We all know that there are so many incredible reasons why solo travel is an unforgettable experience. And so, armed with the inspiration to take a journey of deep self-discovery, you’ve decided to take the plunge and embark on your first ever solo adventure! But, where do you even begin? There are so many things to plan for: what country or city to go to, accommodation, where to eat, what to see…and all on your own?! Take a deep breath…Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your first epic solo adventure.
Choosing the best place for your adventure
Before you get into the logistics of planning a trip, you have to figure out where you want to go in the first place. There are so many options out there, a whole wide world to wander, so where do you even begin? A lot of this depends on timing, where you are coming from and what kind of a trip you want it to be.
When I first started traveling solo, I decided to dip my toes in the water by doing a couple of day trips to nearby towns. Being in Spain, it was super simple to catch a bus or train to take me to an unknown place. As I got comfortable with solo day trips, they grew into weekend trips in other countries. This led to my first long weekend abroad in Scotland. I’m an architecture and Harry Potter dork, and was looking for somewhere I knew I’d be comfy traveling on my own, while exploring a place with a lot of history.
If you’re new to solo travel, I suggest starting out small. It will allow you to find your rhythm and learn important things to keep in mind for future trips. Of course, if you’re a braver soul than I am, you can also just jump head in and make your way to a far off country for a longer period of time. The beauty of solo travel? Everything about your trip is completely up to you.
Choosing the right accommodation
Hotel, hostel, Couchsurfing or AirBnB? Nowadays, there are a plethora of accommodation options out there. Finding the right one for you depends a lot on who you are and what kind of adventure you would like to have.
If you are excited about meeting a lot of new people, then the last three options are the best bet. Hostels often organize events, such as bar crawls, parties or tours. Many also have bars or lounge areas. In the hostel setting, everyone strikes up conversations with everyone. And the best thing about hostels? The majority also have affordable single, private rooms. So, if you’re like me and the thought of sharing a dorm room and shower with a whole bunch of strangers isn’t appealing, you can always get a single, but still be able to participate in the social life of the hostel.
Couchsurfing and AirBnB are also great options, depending on the hosts. Be sure to read reviews. Some hosts will simply let you be, while others are more interested in getting to know you and showing you around. Also, just a friendly reminder to use your best judgement when picking a host, especially if you are a solo female traveler. It is unfortunate to say, but we do need to be more prudent when it comes to options such as Couchsurfing and AirBnB.
Meeting new people, including locals
With a plethora of hostels and AirBnB options to choose from, it is definitely one of the easiest ways to meet people when you’re traveling solo, if want to! However, they mainly tend to be fellow travelers. Let’s say you want to meet some locals and really get a full-immersion experience. How do you go about it?
Well, for starters, Meetup is a great social networking site. Basically a networking platform that allows anyone to start their own interest group, it is a great way to meet other people with similar likes and hobbies. Look to see if there are any groups who have events scheduled for the time that you are visiting.
Another unique way to meet others? Apps. No, not just Tinder. Though, I recently read about someone using Tinder as a way to meet locals and make friends. But there are other cool apps that have recently been developed to help travelers meet locals. For example, a Dutch airline created the app Layover with a Local for those with 6-hour plus layovers in Amsterdam. Do some research and see what kind of apps you can find.
Itinerary or Itinerary-less?
One of the most challenging things to trip planning? The itinerary. This is why travel agents are many people’s best friends. There are so many activities, tours, museums, and on and on to choose from.
I used to live by itineraries. But as I started to travel more frequently, they became a hassle to create and not to mention, half of it went out the window anyway. This one really depends on you. If you need a detailed itinerary, do you. If you are a super free spirit and want to see where the world takes you, go for it.
Personally, I’ve found that something in between works better for me. Before a trip I will do some research on things to see and do, and most importantly, where to eat. The reality is: you won’t be able to do it all. So I narrow it down to things I really want to do or see. Whatever requires a scheduled time, such as a tour or activity, I pencil in, otherwise, my days are completely unscheduled. This leaves room for any unexpected surprises, like meeting new friends who invite you along to a hike you hadn’t heard about. Books are a solo traveler’s best friend
Caught up in the excitement of planning my first solo adventure, I had forgotten one minor detail: you spend a lot of time alone. Restaurant, café, airport, wherever, you will at some point find yourself alone. Eating alone is a beautiful thing. Sitting in a café with a hot cup of tea and a croissant by yourself is so peaceful. But what makes it even better? An incredible book. Make sure you bring something to keep you company for those lovely solo moments that may be scattered throughout your adventure. Now, get goin’!
With all the bigger decisions made, pack your bags, and enjoy your one-of-a-kind trip where flexibility and freedom reign!
Nina is a dessert fiend, Nichiren Buddhist and elementary school teacher. Born and raised in the one and only Brooklyn, New York, she’s thrilled to return to Spain, landing this time in Madrid. She shares openly about all of her experiences from love to friendship to the ups and downs of life, in the hopes of connecting to and inspiring others. Discover more of her stories at WorldintoWords.com.