I’ve talked about it before on my blog, how I feel that sometimes solo travel can be a bit over glamorized and bloggers have a tendency to not show people all sides of what solo travel is all about. Yes, traveling on your own has so many pros. Not only will it make you feel like an independent bad ass, but you can also be on your own schedule and not have to worry about keeping a travel companion happy too.
However, there are also some parts of solo travel that aren’t that fantastic. For example, I never have anyone to take those cute Instagram pics for me (let’s face it, we all want them), I despise eating alone, and sometimes as a solo female traveler in certain countries, you have a giant target on you. Now any kind of travel has some downfalls, but here are some tips on how to overcome some that you might have as a solo traveler. P.S. I’d love if you shared some of yours in the comments!
Do your research
One of the things that makes me feel the most confident about traveling solo is doing my research. Now I’m a bit OCD when it comes to researching things for trips, however, I always like to be prepared. I also find being prepared helps me feel less uneasy about the unknown with travel. Before a trip I’ll read not only about things to do in destinations, but also things like how to use the public transit in the destination, how to get to point a to point b, customs I should know for that country like their religion, how to dress, etc. Even though this isn’t necessary and you can totally “wing it” when traveling, and I often do once I get there, feeling prepared is one of the ways I ease pre-solo trip anxiety.
This is one of the biggest pet peeves of mine with traveling solo. I have no idea why it bugs me so much to eat in a restaurant alone, and some of you may think I’m crazy, but I just feel weird. To overcome this I’ll usually find cafes to eat at, great grab-and-go or takeaway/delivery options, or alternatively if I really want to go eat at a restaurant, I will, but I’ll favour restaurants that have a bar, window seating, or some sort of seating that’s a bit less awkward and lonely than sitting across from an empty chair.
Also, I often find when I’m traveling solo I’ll try and save money and make meals in my hostel/Airbnb. I find this can be challenging to do with travel buddies because some people only want to eat out when in a new destination! Another way to avoid eating alone is to of course, make friends, and ask them to go to dinner with you! Alternatively you can try a food tour or a cooking class which can be a great way to meet people, eat great local food and not be alone!
Taking photos of yourself
I know you’re probably thinking that I could just easily ask someone walking by to snap a picture of me, but lets face it, there aren’t always people around. Also, even though I’m not next level with the blogger-esque Instagram photos, I do often have a certain vision in mind of what I want and also want someone to take multiple photos and snap a few candid ones.
I’ve read so many blogs about this and lots of bloggers say they’ll show strangers exactly how they want their shot to look and then get them to take it. I find this a bit too extra for me to do. Alternatively, they carry tripods with them. I have a Gorilla Pod which is great, but there isn’t always a place to attach it to get the exact angle I want. So what I usually do when there is no one to take my photo, is I use a combination of my Gorilla Pod or my GoPro with a selfie stick that also turns into a tripod, and find a way to set it up. If I’m in a really busy area, I’ll literally sit and wait for people to stop walking by or come early in the morning when it’s not as busy so I feel comfortable doing this. It’s not the perfect solution, but I’ve still managed to get some good shots by doing that (see below for examples).
Stay at hostels
Hostels don’t always have the best reputation among people, which I get, there are a lot out there that are grungy and you never sleep because people are partying and hooking up in the bunk below you. However, if you do your research you can easily find “higher end” hostels that offer private rooms, aren’t known as the party spot because the hostel actually enforces rules, and are clean.
The best part of staying at a hostel, even if you’re in a private room, is that hostels offer a more social/community environment. They often have social events, tours, and common areas like bars or lounge areas that are conducive to meeting new people and socializing. This is a great way to meet people to head out on the town with, eat dinner with, or have a tour buddy who can also take pics of you when you’re out and about! What’s even better about finding friends in a hostel is if you want to ditch them and do you’re own thing, you’re not tied to them like a travel buddy you came on the trip with!
Sign-up for tours
I’m not a huge tour person but there have been some instances where I’ve wanted to travel places and I didn’t feel comfortable going to that country alone, or I just straight up didn’t want to go alone. That’s why tours are a wonderful option. I’ve travelled with G Adventures twice (once in India, once in Morocco). What I liked about these tours is you were able to meet people, the tour group was never too large (max 15 each time), and even though it was an organized tour, I had a ton of free time to do my own thing, eat meals where I wanted, etc. so I still got to feel like an independent traveler.
If a full-length tour isn’t for you, you can also sign-up for different tours along your trip that can help you meet new people and also feel less lonely. Lots of cities offer free walking tours, or you can hop on a food tour, a pub crawl, or something of interest to you. When I was in Lisbon I did two tours with Discover Lisbon which were incredibly inexpensive/free and I met people that I ended up spending the rest of the day with and eating lunch with.
There are so many ways to make solo travel less intimidating and more enjoyable. For me, I don’t ever like to be that person that doesn’t travel because they don’t have someone to go with them. So if the fact that you don’t have a travel buddy is holding you back, don’t let it! I promise that even traveling alone can be so much fun and often times, even more fun!
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