By a serendipitous accident, I found a love for solo travel.
I was in Barcelona, Spain, without friends for a few days because of a miscommunication around arrival dates. I arrived a few days early, disoriented and feeling a bit overwhelmed that I was in a foreign country. I didn’t speak Spanish or have functioning Google Maps on my phone. After the initial shock wore off, the next few days were unfettered by commitments, my own ‘identity,’ agendas, and deadlines. I wove around monuments, wandered around the city at my own pace, and discovered hole-in-the-wall gems.
Since then, I’ve added a number more solo sojourns; sometimes for a slice of peace from the hectic and dark winters of the Big Apple (Sevilla, Spain was great for this), other times for some inner reflection or to visit friends abroad. Whatever your reason for going solo — conquering fears, getting to know yourself better, listening to your intuition, challenging yourself in new places and spaces — these are the my top tips.
1. Commit to making your trip happen. Set a hard deadline for when you'll leave. If you are like me and constantly can find an excuse to delay things (work, other commitments, etc.), this hard deadline should be a pre-booked flight so it's a set plan after a certain point. I've heard that it's best to book flights one to three months in advance and that booking tends to be less expensive on a week day. Surf around the web before you buy to make sure you score the best deal; I love Holiday Pirates, Sky Scanner, and Kayak. You can also find error flight fares on Secret Flying, which is perfect if you have more flexibility in your schedule.
Once you've bought your ticket, set an intention for your trip. Is this a museum tour of Paris? A food exploration of the Tuscany countryside? Will you go just to visit your friends in another place? Knowing will help you plan your budget, visits and excursions.
2. Plan in advance. Will you travel to SE Asia? Make sure that you have the right vaccinations and visa applications. Are you planning to backpack through Europe? If you're going with a United States Passport, know that you'll have just 90 continuous days across all Schengen countries in Europe for your stay. To keep up with rules, regulations and need to know info during my planning phase, I love to browse Nomadic Matt, Be My Travel Muse, and the CDC.
The research, booking and planning part of taking a solo trip can get overwhelming, so don't be afraid to reach out to a friend for help. Even better if your buddy has been to the place you plan to visit!
3. Pack wisely. Most budget airlines in Europe and SE Asia have inexpensive airfares, but they'll only allow you to bring a single carry-on bag that weights between 7-10kgs. Choosing what you put in your suitcase can make a big difference in how comfortably you travel, and packing light is also the most sensible — after all, who wants to lug a huge suitcase up tons of steps or along cobblestone streets? Remember to bring a camera and your journal so you can commit your travel to memory along the way.
4. Let your experience unfold. Your first night might be a little disorienting and can feel a bit lonely, so be kind and gentle with yourself. On my first night in a new place, I call a friend, drink enough water, go to bed, and sleep through the night to get through jet lag. In the morning, I have my grounding rituals — these are meditation, yoga, water, a trip to a local coffee shop, and breakfast. Figure out what makes you feel good so you can start the day with a ritual of your own, no matter where you are.
Get a true taste of your destination by traveling and eating like local whenever you can. My favorite thing to do in a new city is to join common interest groups like MeetUp, Couchsurfing, Internations, or even to stay in a hostel or Airbnb for a few days to meet like-minded travelers. You can even share a meal with locals through EatWith or Feastly — so cool!
To keep it fun and fresh, challenge yourself to meet new faces in new places. Different cities make me feel like a different person, so I tend to err on loose free-flowing days with minimal planning. I make time for magic to find me in corner bookstores, small seaside shops, and excursions with strangers I've just met who’ve become close friends. Go with an adventurous spirit and discover how beautiful and serendipitous moments find you along your trip!