As you may have noticed, I'm a huge fan of solo travel and absolutely enjoy spending time on my own - especially when I'm travelling. My worst nightmare, travel-wise, is to be stuck on a week-long trip with a crowd of people and without a chance to escape other than while being in the bathroom. Now I just got back from such a trip a couple of weeks ago and I really wish I could say that it was an awesome trip. However one panic attack, 1 1/2 days spent with anxiety and one argument with my roommate just prove that group travel and me just don't go along very well.
I have been on excursions and group tours though that I absolutely enjoyed. The trip to Northern England with my alma mater in 2013 was such a journey and it mainly was successful due to the fact that we stayed in single rooms and had plenty of free-time. The 10 days therefore went by really fast.
However even on that trip, I was rather tense at some point or another and just plainly annoyed by the presence of other people. Travelling on your own and being alone for long periods of time though, sometimes isn't so pleasant either. I mean I love being alone (although I have to admit, since I've been living in a flatshare, I can't cope with being alone for more than a day anymore - how weird is that?), but too much time on your own is exactly as pleasant as too little time on your own.
It's a dilemma and especially when you're travelling, you want to enjoy your time to the fullest - without feeling depressed because you're alone and without getting annoyed with people because you're not alone. It's good to find a balance and I'm looking forward to my month alone in Copenhagen as much as to the long weekend I'll spend with the boyfriend in Germany this summer.
However I'm still the biggest fan of solo travel and even though there are plenty of solo travel posts out there, I wanted to write down my tips and opinions in regards to how to make the most of your time travelling alone. I hope you'll find them useful!
1. Research & Prepare!
My number one rule when I travel solo is to research and prepare for the trip as much as possible. Research the area of your accommodation - Is it a safe neighbourhood? How is public transport in the area? Are there direct connections to the airport/city centre/train station? Also if you're staying in an Airbnb accommodation, make sure to talk with your future host as much as possible prior to booking.
I found that people who are willing to chat with you and who are willing to give you all the information you need, are way more trust-worthy than those who just send you one-liners followed by a booking invite. Furthermore make a budget and try to stick to it. That prevents you from suddenly being broke and alone halfway through your trip!
A couple of days before the journey starts, you should print all your plane/train/bus tickets, accommodation recipes, maps and directions on how to get to your accommodation and anything else you find important. If I sit down before my trip and go through everything I planned again, I feel much calmer and secure.
Also the fact that I have all the information I need in a print-version, easily accessible in my hand luggage, prevents me from panicking if I get lost somewhere, don't have a wifi connection and can't access my host's address anymore. So the key to solo travel is good preparation which makes you way less nervous about travelling alone in the end!
2. Follow your gut
This may seem obvious but I'd like to talk about it nonetheless. People always seem afraid that solo travel is dangerous, especially for young women, and I have a hard time reassuring my family that this is certainly not the case (at least not in Europe where my travel experience arouse from - I would certainly be way more cautious about travelling in countries with a different mindset about the role of women).
The important thing is to follow your gut, as simple as that. Would you take a drink from a stranger at home? Hell, would you go to a bar or club on your own at home? No? Then don't do it abroad either. I've never drank alcohol or went to a pub when I was travelling on my own and I don't have a problem with that. Yes, spending your evening in a hotel might not be as much fun as going out but there are other and safer ways to meet new people.
Also there might be days where you can't stand people at all or just plainly feel lonely. You don't have to eat in a crowded restaurant all by your own then. Grab something to eat at a take-away place and cuddle up in your bed, watch a movie and eat some candy. It's totally okay to feel alone while travelling solo and the best thing is to just accept it and stay away from people (for me anyway). However there might be days where you would love to speak to someone again and it's totally fine to interact with strangers if you want to - which brings us to the next tip:
3. Talk to strangers
Solo travel can be tiresome and exhausting and it's nice to have people around from time to time, isn't it? It takes some courage but talking to strangers can lead you to feeling better about travelling solo or might even result in making new travel buddies. The important thing is to know how to do it.
Asking strangers to take a picture of you? Fine! Interrupting their conversation just because you hear them speak in your mother-tongue while you're abroad and desperately want to talk to someone? No! And yes, I totally did that on my very first solo trip.
It was only the second day and I was so nervous about being on my own and not being able to speak my mother-tongue for the next couple of weeks that I totally joined a conversation of two old Germans complaining about Norwegian prices on the Hurtigruten cruise. Don't repeat my mistakes - just don't!
4. Book group tours
Group tours however are a nice way to interact with strangers and a good opportunity to get to know fellow solo travellers. You might not notice them while you're exploring Paris with your boyfriend but trust me, solo travellers are everywhere and not all of them are hermits but actually interested in social interaction.
I met some interesting solo travellers on my group tours to Loch Ness and to chase the Northern Lights and it's so nice to make a new travel buddy (aka someone to watch your backpack while you're in the bathroom or someone to take a picture of you) , even if it's just for the duration of the tour.
Also group tours offer you the chance to have some social interaction for a relatively short time. If you're a bit complicated when it comes to other people (like me), then group tours will make you feel less lonely without annoying you. Win-Win!
5. Find a safe haven
Whenever you feel a little homesick, lonely, nervous or just stressed out, it's good to have a safe haven where you can relax and calm down. However this doesn't need to be your hotel room. Maybe you do yoga? Or have a good book to read or podcast to listen to? Or maybe you find peace in going for a run or walk?
I for example find places at the waterside and hilltops from where you can overlook an entire city absolutely relaxing. In fact, when I lived in Stockholm for that one month, I visited Riddarholmen at least twice a week just to relax a bit. Solo travel can be quite overwhelming sometimes so it's good to know how to handle stress.
6. Take plenty of selfies (or footsies)
When I first began to travel solo, I noticed the lack of pictures of myself when showing the pictures of my journey to my family. Sure, Edinburgh Castle is nice but isn't it even nicer to have a picture of yourself in front of certain sites? Maybe it's just my own superficialness but I like to have pictures of myself from trips abroad. And if there's no one around to take them for you, you just got to do it yourself!
I've started by taking footsies cause I was so embarrassed to take actual selfies - especially in a crowded place. But I'm more and more confident of taking selfies and I think travel selfies make a nice memento. Plus to be quite frank, they are way more fun than the usual architecture/landscape pictures that we normally take on our journeys, right?!
What about you? Do you enjoy solo travel? And what are your tips of getting the most out of it?