexibility to do a major solo trip! Be selfish, do your thing, and have the most amazing time. Soak it all in!! Bring a journal so you can remember every little detail of this amazing adventure!
If you’ve recently been on a solo trip or are planning one… tell me about it in the comments below! I would love to hear your stories or if you have any more tips!!