Travelling alone is a skill, and one I’m constantly honing in order to get the very best out of my experiences abroad. I’ve travelled through 45 countries, more than half of them solo, and it’s taught me so much about myself and the universe. I highly recommend solo travel to anybody and everybody – whether you’re 18 or 80, male or female, introvert or extrovert.
To help you figure out how to travel alone and take that leap of faith, or enhance your solo travels if you’re an old hand at this, I’ve tried to distil my wisdom into ten top tips for travelling alone. I hope they will open up new possibilities for you, and empower you to go out and meet the world.
1. Look At The People, Not Your Guidebook
No matter where I go or for how long I’m staying, the very first thing I do when I get to a new city or country, is go to a busy place, get a coffee, and just watch people in their element. An hour spent people-watching will usually tell you more about the culture and customs of a new country than your guidebook. I then use what I’ve learnt to shape how I interact with the people I meet, showing I’ve made an effort to understand and adapt to their culture. It’s a surefire way to make friends, and help you make deeper connections even if you’re only staying a few days.
2. Start Saying YES
It’ll either be a good time or a good story, but either way it’s one of the secrets of travelling alone. Say yes to the coffee. Say yes to the hike. Say yes to leaping so far outside your comfort zone, that you’d feel like a foreigner if you ever went back. Say yes to adventure. The advantage of not being with a group is that you’re more likely to say “yes” to whatever serendipitous encounter that comes your way.
3. Learn How To Meet People While Travelling Solo
One of the best things about travelling alone, is that you have “HI, COME TALK TO ME” written all over your forehead. There’s no wall of defense in the form of friends who might block you from having an incredible and engaging conversation with a local or fellow traveller. People are curious, and when you look foreign, they want to know your story. In turn, you learn theirs.
All you have to do is show the world you’re open to new connections. The best way to meet people while travelling solo is to hang out in places where people can easily approach you: Coffee shops, public squares, museums, the hostel bar… Take a book with you, rather than looking at your phone – it’s much more likely to spark a conversation.
4. Know Your Limits When It Comes To Alcohol
In hopes of sounding like the mature adult I strive to be, it’s so important to understand your tolerance levels while out drinking. And I’m not just talking to the ladies. Getting messy drunk is actually a bit rubbish, especially true when you’re travelling. You’ll waste valuable adventure time nursing a hangover in your hostel dorm, and it doesn’t make a great impression on your new hostel buddies. By getting to know your limits, and working out how to hit the sweet spot of tipsy but not wasted, you can have a good time and still be a responsible adult while travelling.
I know, I know — what is this sorcery right?! It’s like magic. It can seem hard at first, but it’s very possible with practice!
5. If It’s Your First Solo Trip, You’ll Need To Unlearn Stranger Danger
This one is probably the hardest to achieve, because it’s been drilled into us since we were kids. If it’s your first solo trip, you’ll likely be closed and defensive with many of the strangers you meet. But the more you travel, the more you’ll realise that 99% of humans are innately good. And by keeping an open mind, no matter where you go, you’re more likely to get the most out of your travels. The word “stranger” has a negative connotation, but I firmly believe strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet.
We love, hurt, laugh, and cry the same. We all have emotions. We all like music. Find common ground in the most basic matters of life and strike up a conversation with someone you’ve just met.
6. Have A 10-Second Intro
It’s likely that the first question you’ll be asked will be where you’re from and how long you’ll be passing through. After you’ve covered the basics, it can be useful to have a little 10-second spiel that opens the floor for deeper conversation. I’m not talking about a rehearsed speech of course, but knowing roughly what you’ll say next will stop the conversation faltering and help you make new friends more easily.
For me, it’s always something along the lines of what I love the most about the other person’s country and how it compares to my experiences in the US. It never hurts to show some appreciation for the country you’re visiting, and it sets the tone for a really positive and empowering conversation.
7. Smile More
There is no better accessory than a big, winning smile. Strangers will walk up to me, compliment my smile, and then the next minute, we’ll be at a restaurant laughing and learning about each other’s lives. This is one of the most important tips for travelling alone to keep in mind. Smiles are friendly, inviting, and universal. They can be translated and understood in any language, and it’s something I try to be mindful of when I’m roaming the streets of a new destination.
8. Do Something You Wouldn’t Do At Home
Salsa dance. Paraglide. Eat a weird-looking food. By opening yourself up to these new experiences, you’ll no doubt make new friends as you bond over these crazy experiences. The honest truth about learning how to travel alone, is that you’re never really alone. Every time you sign up for a new activity, you’ll have a bunch of eager and friendly faces to meet and join you. And the beauty of being away from your friends and family is that you can try new things and experiment more freely than you might do with people who’ve known you your whole life.
9. Always Keep A Couple Friends Updated On Your Whereabouts
A quick and easy safety precaution for travelling alone is to keep a friend or two updated on your daily whereabouts, no matter where in the world they are. If you’re not regularly updating your social media and letting people know you’re okay and having the time of your life, it’s good to keep someone in the loop so that there’s a point of reference or contact in the case of an emergency.
10. Never Underestimate The Power Of “Hello”
There’s a quote that goes, “I greet the janitor and boss of my company exactly same.” I love that so much, because at our core, we’re all the same. Human. And by treating everyone with the same amount of love, kindness, and respect, you open yourself to new perspectives and possibilities, while adding another stash of good karma to your collection.
I’m a huge believer in the universe reciprocating the energy you put out into the world — so be kind to everyone. Because a simple “Hello!” will go a long way.
So now that you’re fully convinced that your solo trip is going to be one of the most exciting and life-changing vacations ever, I hope you take these tips for travelling alone to heart and come back with some awesome stories. Anything I left out? I’d love to hear it in the comments below ?
About The Author
Glo is a kick-ass solo female traveler currently winging her way around Africa. Follow her adventures over at The Blog Abroad.