Taking your first solo trip
Taking your first solo trip can be extremely scary and overwhelming. Having someone to travel with you feels like a safety net, so when you decide to go on your own, that safety net disappears.
However, solo travel can be the ultimate in self-indulgence; you can rest when you want and pour it on when you’re feeling ambitious. Another benefit is that your mistakes are your own, and your triumphs all the more exciting. There’s no worrying that your insistence on trekking all the way across town to a museum that was closed ruined your partner’s day; it’s your own day to salvage or chalk up to a learning experience.
I took my first solo trip traveling around Spain back in 2008.
Now I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous as hell because I knew if any happened everything would be on me. However, I didn’t let that stop me because I knew I was fed up with waiting for other people to travel with me and backing out at the last minute so I decided to make it happen and haven’t looked back since.
Where to go on your first solo trip
Deciding on where to go is one of the hardest decisions you may face with dealing with solo traveling, there’s just so many amazing places to choose from and I always get asked what destinations would I recommend for first-time solo travelers.
I will keep this list short and sweet:
- To another city in your own country if you have never done it before
Fly out or drive to L.A, NYC, ATL, Houston or Chicago for a few days and kick it.
So you are already prepared for whatever and don’t even know it because most major cities in America are way more dangerous than most places abroad so if you can survive any major city in America you are just about ready for anywhere.
Thailand-Can’t pick just one city
Nairobi, Kenya (Yes very safe)
Barcelona, Spain or Lisbon, Portugal
- Cartagena, Colombia
(I will give my reasoning on this shortlist on another blog post, do know all are cheap & safe)
Keeping In Touch
Staying in touch with your family and friends during your trip is a great way to deal with loneliness while traveling alone. Enable data on your phone or look for accommodations with free Wifi, so you can share your experiences on Instagram and Facebook on the go along with WhatsApp & Skype.
Make sure at least one person back home always has a copy of your itinerary and lodging information.
Be sure to check out my 15 Must-Have Apps.
Staying Safe While Traveling Alone
Perhaps the foremost concern of the solo or single traveler is safety. Without a companion to watch your back, you are more vulnerable to criminals and scam artists, as well as simple health worries. But the saying “safety in numbers” isn’t necessarily true, a solo traveler can blend in more easily than a group, & not drawing that much attention to yourself as a tourist is one way to stay safe.
Here are a few tips:
Google and research how long it takes and how much it costs to get from the airport to your hotel or to the city center.
I’m a huge fan of Uber at the airports to avoid the price gouging from the taxis. However, Uber isn’t always available in every city, so I always check google maps prior to leaving on directions from the airport to my hotel/lodging and print off the step by step directions using the train or bus if I know there’s no coverage on my phone in that country because I don’t want to encounter issues at the airport if the wifi is down or they are out of SIM cards & etc.
Always check to see if your hotel offers hotel pickups, not always the cheapest, but definitely the best route to go for safety and convenience. (Book a hotel with a 24-hour front desk)
If you must take a taxi, ONLY use the airport official taxi’s that have meters, if they tell you it doesn’t work or they will give you a good price you will pay more than you should.
Passport and Valuables
A lot of countries require you to have your passport with you at all times. However, I never keep my passport on me.
I keep a copy of my passport on me in a ziplock bag, and color scanned PDF copy of my passport on my email in case I ever need to have another one issued, it will definitely speed up the process.
I’m not a flashy person so I never wear jewelry when I travel, I like to remain least noticeable as possible.
So I would recommend you not wear that Gucci money belt, LV purse or your Gucci backpack because that will definitely attract attention to you.
If a complete stranger is trying to offer you help, simply tell them no thank you, especially at ATM’s.
Lie A little
When you are out and about you will get approached without a doubt with people trying to sell you things and hustle you out of your money.
And these are three of the main questions they will use to engage you;
• Where are you from?
• Your first time here?
• How long are you here for?
When they ask if it’s your first time there always say NO.
By saying no that will alert them you are hip to most of the hustles/scams and know how much things should cost.
When asked how long are you there for, if you say for some days they will try to make plans such as be your guide or driver for those days, but do you really want a complete stranger off the street knowing where you will be staying and if you allow them to be your driver, who’s to say they aren’t going to have their cousin slide into your AirBnB while they are driving you around for the day. (Get recommendations for a driver from your hotel or another traveler that has used them before)
So I typically tell them my friends and I are leaving tomorrow.
Noticed I said friends, yes never tell anyone you are solo (unless you are at a hostel with them then that’s ok).
Even at my hotel, I tell the staff that my friends will be over or I’m going out to meet up with some friends.
Meeting People on Your Journey
Although you are traveling solo there are many different ways to meet people on your solo adventure and here are some great ways.
- Hostels- Might not be for everyone, but do keep in mind they do offer private rooms as well.
You will meet tons of solo travelers that you can link up with and help watch each other back as well as having someone to take your pictures.
- Yes, Hostels Again- Even if you do not stay at a hostel you can always Google some in the area & a lot of them have a happy hour & have restaurants so you can always go over to one a make new friends without staying there.
- Social Media- There’s plenty of travel groups that may have people there & may have a meetup going on example there’s a Madrid Expat FB group that have meetups & information on where to get certain foods and hair products & etc.
And Instagram is golden, I’ve made connections in places like Nigeria and South Africa from people whom I’ve been following on IG for a while so I’m not really concerned with safety.
- Walking Tours- Some people consider walking tours too touristy, but it’s a great way to meet a lot of new people. You often find the group from the walking tour normally stay together and go have dinner and drinks after the tour.
- Websites- Sites like Meetup.com is a good site, that’s what I used to get started in photography here in Atlanta.
Join and check for different types of meetups all over the globe, you may be going to Tokyo and they might be having a Black Expat bowling meetup during your time there and that would be a great way to meet people as well.
This website literally has everything no matter what you are into, from golf meetups to learning computer programming meetups.
In short just use, your same common sense and go with your gut feeling as you would back at home, like clearly not walking down a dark alley at 2 a.m alone and you will be just fine.
If you have any additional questions on solo traveling please feel free ask and remember;
Fears are nothing more than a state of mind, don’t be fearful of solo travel.