YOUR ADVICE: TRAVELING SOLO

Taking yourself on a travel adventure has become as popular as it is empowering

By Erica Bray

AAA World Article

No travel companion? No problem. Taking yourself on a travel adventure has become as popular as it is empowering. Traveling solo frees you up to journey without compromise—doing the things that you want to do while moving at your own pace. Understandably, it can be overwhelming as a first-timer, so here are some tips to free yourself from fear or trepidation and initiate that first solo vacation.

TAKE SOLO JOURNEYS IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD
Dissolve pre-departure jitters by planning a few solo excursions within your town or state. Take yourself to lunch. Go to a museum. Take the train to a nearby city and join a bus tour. Consider at-home adventures “test runs” to boost confidence.

SEEK INSPIRATION
Head to your local bookstore or online to find narratives and advice from solo travelers of all ages, sexes, races, and religions. Learn from those who’ve traveled solo before you, as they could provide a framework for your trip.

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
Do your due diligence and plan. This research can fuel inspiration to book the trip, not to mention boost confidence once you’re in the destination. Draw up a list of places to see and experiences you wish to have, as well as learning the ins and outs of the local culture. Take your time organizing how you envision tackling it all with a blueprint itinerary, designed exclusively for you by you

SIGN UP FOR GROUP ACTIVITIES
Fear of loneliness is often a deterrent to solo travel. A great way to overcome this is to research group activities and tours within your destination. Whether these tours be for a few hours, an entire day, or over the course of multiple days, you’ll get to enjoy sights and sounds with other like-minded travelers.

USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO BEFRIEND LOCALS
Seek out locals in your travel destination, or those who will also be traveling there during your stay, ahead of your vacation. Social media and online traveler forums can be a great way to make those connections—even better if a mutual friend or acquaintance can refer you. Of course, be wise about what you share in advance with anyone you don’t know, but stay open to the beautiful connections that can be made ahead of time to make the trip special.

SHARE YOUR ITINERARY WITH LOVE ONES
Once you have your plans in place, share what you can with a handful of loved ones in the event you need to be reached. Make sure your cell phone works wherever you’re traveling and check in with a few people during your trip.

PACK ACCORDINGLY
Along with packing what’s appropriate for culture and weather, consider what you might need for times when being alone might prove uncomfortable. Books, magazines, music, and journals are great companions for those quiet moments to offset loneliness. A journal, specifically, can be helpful in capturing travel-inspired epiphanies, thoughts, and memories that you’ll reflect on later.

EAT AT RESTAURANT BARS
Instead of asking for a table for one at mealtime, belly up to a restaurant bar to dine. You’ll likely be surrounded by other solo individuals, and you’ll have a bartender with whom to converse. (Plus, bartenders can be excellent resources on things to see and do.)

SAFETY FIRST
It’s up to you to stay safe when traveling, and balance this without allowing fear to overrule your fun. Do your research. Be alert, night and day. Use anti-theft products, like wearing a money belt under your clothes. Be cautious about how much information you share with strangers. Have your hotel call you a taxi.

SAY "HELLO" TO STRANGERS
A simple “Hello” (a universally understood word) can be currency far better than what’s in your wallet. The people in a destination, whether they be fellow travelers or locals, can add so much to the experience. Of course, use your best judgement on whom to speak with and what to share. But recognize that “Hello” can lead to amazing advice, stories, and friendships.

The first time doing anything new can inevitably result in some hiccups. When things don’t go smoothly, try to recognize it as part of the bigger adventure: a solo vacation you’ll never forget.