Guest article by Ana De La Torre
You want to go somewhere, but none of your immediate friends are ready to join you. What do you do?
You could find another time to go, find something else to do, stay back, or make a list, put your pants on, grab a backpack, start the car, and be a solo traveler!
Adventures are typically shared, but the idea of doing things alone shouldn’t keep you from enjoying what is out there waiting.
Here are the 5 best solo traveler tips to start your new adventure!
1. Pick a Place
You could always play the “close your eyes, and wherever your finger drops, that’s where you go” – game or you can talk about your dream destinations out-loud.
When you voice your ideas, you get to listen to the passion that is driving you to want to explore, and those that listen can offer ideas of what to think about next, even if you’re talking to yourself about it.
These conversations will include how far this place is, how I get there, what my budget is, how long I would like to stay, and what’s so cool about where I want to go.
As you’re traveling alone, it can feel sketchy to venture out without the proximity of a safety network, so reach out to friends and other networks while still at home. Talking your ideas out loud can get you connected to the people that your friends know in the places that you want to go to.
Post the idea on your social media platforms asking friends if they know people where you’re going, and connect with them. You don’t need to make plans with these potential new friends, but you can pick their brains for places to go, safety precautions, and other general travel tips from locals. If you don’t know where you want to go, the next tip can help you figure it out.
2. Find the Reason
You’re at home thinking, “Man, it’d be nice if I could ____.” What is that you want to do?
Think about what you enjoy and want to learn more about. So often, ideas come, and they’re placed in an “eventually” section in our brains, and then, they stay there without taking action. The fun of solo traveling is that it can include so much, so what is it that you’re craving?
For me, it is constant movement, so I look for places that are accessible for me to walk around, that are near mountains that I can drive to and do day hikes, rivers that I can float on, and other many things that that place will offer on its own. This is your chance to dive deep into your daydreams and recognize that there is a place out there where they can come true.
3. Build out your Gear/Packing List
Another solo traveler tip is to figure out what you need to take with you. Going for a relaxed trip, comfortable clothes, shoes, and a small bag are the three essentials. Still, packing can seem daunting if you’re seeking more adventure, especially when you’re alone or don’t feel like paying extra for baggage.
If you’re looking for other outdoor adventures, remember that you always need synthetic layers. It is easy to be discouraged by inaccessibility to “proper” outerwear. The clothes you own may not be from brand-name outdoor companies but can still work out. You can take your clothes and head to outdoor stores like REI, where a staff member can outfit you and suggest whether you need new gear or not for your next adventure.
This will save you money and allow you to use your clothes in multiple scenarios. You can also reach out to gear rental companies in the area, or my favorite, hire a guide. Guides always have the gear included in the cost of the trip, and as they are typically locals or transplants in the city you’re visiting, they can be a special connection to more adventures and even become a new friend. I did this when I traveled to Spain.
When flying internationally, I want to keep things light, but I knew that I wanted to try rock climbing at least once, so I packed my climbing shoes and harness and hired a guide, Toti, that took another client and me on a stunning climb in Montserrat. Toti took us to the monastery nearby then dropped us off at the train station to head back to Barcelona.
On the way back, Anne and I became good friends and stayed in contact, which has led to many climbing trips in the US and visiting her in her home state of Chicago. Yay, new friends!
4. Download the Best Traveling Apps
As a solo traveler, you will fall in love with having the internet at your fingertips and, even more, finding the apps that can guide you through anywhere in the world. Whether you’re a foodie or thrill-seeker, there are map apps to show you where to go next.
As an outdoorsy gal and road dweller, I swear by AllTrails for (as you can guess by the name) trails for hiking, biking, backpacking, bird watching, and many trail-related activities, and Roadtrippers, practically a forum where people have added some popular and some “hidden” gems to stop at when on a road trip.
If you decide you’d like some company, MeetUp is great to find groups that are interested in what you’re looking for. The app lets you choose interest categories then lists groups that may be meeting weekly or monthly to take on any activity from hiking, knitting, board games, or strolling around museums.
5. Practice Talking to Strangers
You are always welcome to keep to yourself, but you can also become a believer that strangers are people that are just not your friends yet. Talking to strangers is something that does require courage, practice, and, most notably, an open mind.
Of course, always “read the room.” If someone gives you weird vibes, there is no need to approach, but if you notice people you want to meet, take a deep breath and muster a “hello, I’m ____. Would you guys want to hang out?” While back at home, you can practice smiling at strangers and trying quick “hellos.”
You don’t need to dive deep into conversations, but this will allow you to feel more comfortable making eye contact with others and reading people better. The latter is most important while traveling because, as a solo traveler, you must understand your comfort levels and learn to trust your instincts. This does come with time and requires you to give yourself and others a chance.
I traveled alone in Barcelona and met a few people that I spent most of the time with until it was time to head out to Llanca, another town that I had already booked an Airbnb in. Llanca is a small coastal town, beautiful and quiet in the wintertime.
After walking around, I stopped at the shore and noticed two guys skipping rocks. I was 28 at the time, and they seemed to be around my age. I was nervous but decided to approach them and mention that I was visiting and was wondering if they would want to hang out. I did feel awkward before approaching, but then thought, “ah, why not? I might as well try or continue with my day anyways.”
Both Thibault and Louis lived in France, but it turned out that Thibault had a family home in Llanca, and Louis had lived in Llanca as a child and was showing Thibault around. When I asked, they smiled and said sure and included me in their day plans! We spent the rest of the day and night walking around, grabbing dinner and drinks, and going to the house in Llanca, where we watched movies and danced with other friends and family.
So now, I have two friends that I can visit in Spain and France!
Traveling alone is an experience on so many levels. It gives you the freedom to understand what you seek and what else you want to learn more about. It’s always great to coordinate plans with others but don’t let other’s life schedules dictate when you can or cannot go somewhere just because you’ll be alone.
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