First time solo travel is an exciting moment in life and you have to do it at least once. Whether it’s a one-off or your selected method of travel, it will change your outlook on things and hopefully be a great experience. In this post, I will give you some pointers on how to travel alone for the first time. Choosing the best solo female travel destinations is easy but travelling alone for the first time requires some preparation.
Travelling alone for the first time: What you need to know
The main reason people travel is to find joy and exhilaration. Travel is about having fun, being surprised and doing things you love. I have found exhilaration on road trips in Australia, on an exciting city break in Istanbul and bushwalking in New Zealand… Whatever rocks your boat, go for it. Experience, learn and travel with confidence!
You will experience fear and exhilaration
The main hesitation people have about travelling alone is fear, and it’s fair to say that travel anxiety is a real thing. They say the biggest fear is fear itself, and this completely applies to travelling. Of course, there are moments where you will be afraid. Not necessarily because of imminent danger but simply because you don’t know where you are, you’re not familiar with the local customs, you don’t know the local language or you don’t know where to start your solo journey…
When travelling alone, this is very normal, it happens to everyone and you can overcome it. It’s actually an essential part of growing as an individual and as a traveller. Over the years, I’ve learned that the arrival in an unknown place frightens me. Landing in an unknown airport, having to find my own transport and accommodation before getting my bearings is not something I look forward to… But, it’s unavoidable. So, every time I arrive somewhere, I have to deal with this fear and get on with it. I’ve learned to deal with this and I have ways of making sure I make things easier for myself, such as booking an arrival transfer and my first night in a hotel or Airbnb.
You will increase your self-confidence and self-reliance
Solo holidays were a big self-confidence boost for me when I was younger. I was this shy, anxious young girl in school with not many friends. Through solo travel, I became this autonomous, self-reliant explorer with many great stories to share… All the while, my more confident friends stayed home and holidayed with their parents…
Solo travel does take confidence and a little bit of courage. Wherever you are, you can find yourself in a situation you need to solve: a missed flight, a broken-down vehicle or simply being in a place you don’t like. You can only rely on yourself to come out of these situations and that’s the whole point of travelling alone: it’s all on you, and all for you. You won’t have to thank anyone for coming out on top and you can congratulate yourself… Fear of travel, of unknown places is nothing new and you can overcome it.
Confidence is something you can build, you can start small. I started my solo travel career in my late teens with faraway travels but one of my best tips for travelling solo is to actually explore your local area…
You will get to know yourself and your limits
The vast majority of solo travellers, whatever their level of experience in planning a solo trip, report that one of the most important benefit of travelling alone is what you learn about yourself. Learning who you are, what makes you tick, what you want and don’t want in life are lessons often learned on solo trips. It’s part of growing up and growing old.
Travelling solo is about doing whatever you want whenever you want. As an experienced solo female traveller, I agree. Without encouraging recklessness, travelling by yourself is about finding your own pace, being in charge of your journey and not being dependant on other people’s decisions or opinions. Interestingly, I see solo travel about finding and accepting your own limits.
When I travelled in South East Asia in my 20s, I found there was a bit of competition amongst backpackers on how to get transport, food and other things as cheaply as possible. This sometimes meant staying in dirty and unregistered hostels, travelling in untrustworthy vehicles or hitchhiking. Well, I didn’t want to do that. More often than not, I wanted a minimum of cleanliness and comfort, like a single room and my own bathroom. I didn’t want to hitchhike. Sometimes I preferred to eat in a cafe and not off a cart on the street… Those were my limits and some fellow travellers could be a bit judgemental.
When you travel by yourself, you can take note of what you like and don’t like, and decide on what your travel style is going to be. Solo travel doesn’t have to be in drab conditions and it’s up to you to decide on your “travelling personality”. To me, deciding how I want to travel is the ultimate freedom of solo travel.
You will become a better, more interesting person
Every traveller has a story, and many stories. Without turning into a dinner bore, your independent travel experiences will fascinate your friends and family. Today, social media means you can share your experiences in real time and cheaply.
One of the benefits of travelling alone is learning about new cultures and tasting new foods. This will turn you into a more curious and more conscious person. You will gain a better understanding of your own culture and history.
You will learn about personal safety
Every traveller has to be aware of their personal safety. This is especially important for solo female travellers, and furthermore, for female solo travellers. After all, the self-reliance you need to display as a solo traveller is a lot about safety.
Learning who to trust, how to stay safe in all circumstances and avoid annoyances and dangers is paramount when you travel by yourself and a skill you can use when at home as well. There are many safety tips for solo travellers, and most of them are based on using common sense and trusting your gut. If something (or someone) doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t…
Solo travel is a perfect opportunity to learn how to say no, and to walk away from situations and people you’re not comfortable with. In many places, travellers stand out and may attract unwanted solicitations. For female travellers, this state of affairs can be even more imperious. The key is to be calm and exude confidence. Say no politely but firmly. This applies to locals wanting to sell you things or to act as guides, but also to fellow travellers. As a single female traveller, I’ve had to walk away from fellow backpackers a few times. It’s not what you’d expect from the traveller community but it can happen… To give you even more confidence, there are travel safety apps you can use.
You will meet interesting and inspiring people
Solo travel is actually about meeting new people. Aside from the time you spend experiencing and introspecting, so-called solo travellers actually meet a lot of new people. I don’t remember spending too much time alone on my early solo trips, I would even meet people on the plane… Indeed, I found it really easy to find a travel buddy when I needed one…
When tripping alone, expanding your horizons, learning about new cultures and discovering new places often requires talking to people and making new friends. Compared to the friends I had at home, people I met travelling always seemed to be on the same wavelength, wanting to explore and discover. For a period of time, they were incredibly easy to get along with and some of them even helped me define my “travel personality”.
You will get a break from your life
Whatever your life is, and wherever you live, it’s nice to have a break. Sometimes all you need is a few days off a short distance away and sometimes you need to go to the end of the world. Both work well to give you the break you need. My solo traveller holidays always gave me the rest I needed from everyday life and today, I still enjoy travelling Australia alone.
You will learn to plan your trip
Travel planning is important and yet I used to neglect a fair bit. Early in my travels, I was happy doing a little bit of research on the best solo travel destinations, buying a plane ticket and working out the rest as I went along. These days, I believe in planning in order to make sure I don’t miss out on the things I want to do the most. in my view, good travel planning will give you control of the circumstances and will keep you safe.
I always like to plan my arrival and my departure. Booking an airport transfer, especially if I arrive late at night or depart early in the morning, is a great way to alleviate stress. In the same way, booking my first few nights’ accommodation means I can “land” in a new country without having to worry about where I’m going to sleep that night.
Planning doesn’t mean there is no room for spontaneity though, that’s still an integral part of solo travel. After all, this is a holiday and you have time on your hands…
Of course, you also need to plan your budget. Solo travel can be more expensive as you are the only one bearing the cost of accommodation for example. But is there a price on total freedom?
You will learn to pack
Packing adequately is an art and one worth mastering, especially when you’re going on holiday alone. As you are solely responsible for carrying your luggage, you need to make sure you can manage it… Thankfully, gone are the days of heavy clothing and packing books… Once you are comfortable in your own travelling style, packing properly becomes easier.
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Figuring out what the best type of luggage works for you, how much to pack and using packing cubes is essential when I plan my holiday.
You will have busy days, or really quiet ones…
As a lone traveller, you are only on your own schedule, the day is as long as you want it to be. I tend to pack a lot in my days’ exploration and sometimes I’m just happy to go to bed early. When I travel with my husband, we like to dedicate time to trying restaurants and discovering new foods. When I travel alone, I am sometimes happy skipping dinner at the end of a long day. I understand that a long trek just to take photos of a lighthouse may not be of interest to everyone so when I’m on my own, I can do that without any constraints… My travel experience has taught me to be kind to myself and vary the experiences…
You will manage your loneliness
Solo travel is not all joy, there are some lonely moments. It can be hard seeing groups of friends enjoying themselves, or couples absorbed with each other. Don’t get me wrong, sharing my special travel moments with my partner is one of my favourite things to do but I also enjoy my own company. For me, being comfortable with myself is one of the benefits of solo travel.
Dining alone is often a dreaded experience but that’s usually solved with a good book. Once you master the art of dining alone confidently, you know you are a confirmed solo traveller! And the best countries to travel alone are the ones where you can do this with no hassles!
And the judgment of others
So many would-be solo travellers come against the warnings and well-meaning advice of those around them. Your relatives, friends and colleagues certainly mean well but their “friendly advice” can put a serious damper on your solo travel ambitions. Whatever everyone says about which solo female travel destinations you should choose, this is where you need to be decisive. If you are confident about your ability to take on a travelling alone experience in terms of safety and self-care, you don’t need anyone to tell you whether you should do it or not.
If you communicate your desire to travel solo effectively, people around you should support you. Remember that solo travel isn’t for everyone and some people will try and talk you out of it. Personally, I haven’t met anyone who deeply regretted travelling alone. Some people try it and find they prefer to have the company of a friend or a partner, but at least they’ve had the experience and learned something from it.
Finding your maturity in travel will help you manage this resistance. The only instinct you need to trust is yours.
You can travel solo at any age
Is it weird to travel alone when you’re older? Solo travel is often associated with younger travellers, who do it for their gap year or fresh out of university. True, a lot of young people travel before they embark on a career or a family plan. But solo travel works at every age. I even think that fear of travelling alone diminishes with age…
Travelling solo while in a relationship
Again, another misconception about solo travel: it’s not just for singles… I believe that individual travel is good for a relationship. My husband and I don’t always want to do the same things or visit the same destinations so we’ve accepted that sometimes, we will travel separately. I find that travelling on my own is essential to my equilibrium and my husband is fine with that…
Destinations for solo female travellers
Once you are ready to experience the advantages of travelling alone, where will you go?
Tell me about your first solo travel experience in the comments below!
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