“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 trying to identify people that could be my potential new friend 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 less stressed.
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 in Bangkok without meeting new people (and if you’re a little less chatty than me, you’ll most likely be approached by a chatty person like 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 a new traveller very much trying to find my feet, it was a bit daunting trying to find people doing the same thing as me.
A lot of solo travellers choose a country where the first first language is English to help settle themselves in. This may work for some, however, I actually found it detrimental. English speakers were a lot more relaxed, and people didn’t need to rely on each other for help as much. I found hostels in busy cities like Melbourne to be quite cliquey, whereas travellers who bad been further up the coast (Byron Bay, for example) fed back that there was less of this in more relaxed places.
Use travel sites to help you plan
Please, if you do nothing else, use the following two sites to 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 when the other has ran out)
I wrote a post about ‘How to choose the right hostel‘, this is a great starting point for things to think about.
Please don’t be temped just to take a hostel rated the cleanest. Clean hostels are 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 could get lonely fast.
I like TripAdvisor as a back up, however, I find a lot of travellers reviewing on here are a little over sensitive to noise. I stayed in a hostel in Lima that had terrible TripAdvisor 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).
The blogger in question had arranged to stay with a friend, rather than a hostel full of people with free time. The general conclusion was that they hadn’t made a backup list of things to go do/see, in the event that they would find themselves alone. An understandable oversight. If you’re nervous about being bored and alone, 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 at your disposal, and it’s great for finding the more unusual spots. Nowadays, its not just pictures that are uploaded. Most bloggers now upload their tips and posts to Pinterest, with images making easier to pull out the ones that appeal to you.
Join a travel group for solo advice/friends
Nomads – a life of cheap/free travel is a page that will ask you to request join. Once you’re in, you’ll have access to all sorts of tips, advice and questions from travellers all over the world. I’ve used these sites for everything from from visa advice, to couch surfing and activity recommendations.
NOW GO BOOK THAT TRIP!!!!
Feeling a little bit more adventurous? Did you know that you can get free accommodation whilst travelling with CouchSurfing. My post about ‘How to travel with Couchsurfing‘ covers everything you need to know.
Any worries or questions about your first time travelling, drop me a line and let me help you!