It’s happened to all of us with that first foray into traveling solo…
Once that initial adrenaline wears off, the questions just start popping like a popcorn frenzy!
Your friends and family start asking questions you just don’t have the answers to; the how’s, what’s and where’s. The anxiety of traveling solo kicks in and you start to feel overwhelmed and you start wondering if you’ve made the right decision. Don’t worry this page is here for you, to ease your mind and answer those niggling questions.
It doesn’t matter how long you travel for the same questions about traveling solo will pop up. I’ve been traveling solo and living around the world since 2010 still get asked the same questions. (My post on why solo travel suits me)
Or maybe you have traveled before but never solo. Either way whatever your questions are, they will be covered below.
Q: How do I know if solo traveling is for me?
A: Short: You won’t know, not until you try it.
A: Long: You can read all the blogs you want, you can picture yourself in situations but you truly won’t know until you’re out there experiencing it for yourself. Remember solo traveling isn’t for everybody but don’t abandon the thought until you try it.
Q: Why should I travel solo?
A: Short: You will have your own reasons.
A: Long: There are a number of reasons why people chose to travel solo. It could be as simple as none of your friends want to go, or you just want to travel. It could be something more meaningful, like you want to go on a self discovery journey and find yourself, or prove to yourself you can do it. You might even be running away from something, or just want a change, something new or want the freedom. The reason you want to travel solo is yours. However you will undoubtedly grow as a person, learn so much about yourself and what your truly capable of. Traveling will open your eyes and can be one of the best life lessons you will ever receive.
Q: What made you travel solo in the first place?
A: Short: I just wanted to leave England and travel, I didn’t care how!
A: Long: Traveling is something I’ve always wanted to do, I had reached a point in my life where I just said “Fuck it, I’m doing it.” None of my friends were in a position to just pack up and leave but I was determined to travel. So like countless others around the world I bit the bullet and took the plunge to do it alone. You might have a different reason for wanting to travel but at the end of the day you have to make that decision to stop thinking about it and to just do it.
Q: Why is traveling solo the best way to travel?
A: Short: There is no best way to travel, it’s on your own preference.
A: Long: To travel solo is a personal preference, nobody should ever dictate to you that their way is the best way. You travel the way you feel comfortable, some people have better experiences in groups and others on their own. There are advantages to traveling solo but there are also disadvantages. Some people may claim ‘traveling solo is the only way or the best way’ but that is their personal preference.
Q: Ok, so why do you travel solo?
A: Short: Because it suits me.
A: Long: Like I mentioned before, I traveled solo for my first trip because I just wanted to travel and none of my friends could. However over the years, the more I’ve traveled I prefer traveling alone because of the freedom it gives me, I dictate my own schedule. I do what I want, when I want and on my own terms. Plus I am very single minded and traveling solo suits my personality and character. When you travel solo, you only have yourself to think about. (Check out – Solo traveling, why it suits me)
Q: What’s so good about traveling solo?
A: Short: The freedom.
A: Long: It’s the ultimate feeling of freedom, there is nobody to answer to but yourself. (that can be hard enough at times.) Every decision you make is yours, right or wrong everything is your choice. You chose when to move onto the next destination, when to go on an excursion, you decide if you want to lounge around on a beach or trek up a mountain. You chose when you want to be sociable or not. If you travel in a group, sometimes you need to compromise and even sacrifice what you want to do in favor of what the group wants. In groups trips are organised to accommodate you all, when your solo traveling you pick and chose when and what you want to do. Everybody in a group has an opinion and wants to do different things but when you’re a solo traveler it’s all on you.
Q: I want to travel solo but I don’t know where to start?
A: Short: The internet… first of all research the country you want to go to.
A: Long: Like everything you do for the first time, you have to research it. We live in the age of the internet and there is so much information out there now for first time solo travelers. Everything you need to know, from researching, planning, finding the right accommodation for you, activities, routes to take, transport is all out there for you. Useful websites for your travels. You might feel overwhelmed at the amount of information at first but just take a deep breath, take little steps and you will find it’s not that scary. (Have a look at how I research for trips)
Q: I’m not good at research or planning are there companies that can sort my trip out?
A: Short: Yes! – Check sights likes STA travel, backpackers world, the backpacker co and backpacker tours. also check country specific tour companies.
A: Long: There are a number of backpacker specific travel agents that can organize your entire trip for you, from applying to visas, to accommodation, transport, the route you take, to the activities you do. If you want to travel solo but not independently, check out some of these companies, and they will help cater your trip towards your wants and needs. With these types of companies, you will also travel with other groups or other solo travelers so you’re not doing it alone.
Q: I like the look of this but I don’t want to travel in groups – What else can I do?
A: Short: Look for hop-on hop-off tours, Or use the travel companies route as a guide.
A: Long: If you want things organised for you but don’t want to travel in groups then look at hop-on and hop-off buses this way you get the best of both worlds. Or if you want to travel independently, see the general route they take and plan your trip around it. Also if you really want to feel that sense of freedom look into renting a vehicle.
Q: How do I make friends if I’m traveling solo?
A: Short: There will be so many different opportunities.
A: Long: A common misconception is traveling solo means being on your own all the time; it doesn’t. Even though you are solo and will be alone sometimes, you will come across people every single day. From the airport flying out to your destination, to the hostel or accommodation you’ve chose, to activities you do. You will meet a mixture of travelers and locals it’s just up to you who you want to make friends with; there is no obligation. Ask any solo traveler and they will tell you how easy it is to make friends traveling.
Wherever you go there are like minded people and fellow travelers, I’ve never met a single traveler who didn’t make friends. Hostels are the easiest places to make friends, talk to people in your dorm, share a beer (or 10) or a joint with them. (Check out my post – Making friends traveling solo.)
Q: What about hostels, I’ve never stayed in them. What should I expect, will it be awkward being a solo traveler in one?
A: Short: Don’t expect a hotel and it’s only awkward if you make it.
A: Long: Hostels are an unknown entity if you’v never stayed in one, you just don’t know what to expect or what goes on in them. You might think of a hostel as just a cheap place to sleep but they can become much more. Hostels are not hotels, so don’t expect hotel quality. Hostels are more communal, good to meet new people which is great for solo travelers, the best of friendships have been formed in hostels. What you can expect is shared spaces, social hubs, shared enmities and like minded people, there will undoubtedly be other solo travelers there too.
Hostels can become the cornerstone of your traveling experience; I know people who had a better time in a hostel and the people they shared it with rather than the place they were in (myself included). Sometimes the hostel can become the closest thing you have to a home and give you some much needed comfort. When arriving in a hostel be open minded, be receptive to what’ going on; anything and everything can go on in a hostel. There are different types of hostels, some may offer a range of activities, or they may organize events to get to know other guests. They range from small houses to multistory, quiet ones and wild party ones. Just chose the ones that you prefer. (Check out – hostel life, getting used to it. Click on pic to read post)
Q: I’ve never had to share a room with strangers before, what are dorm rooms like?
A: Short: Be open minded.
A: Long: There is no great answer for dorm rooms, they are what they are. Some will be fantastic and have hotel quality beds, others will reek of B.O and paper thin mattresses on the frailest of bunk beds; some will feel like prison cells (Every traveler has a nightmare dorm room story). Dorm rooms can range from 2-3 bed to 30 bed dorms. As great as hostels can be the dorms can tell a different story. They will take a little getting used to and generally most are safe. (Most hostels provide safety deposit boxes or lockers.) A few things to remember with dorms is to respect other people in the dorm, have a little hostel etiquette. Also keep your belongings close and around your bunk or bed, it’s not your room. However they are also a good place to meet new friends.
Q: I’ve heard hostel friends can be quite clicky and hard to break into?
A: Short: Yes and no.
A: Long: You will find, normally if there’s a clicky group they are more likely to be long-termers. Yes they are super clicky but not impossible to break into. They may seen conceited or arrogant from the outset because they aren’t receptive to others but you have to see it from there eyes. You have to think they have done their travels, they don’t want to hear the same conversation and questions over and over again. They don’t really want to make the effort to make friends with someone who is going to leave again a few days. You have to think of the amount of people that come and go. So if you do want to make friends with them, change up the conversation and have a drink with them.
Q: Is there a possibility of me making friends and getting stuck in one place rather than moving along?
A: Short: Yes!
A: Long: It happens all the time, it happened to me and it will continue to happen to others. You’re traveling solo, your on your own schedule, if you arrive in a place, you might make some friends, you might fall in love with the place your in. Those few days you’re meant to be there turns into a few weeks, those few weeks turn into a few months. During those few months you’ll get to know everybody around you, you’ll feel at home, the surroundings will be comfortable and you’ll be in a comfort zone and you won’t see a reason to leave.
It happened to me on my very first trip, I arrived as a solo traveler, I actually broke into the super clicky longtermer group, they went from being strangers, to friends to becoming family. The hostel became my home, to city became like a hometown it was like there was a bubble created and nothing else outside of it mattered. Next thing I knew 8 months had passed by. And there are so many other travelers I meet that the same has happened to.
Q: My family have concerns about traveling solo, how do I ease there mind?
A: short: The same way you eased your own mind.
A: long: You had your own concerns too, all those questions that you had, show your family the research and planning you’ve done. Let them see how the millions of people before you have traveled solo, keep them informed and keep in touch with them on your trip. It was the same for me, It’s fair to say I wasn’t exactly a saint and trouble seemed to always find me so my family had major concerns for me but I’ve survived over 6 years without a single incident. So if I can do it, you’ll be fine.
Q: I’ve read a few horror stories online, how do I know this wont happen to me.
A: Short: Preparation but you can’t predict the future.
A: Long: You can prepare to the best of your ability but you can’t prepare or predict every eventuality. Sure have some sort of backup. – That could mean a reverse bank account, making sure you have the right travel insurance, being able to get in touch with family and listing emergency contacts. However solo traveling is about stepping into the unknown and not everything will be perfect, situations though can be avoided by using common sense and you will learn as you go along. In 6 years of traveling I’m still learning.There will be bumps in the road but it’s about how you deal with those bumps.
Q: Is traveling solo safe?
A: Short: For the most part yes.
A: Long: ok, I’m not going to sugarcoat this and say it’s 100% safe. You have to take responsibility for your own safety, sounds pretty obvious right? Well you’ll be shocked at the amount of people that get robbed, mugged or get in some kind of trouble and don’t understand why. For the most part it’s because they made themselves an easy target; It sounds harsh but it’s true. Sure there are times when things happen beyond your control but a lot of times it’s down to stupidity. Trust your own judgement but don’t trust any old stranger on the road. In 6 years of traveling around the world and in some very dangerous cities I’ve never been robbed, mugged or been in any type of trouble.
The best advise for safety is not to act like a tourist, don’t flaunt yourself or your belongings and don’t flash your cash. Keep your important personal belonging close to you. Like on a local bus make sure everything important like passports and phones are in your pocket and not in your bag. Use your common sense, situations are avoidable so don’t put yourself in a vulnerable situation. If you are in a dangerous area stay in the safe zones, if there are signs telling you not to go a certain area then don’t go there. And always act like you know what you’re doing even if you don’t. If you are careful, and aware of your surroundings then you will be safe. Common sense goes a long way.
Q: As a solo traveler is it safe to travel on public transport?
A: Short: Generally public transport is safe.
A:Long: In most countries public transport is safe but again you have to use your own nous and common sense. Don’t flaunt your belongings or advertise your bags and keep your important possessions on you. If you’re on a long journey check out different companies, as there will be different levels of security. I.E Coach companies will provide higher security than a local chicken bus, sometimes if a country has cause for concern on the roads from thieves use private shuttle companies. In all my years traveling I’ve never had a problem on public transport and I use them all the time.
Q: Do you have to have a certain type of character to travel solo?
A: Short: Not really.
A: Long: If you asked me before I started to travel then I would have said yes, you need to be street smart, confident, have belief in yourself. However since I’ve roamed the world, I have come across thousands of people traveling solo, all with different characters and personalities. It really doesn’t matter what character, personality or even background you have. All you need is the want and love of travel. All I will say though, use some common sense, just don’t be completely clueless and you’ll be fine.
Q: Does traveling solo suit a super confident person or a more reclused person?
A: Short: Iether.
A: Long: It really doesn’t matter what type of person you are, sure if your super confident and a sociable person you will think traveling solo isn’t a big deal, that you’ll walk into any room and make friends and get by fine. On the other hand maybe you’re not good around people, you’re a little sociably awkward but that’s fine you’re there to see things, to experience things. You don’t have to make friends everywhere you go and you’ll find there are other people like you and might make friends with them. The beauty of of solo traveling is you can chose when you want to be sociable and when you want to step back and be alone.
Q: I guess you must have to love your own company to travel solo?
A: Short: Not really no.
A: Long: There are so many different types of people traveling solo and for so many different reasons. Yes, some people may love their own company and don’t need to be around others to have a good time. Some people I know who travel solo can’t bare to be alone for too long. So as long as your comfortable in your own skin you’ll be fine. As for myself, I like having my own space but I can’t be alone for too long. If I am my demons like to come out to play so I make sure I’m not alone for too long a period. (I’m a bit weird like that)
Q: Is it daunting to travel by yourself?
A: Short: Sometimes it can be because you don’t know what to expect.
A: Long: It doesn’t matter who you are, or how long you’ve traveled there will be times and situations where it feel a bit daunting. It could be a country, an activity, an area, a new set of people around you. Traveling is not always easy, sometimes you’ll question why you’re even doing it. Traveling in general will throw you out of your comfort zone but embrace it rather than being intimidated by it.
Q: Ok, sure I’ll make friends but are there times it will get lonely?
A: Short: Yes.
A: Long: Of course there will be times you will get lonely. There will be times when it just sucks and you’ll want to just pack your bags and go home. There will be times when it’s hard and you feel so alone but it will pass. You’ll have times you think of friends that you made but have moved on and miss them. There will be times you arrive in a new place and have nothing in common with the people around you. A hostel may have a super clicky group which is hard to break into making you feel lonely.
There will be times you’ll find yourself walking around alone, or sitting in your dorm feeling a bit sorry for yourself. Sometimes you’ll be on an overnight journey and the loneliness will creep up on you. It’s natural for it to happen, just like it could happen to you at home.
Q: How do you deal with the loneliness?
A: Short: Reflect, relax, take the time to process things. Try and talk to people around you, don’t hide and fall into a shell.
A: Long: Like everything, that feeling will come and pass. A number of ways around it, surround yourself with people in the hostel, make an extra effort to get to know them. Or other hand use that time to reflect on your travels so far, soak in and process the things you’ve experienced, catch up with friends back home. Sometimes if your feeling really lonely and down, it’s worth just trying to talk to people around you just try not to fall into a shell and recluse yourself. There are times you just need to suck it up and let the feeling pass.
Q: I get anxiety, and quite nervous with new surroundings, you do I cope with that?
A: Short: Remember others are there for the same reason as you.
A: Long: I’ll be honest here, anxiety is something I never had to deal with until recently. I don’t know where it’s come from but it’s crept up on me. My advice is to remember you’re not alone, when you arrive in a new place, or accommodation you are surrounded by people in the same boat. They are traveling as well, it’s all new for them, they don’t know anybody either. So while it may seem like a daunting task you just need to try and relax and feel comfortable enough to open up a little.
Q: I can’t even imagine eating or drinking alone in restaurants and bars, is it awkward?
A: Short: It can be, depends on yourself.
A: Long: Not a lot of people like eating or going to bars alone, simply ask others you’re staying with if they want to go and eat or drink; you’ll find in most cases they will say yes. If nobody does want to eat, go grab a takeaway or make something yourself at your accommodation. There will be some situations but they are far and few between when you will have to eat alone but just pick a nice quiet spot and enjoy your food, try not thinking about others around you. Truth is nobody really cares that you’re there eating alone.
Q: Do other travelers make fun that you’re traveling alone?
A: Short: No.
A: Long: Traveling solo is such a normal thing, hundreds if not thousands of people travel on their own, wherever you go, whatever country there will be solo travelers all around. So no nobody is going if going to make fun or mock you for traveling solo. In fact you’ll find a lot of people will be envious that your traveling solo and will admire your courage.
Q: Does accommodation or activities cost more because your doing them alone.
A: Short: Sometimes they do.
A: Long: Sometimes yes, there will be tour groups or hostels that offer group discounts but really the discount they offer isn’t a huge difference in the normal price. And a lot of the time you can switch it around and get discount because you are solo. Play on the fact that you are on your own and you shouldn’t have to pay so much: if you don’t ask you don’t get.
Q: Is budgeting harder as a solo traveler.
A: Short: Not for me it’s not.
A: Long: I can only speak form myself here and I find if I’m traveling in groups I find I’m spending more. If I’m traveling solo, I can budget my own day much better and be more disciplined in my spending. Sure in groups you can split and share costs, and when solo you have to pay for everything yourself but you won’t be spending as much. For me as a solo traveler transport costs are the biggest expenditure that I can’t avoid, unless I meet a group of people with a vehicle and share petrol/gas prices with them to the next destination.
Q: Is there any sites or apps I can use to connect with other solo travelers going to the same destination as me?
A: short: Yes, lots of them.
A: Long: There are many forums, groups and communities online. Good places to look at are Facebook groups, twitter, Reddit and Couchsurfing. Also travel specific sites are good like travellers-point, Lonely planet and TripAdvisor forums. Some travel blogs like Nomadic Matt have even started their own communities for first time travelers. Check out this page on useful websites to use when traveling.
Q: Whats the hardest thing about traveling solo?
A: Short: It will be different for everybody.
A: Long: There are a few personal things but it would be the constant moving from one place to another. Packing, unpacking and packing again can take it’s toll sometimes, especially if I’ve found a place I feel at home. I find it extremely difficult to leave it behind but it’s part of traveling.
Q: What is the one thing you can’t live without when traveling solo?
A: Short: My Music.
A: Long: Definitely without a shadow of doubt it’s my music. I need to listen to music on the road, when on flights, long or short bus journeys or even when I’m walking around and adventuring. It also helps me in those times I feel lonely. I have a wide range of playlists and I love creating my own soundtrack to my travels.
Q: Whats a piece of advice you can give as a solo traveler?
A: I’ve mentioned this a lot on this page, have and use common sense.
A: Travel smart, act like you know what you’re doing even if you don’t.
A: Enjoy your travels, take your time and don’t get stressed over little things.
A: Pack light but practical (You’re carrying that backpack everywhere you go.)
A: Be open minded, adaptable, receptive to change and be willing to grow.
A: If things go wrong, look at it as part of an adventure not the end of the world.
A: Be prepared for anything to happen.
A: Put yourself out there to make friends. You don’t need to spill your life story just be open enough to make friends.
A: Don’t be a travel snob.
A: Keep important items like passports on you when traveling from one place to another.
A: When you’re feeling lonely, try to not let it take over you.
A: It’s your trip, you do what you want with it and how you want.
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