How to Solo Travel? - Advice from a Solo Female Traveller
What exactly is the hype about solo travel? Who in the world even wants to travel on their own? Let alone travel to a foreign country by themselves? As a female? Are you crazy? Honestly… I would answer yes to that question. Having solo travelled extensively over the last 3-4 years to many foreign (non-English speaking) countries, I often get asked: “Why do you choose to travel and be alone when you can travel with friends? Isn’t it lonely?”. That is a very good question and here is my answer:
At the heart of it all, it’s the self confidence that comes with solo travel. The courage to travel alone without a shoulder to lean on, constantly growing and learning new things and being outside my comfort zone. Meeting more people when solo travelling than with friends, but that desire to meet people outside my current social circle is not because I don’t appreciate the friends I have - it’s driven more by an itch to constantly seek new perspectives. Void of distractions and chatter, you become more present and aware. You learn so much about yourself, how to sit with your mind and enjoy your own company. These are the underlying reasons of why I choose to solo travel, in between travelling with my amazing bunch of family and friends.
This article will cover the main concerns raised over Solo Travelling and really touches on how you can create a positive mindset for yourself when travelling on your own. If you’re interested in the comparisons between Solo Travel vs Travelling with Friends, here is a more detailed article: Solo vs Travel with Friends
* I won’t be touching on what to pack because everyone has a different travel style. But if you’re into backpacking and camping, I’ve dedicated an article to it here: Backpacking - Tips and Essentials
1. How to deal with Loneliness
2. How to Attract Good People and Make Friends Fast
3. How to Stay Safe & Deal with Uncomfortable Situations
4. How to Travel Cheaply: Is Solo Travel more Expensive?
5. Extra Tips and Advice
1. How to deal with loneliness
Who said Solo Travelling had to be lonely? There are no rules saying you can’t make friends. Consequently, making new friends and meeting up with people you know - does not undermine the fact that you are still solo travelling. The idea is that you left for this journey on your own, prepared to face the challenges of the unknown. But a huge part of solo travelling isn’t being independent to a fault - but rather opening yourself up to others and learning so much about people along the way. When good people come into your life, don’t let pride push them away.
How often do I feel lonely when I solo travel? How do I deal with it?
Rarely, do I feel lonely when solo travelling. The only time I ever crave company is when I see beautiful sunsets or sunrises, and think, “how nice it would be to share this moment with someone right now?”
When I solo travel, I mentally prepare myself for solo travel. Meaning, I need some time away and alone: to think, to reconnect with myself and be more present in my surroundings.
If I want human connection, I will go seek it. It’s not like solo travelling deprives me of social interactions. In fact, it gives me the freedom to choose ‘when’ I wish for human company and when I wish to be alone. It’s quite liberating.
Some of the best things to do when Solo Travelling:
Journal: It’s the most therapeutic thing when solo travelling. You get such a huge influx of thoughts and new perspectives, interesting stories and people, perhaps also internal challenges and life dilemmas - writing it all down is a way of releasing pent up thoughts and you feel so much lighter mentally. But don’t just write down bad things (which many people do), also write down the good moments, things you’re grateful for, the inspiring people you met, the crazy thing you did today and how it made you feel. When you look back in a few years times, those journal entries are your own personal treasures.
Get Creative: Draw, photograph, write, sing, play - whatever you love to do. No one’s around to judge - create to your heart’s desire.
People Watching: I love observing people, it’s so fascinating and you can learn a lot too.
Podcasts: Learn while on the go. I listen to a lot of language learning podcasts, inspirational stories and educational podcasts too.
Reading: Who doesn’t love a good thought provoking book?
What to avoid when feeling lonely?
Social media: Try not to use it in replacement of boredom or loneliness, because you will feel even lonelier and it can be an empty distraction. Find out what the underlying reason is for being on social media: do you actually learn something and find yourself inspired by the people you follow people, or is it simply to escape the present reality of your own life? Perhaps analyse how much content you consume vs how much you create - and try create more than you consume. Follow accounts that contribute positively to you and your mindset. It’s always a choice.
People with negative energy: the people you choose to surround yourself with (and yes it’s a choice), really effects your mindset and the energy you give out. By this, I mean people who are constantly pessimistic and for every positive attribute you find, they can match that with a negative. Being in the company of people like that is super exhausting. BE SELECTIVE about who you spend time with. Yes, this is selfish. No, I don’t care. Life is too short to surround yourself with people who choose to be pessimistic and bring you down.
2. How to attract good people and make friends fast?
The Law of Attraction: what you echo out, comes back to you. I truly believe this, because there is no other explanation for the amount of amazing human beings who have come into my life - especially during my solo travels - ever since I became more conscious of the energy I send out. But it wasn’t something that changed overnight, I see it as constant work in progress because it requires conscious effort to feed that positive energy and not the negative.
By this, I’m referring to how you treat strangers, how often you smile and laugh, how often you can turn someone else’s frown upside down, how you say hello, and your gratitude towards the simple things in life. The way people react to your energy is so powerful and those who vibrate on a similar frequency, tend to have this invisible draw to each other. If you can recognise this, then attracting good people and making friends will come rather naturally and quickly to you.
What if I’m just born a negative person and people don’t want to be friends with me?
That is a load of bollocks, my friend. You are what you feed your mind.
If you tell yourself you’re born that way, then you’re playing the victim instead of taking control of your own life and identity.
Your environment and the people you surround yourself with, are what contribute to your identity. Change your environment and your identity will often change with it - if you allow it to. Don’t get too attached to any one identity, change is the only sure thing and if you don’t change, you get left behind.
Visualise being the sort of person you would want to hang out with and then work towards it. If you don’t even want to hang out with yourself, how can you expect others to want to?
How to consciously echo out positive energy and make friends?
Smile genuinely and often: there is a difference between fake smiles and genuine smiles - and people can tell, they can feel it. Fake smiles are from the outside-in. Genuine smiles are from inside-out. When you smile from the heart, you radiate warmth and people are consciously very drawn to that. Also, this is the easiest thing to do because there’s just so much to be grateful for and smile about!
Choose to focus on the positive: You can always find negatives to a positive, in almost any situation. But choosing to focus on the positives doesn’t mean you’re ignorant of the negatives - you simply choose to feed a positive mindset, and people find that attractive.
Make the first move: If you see someone you really want to talk to… JUST DO IT!!! What’s the worse that can happen? Nothing really! Maybe it’s an awkward conversation? But hey, it’s better than asking yourself “what if”? More often than not, a beautiful friendship can blossom out of it.
Judge less and empathise more: someone snapped at you, they’re obviously having a bad day. Perhaps they received some bad news, and can’t quite deal with it calmly. Just be grateful that you’re having a better day than they are, smile and still wish them a nice day if you can - little gestures like that can have a huge impact :)
Be a good conversationalist: Be a good listener and respond thoughtfully. Contribute value to conversations, whether it be positivity, knowledge or laughter. No one really wants to be drowned in petty problems and shallow gossip is unattractive.
3. How to stay safe and deal with negative situations?
Society paints the world out to be a dark, dangerous place - especially for women. It’s us vs them. Home vs danger. Trust people you know vs never trust strangers. If I’m being completely honest, a huge reason why I solo travel is to PROVE to people that I can travel as a female, on my own, and deal with uncomfortable situations. The world is a beautiful place to explore and full of kind strangers. I don’t mean to be naive, because there are many not-so-nice strangers in this world too, but it’s the same as dealing with positive vs negative mindset: you choose which to focus on and that can ultimately determine the type of people you meet. With that said, there are a few basic things you can do to prevent ‘unfortunate situations’.
Here are some tips to ‘stay safe’ while solo travelling:
Avoid showing your wealth - don’t wear super fancy expensive labels or flash your expensive watches, handbags or gadgets in less wealthy areas where those items are rare to come by. It’s not just that someone might want to steal it, but it’s just a little bit disrespectful to snub your first world luxuries in their faces.
Use your gut feeling or intuition - if someone gives you bad heebie jeebies but are doing a good job with sweet talk, go with your gut feeling, be polite and just leave. (There’s an interesting section about ‘intuition’ in section 4 & 5 of this article: CS - Safety Tips and Advice.
It’s ok to tell white lies - if you’re a female and some random guy takes interest in you, tell him you’re married - apparently having a boyfriend is not enough to deter some men… ugh.
Walk with confidence - don’t look like a lost puppy with your phone out all the time, people take advantage of that.
Say it like you mean it - don’t say every sentence like it’s a question. Some people will take advantage of your uncertainty to try sell you more things, or peer pressure you to perhaps doing something you’re uncomfortable with. Be decisive and say it with confidence.
On the odd occasion, I do find myself challenged with unfortunate situations: From getting important things stolen (like phone, camera, passport, loads of cash, all my bankcard, IDs and Visas), to missing a flight, almost being denied on board because of VISA hiccups, feeling uncomfortable with the driver who just picked me up, had my drink unknowingly spiked while going out, fined by Thai Police on two occasions while riding a moped, got into a traffic accident and ended up in the emergency room 30mins after I had my wisdom teeth pulled out (and on valentines day!) - so yea, I’ve had my fair share of travel mishaps. Not always easy, but you’ll find a way to get through it.
Here are my tips for dealing with unfortunate situations:
Always look for the positives: when I had my moped crash, I was so thankful it was mainly just external and nothing major. When I got my phone stolen - I was thankful that I still had my laptop to help make arrangements.
Don’t waste time wallowing in self pity - think of solutions, then ACT on them: playing victim and crying in despair is simply a waste of time. Definitely take a few moments to process and be emotional, but then snap out of that phase quickly and get on to the solutions. What is the next best thing you can do now that will help you? Remember, when you’re solo travelling, you’re on your own with no one else to lean on. Wipe the tears, toughen up - you can do it.
Stay calm and assess the situation: honestly, this is so important. You can’t think straight when you’re freaking out. Breathe, be calm, and think logically - not emotionally.
4. How to travel cheaply: Is solo travel more expensive?
It’s a myth that travelling solo is more expensive than travelling with friends. While it ‘can’ be more expensive, this is again, a choice and often a matter of ‘pride’. I know people who would never Couchsurf, stay in hostels or even Airbnb, because they love the prestige that comes with staying in fancy hotels. While I’m not one to judge, I do think that luxury travel (to an extent) can be a barrier to so many enriching experiences and genuine encounters with people.
If you’re planning to solo travel on a budget, here are my best tips:
eat locally or cook with local ingredients
couchsurf or stay in hostels - it’s a great way to meet new people too!
hitchhike instead of renting a car, or use public transport.
bring your own keep cup and tea bags, so you can just ask for hot water (normally free)
have a set of your own cutlery and containers so you can bring your lunch with you and save on eating out
Here is an article I wrote with more travel tips: How to Travel on a Budget
5. Extra Tips & Advice for Solo Travelling
Try not to plan too much and go where the wind takes you. Sometimes your fixed plans could mean missing out on an amazing opportunity.
Pack light but practically. Less things to think about and look after.
Keep an electronic copy of all your important docs, flights, visas, bookings, insurance, etc.
Hardest part is convincing yourself to do it, so ask yourself: in the long run, which decision would you regret most?
Hope that was an insightful read and glimpse into Solo Travelling! If you have any more questions or suggestions to add, don’t hesitate to comment below! :)