“I’m thinking about quitting my job and going travelling by myself, can you help me?”
I wish I had a pound for every time a newbie solo traveller said this to me! Travelling by yourself for the first time is terrifying. I remember sitting on the plane thinking ‘god what am I doing?’. Frantically scoping out people that could be my potential new friend was a priority as we landed.
The key to getting rid of your nerves (or at least calming them), is to plan. These are my top solo travel tips, for helping to feel like ‘you got this’…
Your first solo travel destination is important
I always recommend Bangkok as a starting point for anyone going to Asia. It was never on my list of places I REALLY wanted to see. However, its teaming with ‘freshies’ (new solo backpackers) all looking to meet people and not wanting to be on their own. It’s hard to step into a hostel there without meeting new people (and if you’re a little less chatty than me, you’ll most likely be approached by chatty me). The year I first travelled solo, my flight was diverted from Bangkok to Koh Samui, due to horrific flooding in the city. I spent my first two days on (what is essentially) a honeymooners island. As a traveller, very much trying to find my feet, it was a bit daunting not having lots of people around who were doing the same thing.
A lot of solo travellers choose a country who’s first language is English, to settle themselves in. This may work for some, however, I actually found it detrimental. English speakers were a lot more settled, and people didn’t need to rely on each other for help as much. As a more upmarket city, I found hostels in Melbourne to be quite cliquey. This was confirmed to me by a few other travellers who bad been further up the coast (Byron Bay, for example), where things were a lot more relaxed and open.
Use travel sites to help you plan
Please god… if you do nothing else, use the following two sites to (at least) settle yourself in.
www.hostelworld.com (I slightly prefer this one’s format)
www.hostelbookers.com (Good to have as a back-up, as sometimes one will have beds, but not the other)
Please don’t be temped just to take the one rated the cleanest. That’s very nice, but what you’re looking for is a good happy medium. A hostel with 1800 ratings is (by probability) going to have a lower score than one with 27 ratings. If they’re scoring around the 85+ mark with that many ratings (and getting a nice review for ‘atmosphere’) its most likely a winner. Read the separate reviews from travellers to pick out whats important to you. You could be in a luxury hotel, but if there’s nobody to enjoy it with, it wont have the same shine.
I like Trip Advisor as a back up, however, I find a lot of travellers are over sensitive to noise on there. I stayed in a hostel in Lima that had terrible trip advisor reviews, simply down to the noise. I really didn’t think it was that bad…didn’t even use my ear plugs!
Research the area you’re travelling to
Not long ago I read a travel post from a blogger who doesn’t usually write about travel. They’d gone on their first solo trip to a very large, well known, English speaking city. The post was pretty miserable; think that bit in Sex in the City where Carrie moves to Paris with the Russian and is left to roam the streets alone by day, sad French music in the background.
This blogger had arranged to stay with a friend rather than a hostel full of people with free time. The general feeling was that they hadn’t made a backup list of things to go do/see, in the event that they were left walking about alone. Why would you, if you’ve never done this before? It’s definitely worth googling questions such as the following:
- Top ten things to see/do in ….
- Free things to do in…
- Unusual things to do/see in…
- Travel bloggers from that place
Pinterest search your travel destination
Good god I love Pinterest. When someone suggests a new place to me, its one of the first things I check. Instant pictures from thousands of people, and its great for finding more unusual/individual spots. Nowadays, its not just pictures that are uploaded. A lot of bloggers file their tips and posts up there, with images making easier to pull out the ones that appeal to you.
Join a travel group for solo advice/friends
Something I’m relatively new to, I find that Facebook is the best platform for this (so far).
Nomads – a life of cheap/free travel is a page that will ask you to request join. Once you’re in, they offer a “free forum to ideas & information on low-budget/moneyless/low-impact ways to live sustainably on the road”. Sites like these are great for everything from visa advice, to couch surfing and activity suggestions.
NOW GO BOOK THAT TRIP!!!!
Lemmie know your tips/worries