With my extensive experience of short-term and long-term solo travel, I’ve compiled ten tips that will make your solo travel experience smoother whether you are going away for a long weekend or completely moving to a new place by yourself.
My first solo travel tip is to be open-minded. Chances are wherever you travel to will be different than what you are used to–especially if you are going to a different country.
You may have frustrating moments when you can’t drink the tap water, the shower water is cold, or you wake up to find dead mosquitoes in your bed while others are buzzing in your ear (not talking from personal experience or anything…)
You may miss the old comforts you’re accustomed to. Embrace that. Become aware of that, and remember that the new way of life will become your new normal even if you’re only staying a few days.
Being open-minded is something that may come naturally to you. However, I have noticed an immense shift in my ability to go with the flow with my consistent meditation practice. Even 5 minutes a day of quieting the mind and going inward can help expand your mind. If you are looking to start or deepen your meditation practice, you can check out my simple 10-minute meditation.
Whether it is your accommodation, food, clothes, interactions, transportation, if you keep an open mind, you will run into less conflict and even learn to appreciate the cultural differences...(well, at least most of the time. :) ).
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When you travel to a new place, there can be a strong desire to find people just like yourself and stick together. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.
Buuuuut, you are in a new place for a reason, so branching out can give you a whole new perspective on the place you are visiting. It can even start with learning a few words in the native language, trying the cuisine, and embracing new recreational activities.
When I lived in Bali, I started trying Indonesian food and learned that I love all of their dishes, but I cannot handle the amount of chili peppers and spice they are obsessed with.
My Indonesian friends would all laugh at the crazy bule (what Indonesians call Westerners) when I thought a dish was spicy.
If I only stuck to Western food, I would have missed out on some of my favorite new dishes like bubur ayam (chicken porridge) and gorengan (fried vegetable patties).
Immersing yourself in the culture opens your perspective and allows you to see inside a whole new world. I’ve seen numerous people travel and try to preserve their bubble so much that they create an invisible barrier instead of actually receiving any type of new experience.
Take things as they are with an open heart.
Since you are traveling to a new place, you may not have your bearings right away. This is expected. It takes a bit to get acclimated to a new place.
However, since you are a traveler, some people may try to take advantage of your wide eyes and bushy tail. They may charge you more for food and experiences than they would a local.
When I went to San Francisco, I had no idea how much it cost to get a taxi from the airport to the city center. Since I was new to the area and knew how expensive San Francisco typically is, I just accepted the price the taxi driver told me, which ended up being 3x the going rate. (Read more about my San Francisco trip here.)
My advice is to be on extra high alert until you feel comfortable in the place you are in.
If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If someone offers you something too good to be true and you sense something fishy, it probably is. Trust your gut.
Trusting my intuition has always come naturally to me; yet, now I can differentiate between my gut and just plain unnecessary worry.
Again, this has come from a steady meditation practice, so come meditate with me.
I think this is the mother of all tips. In fact, this shouldn’t only apply to solo travel. This should also apply to your everyday life. There’s a 100% chance that your trip (or your life, for that matter) won’t go exactly to plan.
“But, I have been dreaming about eating at that one restaurant for weeks and now it’s closed!”
“I saved up my money so I could specifically visit that one site and traffic couldn’t get us there on time!”
That’s so valid.
Sometimes, it sucks when your plans change due to unforeseen circumstances; however, there’s beauty in plan b… or c, d and e.
You can have a plan going into your trip, but you may get there and realize you completely want to do something else. How amazing! You are in charge when you’re solo traveling. That’s the best part. You get to decide what you will do next.
You planned a fancy dinner, but you’re craving take-out? Great! No one is upset! You had a full day of hiking planned, but you really would rather just hang at the beach? Get your Vitamin Sea! You want to take a tour of an art gallery, but you get there and it’s booked. Wellllllll, maybe for this one you should’ve planned a little better ahead of time…Okay, only half kidding.
The thing is, there is an elegant balance between planning and going with the flow. Above all, be adaptable.
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Woah, scary, I know. Part of the reason I solo travel is to be introspective and get to know myself. That is a prominent and important aspect of wandering alone. Yet, another huge aspect of solo traveling is opening up your heart and mind to new cultures and meeting people from all over the world.
Since you are not attached with anyone, you get to do what you want to do, talk to who you want to talk to, and eat at whatever restaurants you’d like. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Along the way, you will interact with people from all over whether it’s your cab driver, your waiter, a person in the queue in front of you, etc… these people can offer you a new perspective, or a simple recommendation about the city.
If you prefer not to gab with anyone in lines or at restaurants, you can participate in a group trip or tour.
For one of the days I was in Seattle, I booked a day-trip to visit Olympic National Park. This was a wonderful way to meet other like-minded people from all over the world. I became friends with a French woman, a Thai man, and people from all over the United States.
I hit it off with some of my fellow day trippers so much that we even ended up going to dinner the next day. It was lovely and my time in Seattle has only the fondest memories in my mind. You can read more about my solo trip to Seattle and itinerary here.
If you are staying somewhere longer term, you can join communities via Facebook groups and attend in-person events to meet people with similar interests.
I know there are Facebook groups for numerous cities. I am a part of the Chiang Mai Nomad Girls and Girls in Bali groups on Facebook. Both of these groups have on-the-ground people giving advice, answering questions, relaying information about discounts and events along with forming meet-ups.
I attended a girls “speed-dating” event to meet more expats in Bali. I was so happy I went because I met so many incredible women who invited me to future dinners.
If I didn’t enjoy spending time with myself, I wouldn’t have traveled alone. I love a good introverted night where I speak to no one and watch Rupaul’s Drag Race.
However, if I did that every night, I would miss social interaction. I get energized by meeting people and hearing people’s stories.
Putting myself out there has always resulted in lovely friendships and interactions.