1. Give someone you trust your (probably very vague) travel itinerary
You won’t have reliable wifi anyway, so you’ll only be checking in either early morning or late at night. It’s always gives me peace of mind that someone else out there knows the general area/city I’m in. Even though there’s no control, I’m not totally alone.
However, you can’t predict everything. So, it can be hard to check in consistently. If you don’t know what you’re going to be doing (which happens more often than you think), post a little something to social media just so Mom knows you’re still alive. Check into a coffee shop. Change your profile pic to that selfie you took in front of Big Ben. Everyone back home will slightly hate you for it, but oh well. Your family knows you’re safe and you’re having the time of your life, so the rest of them can handle it.
Plus, a little passive gloating never hurt anybody.
2. Introduce yourself first
It’s either that, or awkwardly shuffle around your roommates until eventually someone works up the courage to make eye contact. Granted, you don’t have to say anything. But sometimes it’s easier to scope out cool new traveling buddies by making the first move. Plus, it makes you seem assertive and friendly, even if you have no freaking clue what’s going on. In life, or in general; no one is certainly judging you.
I may not be the best at dating, but I’m certainly a pro in the platonic travel fling department.
3. Don’t be afraid to eat alone
My favorite exchange happened in London. I was starving, wanted good food, and thought, why not treat myself? I found a sit-down restaurant that overlooked St. Paul’s from the other side of the Thames and wandered in. The hostess smiled at me.
“Yep, just me!”
Staff will probably be nicer to you because you’ll be easy to please. My waitress stopped by every now and then, but pretty much left me to my thoughts. I didn’t even end up looking at my phone all that much. People, while sometimes irritating, can be very interesting.
4. Listen to music while you explore
Pop an earbud in and start walking. Sometimes the biggest fear about being alone is having to deal with silence.
Make sure you choose a good playlist because I promise you, whenever those few songs come on again months later, you’ll be transported back to when you were strolling those cobblestone streets.
5. Spontaneity is fun, but it won’t be so fun for your budget
That is, unless you’re going to be traveling during off season. Then go right ahead, you lucky duck. Don’t book your plane tickets, your trains, your accommodation. You will probably find it on the road. And, that way, you can change your travel plans and explore new cities with all the cool people you meet.
But, if you’re like me and not so lucky, it’s going to be during the busy season . . . a.k.a, the expensive season. So, book all your stuff out in advance, because it will definitely be hard to find a (decently priced) free bed. But that’s alright. Busy season is when it’s the easiest to make friends anyway.
Here’s my compromise: I make sure to spend at least a week in new cities, but I won’t plan much else in advance. It’s long enough to take your time, wander, and do things with the sudden friends you meet (which is usually on your last day). The only thing I make exceptions for are events, like plays or concerts – things I can’t really switch around.
In Edinburgh, I connected with some awesome girls. We went out for beers. The next day we were on a tour bus to the Highlands. I ended up visiting Stirling Castle when I never thought I would go. Spontaneity – ✅ Budget still intact – ✅✅
6. Ask a fellow traveler for a photo or two, or else you’ll have beautiful city photos sans the most important thing – you.
It’s a slow process getting as comfortable in front of the camera as I am behind it, but I have thousands of photos of wonderful places . . . and maybe about 50 or so decent ones with just me in them. I had to scour months of photos for this blog post, so learn from my mistake.
While I was solo traveling, I was almost always with someone. Out of the month I was constantly backpacking on my own, I can maybe count the days where I was totally alone on one hand. Most of that time was spent traveling to and from places. Airports and train stations are full of loners.
Then I would check into the hostel and have a new buddy by the time I finished making my bed. Plus, then you can make your travel friend take photos until you’re happy with how they look. It’s awkward to ask a stranger for repeats.
7. Eat in often
You’ll definitely save money on food when you solo travel. You don’t have to please people by going out and spending $20 on dinner every night. You only have to go out when you want to.
I tend to lose weight when I backpack. I don’t eat as much and I’m constantly on the move. Like 7-10 miles a day on the move.
Why get a gym membership when you can just backpack?
8. Don’t sleep in anything over a 12 if you can help it
Sure, the prices for that 20 bed may seem tempting but, I can promise you that, no matter how many earplugs you think you can jam in your ears, you are not going to get even a decent amount of sleep. And if you have an early flight? Forget about it. With 20 people in a room, that door is never going to stop opening and closing. And the lights?? I hope you already like to sleep like you don’t care about the electricity bill.
My personal range is around 8 – 12, depending on the prices. Mixed dorms tend to be cheaper, but if you’re a new solo female traveler, don’t compromise feeling safe and comfortable for the few extra dollars. Plus guys snore and like to leave their smelly socks on the floor.
Like, at least hide them in your spare shoes or something.
9. Fake it ’till you make it
I practically follow this rule everyday. In my job. In my life.
Faking it while traveling may mean that you look comfortable on the outside while walking to the train station at 3 in the morning.
It could mean eating alone in the hostel kitchen, or walking up to the bar and striking up conversation with the person next to you. Which can be quite daunting.
It may mean that you pretend not to speak English sometimes, just because that’s the easiest and safest thing to do.
Faking it while traveling mostly just means having confidence where you normally wouldn’t have to. Or at least pretending like you do.
10. Throw all the rules out the window every once in a while
Well, maybe don’t throw out all the rules. No one wants to get deported . . . but you know what I mean. Time is fleeting. Make those memories. Experience those moments.
Secret Rule Number 11.
If you’re going to experiment with hair dye while you’re on the road (cough Henna cough), just be aware that it’s going to be everlasting because, even if you want to forget about it, Facebook will bring it up every year or so. Also, you better like that winter coat that you’re going to be wearing in every. single. photo. Backpackers are the default minimalists.
Until next time,