8 Tips for the Independent Traveler

I listened enthusiastically as she shared the details of her travels. With a free weekend and a ticket to the destination of her choosing, this friend decided not to let the absence of a companion hold her back. Her eyes lit up as she told me about the adventure of her first solo trip.

As cheesy as it may sound, there really is something about traveling alone that can create a fundamental shift in a person. It may feel like the experience is breaking you down one moment, but five minutes later you feel it building you back up, forging a stronger person than the one you were before. Traveling alone forces you to get to know yourself on the deepest of levels. With no one to fill the silence, it’s just you and the open road {or sky or railway…you catch my drift}.

For my first solo trip I decided to spend a week traveling through Italy – and man, was it an adventure. Before then I had traveled quite a bit with large groups, but I learned some priceless lessons about how to be independent and successful – both as a traveler and an adult – the first time I went solo.

It’s something I highly encourage everyone to do at some point in their life. It can seem scary at first, but here are a few tips for someone considering their first solo adventure.

  1. Plan ahead, but put the guidebook down.

While it may seem romantic and whimsical to hop on a plane and go where adventure takes you, it could end up taking you somewhere you really don’t want to be. Safety aside, a lack of planning can also mean missing out on all the city has to offer. As can being slave to a guidebook of the must-sees. Find a middle ground. Consider what you want your time to look like during your travels, but don’t get too locked into checking off all the Top 10s. Leave some room for spontaneity and finding new favorites.

  1. Budget wisely. Things always cost more than you think.

Budget for your travels, but then add some wiggle room. Things always cost more than you expect. Sure, there are ways to cut costs, but that often requires sacrificing some of the activities you had planned, and the joy of solo travel is that this time is about you and doing what you want to do {see #5}. By factoring in additional expenses upfront, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the experience without breaking the bank. Or, even worse, finding yourself alone, out of cash and out of luck.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Navigating an unfamiliar city has its challenges. Factor in a language barrier and it can be downright overwhelming. While being able to effectively find your way around instills a unique sense of confidence and power, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. There’s a fine line between courageous and cocky, and one can get you into some serious trouble. People are a lot nicer than you think. Take advantage of that.

  1. Trust your gut.

Your intuition is typically spot on. Don’t live {or travel} in fear, but stay alert. If something feels fishy, it probably is. The worst thing a solo traveler can do, especially a woman, is to throw all caution to the wind. Make wise decisions based on preparation and research, but also listen to that hint of hesitation. What may seem like a tiny voice could actually be a big red flag that, if pushed aside, will lead to some sticky situations.

  1. Never have regrets.

If you want to see a certain historical site, go. If a show is playing that you just can’t stand to miss, don’t. If there’s an activity you have always wanted to do, do it. Make the most of every day, use your time and money wisely and accomplish what you want to accomplish. Nothing is worse than ending the trip saying, “Gosh, I wish I had of done {fill in the blank}.” And when you’re traveling alone you have no excuse.

  1. Everyone has a unique story to tell. Listen.

Traveling alone or in a small group opens the door for conversations that you may not have pursued otherwise. Don’t be afraid to ask people about themselves. Travel has a powerful aptitude for removing barriers and bringing people together. Whether you’re with a best friend or striking up conversation with a stranger, you’ll often discover surprising and incredibly fascinating things about that person. I have a strong sense that you’ll discover some new things about yourself as well.

  1. No one back home will fully understand your experience, and that’s okay.

Returning home is hard. The majority of people who ask “How was your trip?” aren’t inquiring about the nitty gritty details. Even those who do really want to know will not fully understand your experience, no matter how many stories you tell or pictures you show – and that’s okay. It’s not your job to make them understand. The memories are priceless, even if they’re just yours.

  1. Go!

Don’t wait for someone else to have the time or money to join you on your travels. Just do your own thing. My first solo trip taught me that I don’t need someone by my side in order to enjoy myself. Yes, it’s lots of fun to travel or sightsee with a partner or group of friends, but if no one else wants to go, just book the ticket and go! No regrets, remember?

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