Solo Travel is for the Girls: Tips for Adventuring Alone
June 27 2016
This summer do you want to explore, but can’t find a travel companion? Worried to travel alone? Safety concerns dampening that adventurous spirit? Fear not! If you have met me or follow my global curating expeditions, you already know I have an affinity for solo travel and have traveled to 5 continents alone to date. Solo travel can lead to some of your most rewarding and exhilarating travel experiences, so don’t dismiss an opportunity to wander our globe just because you may have to dine alone a few times. To get you more comfortable with the idea, here are some tips and tricks that I practice that always make my solo trips are rewarding:
Research, Plan and Plan Some More
Prior to any trip, I run my internet browser ragged! I love the process of pre-trip planning as I search to discover all the secret spots, best hidden restaurants and highest rated tours. I post on social and travel websites about my trip with questions I may have and look to natives for advice on what they recommend I see or do. I create spreadsheets with my trip itinerary – where I will stay, how I will transport from Point A to B, what tours I have signed-up for and all the contact information I will need once I touchdown in the new territory. As you and I know, no trip is ever long enough (even my near two years in Paris felt too short to me), so putting together a researched plan prior to arrival has allowed me to maximize limited time as well as give me a purpose each day. I should note, however, that my itineraries always include lazy afternoons in cafes or getting lost in the streets of a new city cuz it is in these moments I usually find the most pleasure.
Me in Bruges, Belgium
Boutique Hotels are Best
I love big fancy hotels and all the amenities they include. It is true. But when I “fly solo”, I definitely prefer a “home away from home” with friendly, helpful staff who strive to make their guests’ stay more than just a place they rest their head on a pillow. Select a boutique hotel that is run by local families and is right for your comfort level. Smaller hotels usually also have other single travelers, which has led to a short-term tour companion and great conversation over a glass of wine while swapping travel tales.
Making friends in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.
Bring a Book to Dinner
The biggest pitfall of solo travel? No built in dinner date! Undoubtedly I have found delightful, interesting meal companions throughout my journeys (sometimes even at the table next to me), but it isn’t guaranteed. For these times I bring something to occupy myself between courses. My kindle is always snuggly packed in my over-the-body travel pack as well as a small notebook where I can capture my thoughts or observations. If I am in the need of social interaction, I look to dine at a restaurant or cafe that has counter service so I can engage other diners around me or the staff. Meal time alway involves a bit of strategy when traveling on my own.
Watching "saj" get made near Baalbek, Lebanon.
Talk to Strangers and say “Yes” to trusted invitations
Do I talk to everyone? No. Do I accept every invitation from all who extend them (particularly men)? No. BUT one of the key reasons I travel alone is the opportunity to meet people and experience elements of a culture or country that I might have missed out on otherwise. I engage most (not all!) that reach out and also do my best to reach out to others. I use tools like Couchsurfing, Meet-up and other social media sites to find local activities with a local crowd and flavor. I always contact “friends of a friend” who were recommended I connect with during my stay. Many of these encounters have resulted in long term friendships and some of my most memorable and unique moments during my travels.
Me in Paris!
Stay Alert and Have a Safe Trip
Staying alert is paramount. I know as a solo woman traveler I am more vulnerable when I enter a new culture or country so I take the extra effort to familiarize myself with my surroundings. I never rush and am constantly scanning and staying alert. When in crowds and walking the streets, I keep my senses alive and personal effects close. In some less developed parts of the world, I have also adopted the practice of hiring drivers or guides as I navigate cities where I may stand out more than most. Although it does dip into the travel budget, I appreciate the greater sense of security and having someone to look out for me or help deter unwanted attention. This ultimately enriches the overall enjoyment of the journey.
Sunset in Flores near Tikal National Park, Guatemala.
Content adapted from my personal travel blog, One Girl's Adventures, and the article "Solo Travel - 7 Tips for Women Travelers."