There may come a time where you start to realise that you value travel more that the rest of your friends and family. Your friends might be saving for a house, car or wedding and not have the dosh, or might not be able to tear themselves away from their significant other long enough to come travel the world with you. When this happens, you either have to sacrifice doing the thing that makes you the most happy (not a chance!) or put on your big girl pants and TRAVEL SOLO.
My first solo travel trip was to Spain. Of course prior to this trip I was excited, nervous and just a little bit scared. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need anyone else to help me – that I could book my own trip, pack my own bags, navigate new cities and spend time completely by myself – and be happy. This trip was a big tick off the bucket list as something I had always wanted to do. Because of this, I have collated a few tips on how to have a successful first solo travel experience.
1.Triple Check Everything
If you have decided to book everything yourself (as I did) make sure to double and triple check every little detail- and then check again. One thing that becomes painfully obvious when you travel solo is that you are alone. There is no one else to remind you of a flight time, triple check your accommodation dates and check out times or make sure you packed your bikini.
2. Travel Light
I would even go as far as to say only pack carry on luggage. The last thing you will want to do when you get off your plane is lug your 25kg suitcase up and down the metro stairs all on your lonesome. When you travel solo you can bet that there won’t be a handsome white knight there to carry your bags for you. Only packing carry on also saves you waiting around for your luggage at the other end (wasting precious minutes in your new city!) and if you’re flying on one of the budget airlines, will save you paying extra for check in bags.
3. Food Hunt At The Markets
Markets are Gods gift to solo travellers. If you’re in Valencia head to the Mercado Central, if in Madrid go to the Mercado de San Miguel. Both have an amazing range and you can grab something on the go and cut out the awkward (and inevitable) eating alone situation. There are also fresh fruit cups and smoothies for a healthy addition to your paella, tapas and sangria Spanish diet.
4. Walk Walk Walk (Or Cycle)
Whether you’re travelling solo or with a group, walking around the city you’re visiting is a great way to orientate yourself and also see the parts of the city that aren’t just in the tourist guides. Walking or cycling around the city means that you don’t have to dish out on train and cab fees (which you can’t split between you and your travellers, as it’s just you). One great thing about walking or cycling alone is that it makes you look more like a local. People don’t expect foreigners to be travelling by themselves, they expect big loud groups blocking the walk ways, being on your own is already helping you to blend in and become a local.
5. Book A Hostel
If you are quite a talkative person who loves meeting new people, the best advice I can give is book a hostel. Most good hostels have meet up nights, free walking tours, communal areas and pub crawls. Even if you decide not to partake in any of the activities on offer, if you book yourself into a 4 or 6 bed dorm room, you are guaranteed to meet people. Most people who book hostels are quite like minded in that they are happy to meet new people, are friendly and love talking about their travel stories and hearing about yours. Hostels are the perfect place to meet other solo travellers who are looking for a travel buddy, exactly as you are.
6. Find The View
There’s nothing like an amazing city view to make you appreciate where you are. If you’re at any point in your solo travel experience doubting that you did the right thing in choosing to go it alone, head up a tower and look over the city. Pretty views have always made me feel so small, but so lucky at the same time. And there’s no way you can feel sad or lonely or doubtful when you feel lucky.
7. Follow The Sun
Funnily enough, walking along a beach is not something that is a mandatory group activity. I found when walking around an entire city for a day, all I wanted to do was find somewhere to sit down and not have to buy something. If you’re looking for somewhere peaceful to go, where you can sit down and not feel like you will be hurried along, head to a beach, bring a book, sunbathe and enjoy the sun.
8. Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
If you are feeling a little lonely after spending a day to yourself in your new city, I dare you to get out of your comfort zone and go speak to someone. While on my first solo trip in Valencia, I had spent the week mostly alone and was eating by myself at a seafood restaurant on the beach. It was the perfect people watching spot, and this particular restaurant had a few tables facing out onto the beach, making it slightly less awkward to eat alone (the constant struggle). I noticed a girl sit down at the table opposite me and order her food and a glass of wine. I tried to watch as she spoke to the Spanish waitress to see if she was speaking English. I watched her doing exactly as I was, people watching and checking her phone.
Taking a leap of faith (after giving myself a little pep talk) I went over to the girl, smiled and asked if she spoke English. After she nodded yes, I asked her if she would like any company as we were both eating alone. After that, we chatted for several hours and had several more glasses of wine and sangria together, learning about each others travels and what brought us to Valencia. When we left each other she thanked me for coming over and talking to her saying that she was feeling a little lonely and loved that I had decided to introduce myself.
It’s not for everyone – and this girl could have said ‘no thank you very much I love eating paella alone’. However, if that had happened, I would have just sat down and had the rest of the day to myself – which would have happened if I hadn’t talk to her anyway. So really, you have nothing to lose. Most travellers are open to meeting new people and it’s all part of the fun of travelling!
Travelling solo was something that I always wanted to do, if just to see if it was for me or not. Although I will not be turning down any friends’ offers to travel with them, I now know that I love solo travel and will definitely continue to work my way down my travel bucket list – whether I have a travel buddy or not. It’s been said a thousand times and I’ll say it again – every person should travel solo at least once in their life!