I often get asked, “How was it travelling alone?”, What immediately comes to mind after being asked this is, “It was one of the best but also one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life”. I believe solo travel is something everyone should try atleast once in their lifetime, It is a eye opening experience that can be hard at times but in the end, can lead to new friendships, unforgettable memories and a new outlook on life.
My first experience of solo travel:
Naturally, my first week of my first solo adventure was the most enlightening. It being my first time in a foreign country alone, not 100% sure on what I was doing put me extremely out of my comfort zone. I felt very alone on my first week… something that I will not lie about or sugarcoat. But that being said, it was a major point on my trip that helped me grow extremely as a person. My journey started in Paris. It is a city that I already knew and loved which relieved a bit of the stress leading into it. Luckily I started my entry of staying in hostels the right way, by immediately meeting my dorm mates and going for dinner and drinks. You will feel alone at times, but then, like me you will meet new people who are doing the same thing as you and suddenly the loneliness fades away.
I can not stress enough that staying in hostels is a must. If you’re willing to lose a little bit of the privacy of staying in a hotel room it will go a long way. There are many pros to staying in a hostel, first and foremost is the price. You can get a nice, clean, comfortable hostel in many European destinations for just $20-$30 (maybe less if you give up on a few comforts). In South East Asia you can get a dorm room for just $10-$15 dollars, and in some places even cheaper! I always like to book my accomodation through Hostelworld as they have some of the nicest hostels at the best price. Hostelworld strives to have everyone who books through them, leave a review afterwords. These give you a good idea of what you are getting yourself into. How easy it is to meet others is another major draw to hostels. There are a lot of like minded individuals who are all doing the same things as you, making it super easy to make friends.
Interactions with locals and where to stay:
When traveling, I always find it most enlightening to stay in an area of town that is maybe a little less touristy and has a few more local inhabitants. For me, like many others the thought of discovering things that fewer people or travelers have seen is always exciting. This is usually much easier when staying in a local area of town. Converse with the locals, they will always give you tips about their city (where to go or local customs that you may not already be aware of). Try to use local languages, even if just for common greetings or “please and thank you’s”, trust me it will go along way… (hopefully this way you wont get yelled at by an angry french woman in the pouring rain, like I did before picking up a bit of french!)
Get out of your comfort zone!:
Remembering the fact that there are thousands of travelers in the same boat as you is crucial. For many it is also their first time travelling alone and will be feeling the same emotions and share the same outlook as you. Do not dwell on the fact that you are alone. It is extremely important to put yourself out of your comfort zone and explore new things. Look at your bucket list, does your adventure include something you can check off?
Get photos of yourself:
A major regret of mine is the missed opportunities of getting my photo taken. Sure I ended up my trip with amazing photos of the things I saw and the memories that I will cherish forever, but now i’m stuck with people asking me, “where’s a photo of you in front of so and so?” leaving me with the awkward response of, “oh I don’t have one unfortunately”. Sure it may feel uncomfortable sometimes asking a stranger to take a picture of you… but trust me, in the long run you will not regret it! Most of the time, your new photographer will ask you to return the favour by taking a photo of them as well. (I mean who doesn’t want a picture in front of a famous statue or world renowned bridge!)
Get off the beaten track!:
Sure you want to hit the capital cities and the major tourist attractions at least once in your life but make sure to venture to a few cities or locations that are a little off the frequent trail. This will help you soon discover that you are seeing the “real country”, not just what the crazy packed cities promote the country to be. Using the typical example of “Paris is not the real France, you have to venture to the french countryside to see the real France”. To some extent this is true, I personally, like many of you probably are now used to read this advice and think “It can’t be as different as they say”. But after experiencing it first hand, it really is. No, you don’t have to travel to the countryside but at least another city to see the difference. For example Paris is extremely different than Marseille, (France’s second largest city located in the south), which is then again very different from Lyon (France’s third largest city located in the east). Only by exploring can you see the diversity of a single country. Get out and explore the difference yourself!
During solo travel you will always have times where you are alone or don’t know exactly what to do, but these are the times that help you grow and learn the most as a person.
Thank you very much for reading my ‘Solo Travel’ post, make sure to check out my previous post ‘Something New’to learn a little about me and what I’m doing. Talk soon, Mason.
Lonely Planet Travel Books provide useful information on how to plan a trip and what to do when there.
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