Solo travel is one of the fastest growing segments in travel for Americans. Solo travelers now account for 11 percent of American travelers. Here are tips to make your travel solo more enjoyable.
1. Get over your fear of eating alone
There’s a word for this: solomangarephobia.
I dine alone in my travels, and I dine alone sometimes at home. It’s straightforward. Get a seat at the bar, and not at a table that’s made for multiple persons. You can always talk to the bartender if you’re feeling talkative. Another way to get over this is to eat street food in the country you’re at. You’ll blend in with the locals who are likely eating solo as well.
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Still having a phobia? Do this. Watch a movie by yourself in the theaters twice. After a few times, the jitters should subside and you dining alone is a piece of cake.
2. Use Tinder and Instagram
What better way to meet locals and maybe even hook up with another traveler. I met my girlfriend through Instagram. We exchanged a few messages, and she happened to be close to where I was traveling. We decided to meet, and the rest is history. Because of it, I’m not traveling solo anymore. However, it wouldn’t have happened had I not been traveling solo.
Tinder is also excellent for meeting people. You can use for meeting new friends instead of hooking up. Seriously, it works and worth using.
3. Keep the costs down
Double occupancy is annoying as hell. Lodging for a solo traveler becomes an expensive cost. Most places charge you double occupancy and sometimes quadruple. It’s not based on the room but rather how many people can sleep in the room. Learn to haggle. Merely haggle over the room rate. Reason out that you’re the only person in the room and you shouldn’t have to pay double.
Do your homework beforehand on where to stay and book in advance. If you find another solo traveler in the same situation gang up and book the room together. It would be the same, if not better, as staying in a dorm room.
4. Don’t be afraid to travel to non-English-speaking destinations
While you’ve probably heard that the easiest places for first single travelers are English-speaking destinations, it’s better if you go to a non-English-speaking destination. First, it will throw you head-on to what solo travel is, an adventure. You’ll have to throw yourself out of your comfort zone to communicate or get around.
Some of the best memories I had of my travels was being in the countryside of France where no one spoke English or refused to. I had to learn a few words in French to get around and to have people, at least, acknowledge that I was at least trying. When I started a conversation in French, people became a lot more receptive and friendly vs. assuming they all spoke English.
5. Convince your family and friends that it’s OK to travel alone
If you have an overbearing family how do you convince them that solo travel builds character and confidence? Have a plan of action when you’re dropping the RWT (Round the World Trip) conversation with them. They need to understand that travel, especially solo, isn’t dangerous.
The best way to go about it is to invite them to come with you on your adventures. Allowing them to see into your activities when you’re out traveling will probably give them a piece of mind and let them understand it’s not scary or dangerous. Show them your itinerary, use social media to post updates on where you are. Let them in on your plans. Show them you reasons you’re going here or there.
6. Open yourself up to meeting complete strangers
As in introvert, I find it hard to strike up conversations with complete strangers at home. However, I find it remarkably smooth and natural to strike up a conversation abroad and with complete strangers. I have no clue why but it’s true. Just try it. Approach with a smile and keep eye contact and you’re golden.
Start hosting Couchsurfers before you travel. You’ll be in the comfort of your own home while meeting strangers. Not only will you build a good rapport with the community, but you’ll also practice meeting complete strangers and maybe make new friends. Get used to smiling at everyone you meet. A smile will always garner good response; if it doesn’t, you don’t want to be around that person anyways.
7. Secure your belongings and yourself
Carry only things you need. If you have a front pocket, use instead of your back pocket as it’s easier for thieves to pickpocket. If your hotel or hostel as a locker, leave your things there. You don’t always have to carry your passport everywhere. I use a Pacsafe to secure my backpack at hostels for a piece of mind. Don’t flash valuables around, especially at big metros. Conceal your Smartphones, DSLR, and Ipads. Avoid crowded areas if you can.
I had an incident happen in Versailles, France. During a full voice-guided tour, I had a woman intentionally bump me then I could feel somebody try to pickpocket my wallet. I grabbed the hand, turned to the guy who owned it and gave him a stare down that would scare even a raging bull. They ran out of there like a volcano ready exploded.
Always use common sense and trust your gut instinct. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. Looks like a shady area? It’s probably not prudent to go there. There’s bound to be other solo travelers at the hostel or place you’re staying. Make friends and explore with them. Although cool to travel solo, sometimes there’s safety in numbers, especially if the place you’re visiting isn’t safe.
Purchase travel insurance. Having travel insurance offers you a piece of mind. Check out my Travel Resources for places to buy insurance.
8. Make copies of your documents
Nothing worse than losing your passport or visa. It’s always better to have a backup copy. I used Dropbox and Google Drive to store my documents digitally.
9. Chat up hostel mates join them on bar hops
You don’t have to be a drinker to attend these everyday social events. If there’s a walking tour offered by your hostel, go to it. It’s a great way to meet new friends and have fun in the process. Travel has a way of breaking down barriers. I met an extremely introverted and shy person slowly becoming more sociable through travel like I have a hostel gathering.
10. Get off the beaten path
Life is an adventure, live yours. The fun of discovery is magnified when you travel to less known locations. Thrilling and exciting adventures await when you get off the beaten path.
11. Always trust your instincts
If it feels wrong, it probably is. Nothing beats common sense and your instincts to keep you safe and making the right decisions – This can be especially true in individual countries. I was in El Salvador, and things didn’t feel right. I’m not a paranoid person, but it felt like everyone was up to something. I was extra cautious in the country and luckily got out without incident.
So there you go, the best tips for your solo adventures.
DO YOU TRAVEL SOLO?