YOUR FIRST SOLO TRIP
Without a doubt, one of the most asked questions I have received since the beginning of She Travelled the World.
An opportunity for one of the most memorable, wild, exciting adventures of your life...
so is it worth it?
Yes, it is. Every time.
MY FIRST TIME SOLO TRAVELLING
Solo travelling was never something that interested me when I was growing up. I'm such an extroverted person that the thought of being alone always scared me, especially the thought of being alone in another country. It wasn't the fact I was scared of being by myself in some place foreign, but the fear of feeling such an intense loneliness. My first solo trip kind of happened by accident. I had booked for my friend Lottie and I to go to Luxembourg together in August of 2017, when we were both 19. I had found cheap flights for £40 return and I had booked it for the both of us before finding out Lottie wouldn't be able to make it.
I was disappointed, however I always strive for adventure, and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to travel by myself. It would only be for 3 nights, a nice starting point. Once I arrived, I was genuinely pleasantly surprised. Everything was so quaint and pretty. The houses were beautiful and I spent my days strolling around the streets. It wasn't wild or groundbreaking in anyway, and to be honest, I did find myself getting lonely. I was still very new to blogging and would get strangers to take photos of me and did my first ever couchsurf.
Did I love solo travelling at first? No. But in saying that I don't feel like Luxembourg is a fair representation of what solo travel is. It was beautiful, but very quiet. The hostels were close to empty and I didn't see anyone around who looked like a backpacker of sorts, however it is still a very special trip to me as I look at it as the beginning of all of this.
My first solo trip to Luxembourg in 2017
WHY I SOLO TRAVEL
It's funny, because during school I never even considered the thought of travelling alone, and yet now it's one of my favourite things to do. But why? For those of you who haven't solo travelled before, you might not really understand why I adore it so much, so here is a little list of my favourite reasons.
1. I HAVE TOO MUCH LIFE TO LIVE
In 2016, my first year out of school and my first year of on and off travelling, I had gone on a few trips with some of my close friends but I was getting pretty fed up with waiting around for them to either A) get the money together B) take the time off work. I'm naturally a very impatient person, and I came to realise that I had too many things I wanted to achieve and I wanted to see and that waiting around for other people to be ready didn't really benefit me in any way.
2. SET YOUR OWN PACE AND DO WHAT YOU WANT
There is NOTHING worse than travelling with someone (this includes your bestie) and realising that they want to do the exact opposite things to you all the time. I don't necessarily like the idea of having to compromise between going to the beach or going to the museum. Solo travelling means I can take my time and do the things I want, when I want.
3. MAKING MORE FRIENDS
I think often people think people who travel alone are introverts or don't have friends, which is the exact opposite to the truth. Since travelling solo, I've made more genuine friendships and met some of the most incredible, crazy and memorable people ever. I love that solo travelling pushes you to put yourself out there and strike up conversations, and it is nearly ALWAYS worth it.
SOLO TRAVEL ESSENTIALS TO ALWAYS HAVE ON YOU
- Photocopied documents (passport, travel insurance, prescriptions)
- Portable charger
- Spare emergency cash
- International adapter
- Neck pillow
- Flask (if you like to drink)
- Water bottle
- Good travelling shoes
- Spare pair of undies
SHE TRAVELLED THE WORLD'S TOP TIPS FOR SOLO TRAVELLING
1. START SMALL
I've said this so many times before, but it is so incredibly important. Don't feel like just because everyone else, all your friends, Instagram girls and so on are all solo travelling, means that you have to book a huge big trip to 'keep up'. What everyone else is doing isn't any of your concern and you are in every right to take things at your own pace. If you feel overwhelmed with embarking on a huge trip, start small. Book a few nights, or even a week away somewhere by yourself and just get used to what it feels like to travel solo. See if you like it, what you're comfortable with and what you're not. Once you see for yourself that solo travel isn't as scary as you think, booking big trips seem far less daunting.
2. START COMFORTABLE
While I am all about pushing the boundaries, I wouldn't advise booking your first solo trip to the heart of India if you've never left the comfort of the western world. Do a little research and look at places which you think you would feel pretty comfortable travelling to alone. Read blogs, watch videos and just figure out what you're getting yourself into so it doesn't feel like such a huge shock when you arrive.
3. ARRIVE DURING THE DAY
This is SUPER important. I would highly advise NOT booking a flight, train, bus, etc which lands at night. I've experienced it first hand and there is genuinely nothing worse than having no public transport running, no idea where you are and to top it off it is 3am. Arriving during the day will help you get your bearings on the new city and you won't have to fork out a small fortune for a taxi to your hostel.
4. DOWNLOAD AN OFFLINE MAP
If you don't have a SIM card with data and you don't want to buy one, download an offline map (I use the app maps.me), which means you can download the map of the city you're going to while you're on wifi, pin important spots like the train station and where you're staying and then when you're walking around you'll be able to find your way to where you need to be.
5. SCREENSHOT KEYWORDS
It can be super hard and very confusing to learn lots of different words in so many different languages while you're travelling, especially if it is specialised words. For example, as a vegan, it can be hard to articulate to locals while I'm travelling all the different foods I can't eat, so to make it easier sometimes I will use google translate and screenshot key phrases like 'no milk' or 'no cheese' etc in their language, and show it to the person working. This way they can understand what I need to say with ease and I can get some yummy food without any hidden surprises!
6. SORT YOUR CASH BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
Again, there is nothing worse than arriving in a new city and feeling panicked because you don't know what to do, this includes not having cash. Make sure you have SOME form of cash, even if it's not the right currency, just in case your card decides not to work or the currency converter doesn't accept card (it does happen).
7. DON'T LISTEN TO YOUR HEADPHONES TOO LOUDLY
There have been some times where I have been walking around alone (especially at night time) and I've had that horrible feeling that someone is following me. I've had men stare, take photos, start lingering a little too close for comfort and it's never nice to feel unsafe, especially if you're alone. So while you're walking stay relatively alert and if you do get that sensation of someone making you feel nervous, stop your music or turn it right down so you can hear what is going on.
8. CHECK WINDOWS AND SHADOWS
Hypothetically, if someone is getting a little too close and you feel too nervous to fully turn around and look at them, check shadows and reflections to see where they are in proximity to you. That way if you can see they are getting too close, you can walk into a shop, turn onto a busy street or call someone so they can be on the phone with you while you walk.
9. AGREE ON A PRICE BEFOREHAND
If you're travelling to a country that is big on bartering and haggling prices (this include taxis), agree on a price beforehand. Otherwise people can easily rip you off if they can tell you're a tourist. If someone will not give you the price you're asking for classic strategy is to start walking away or leaving, this usually entices them to be more open to negotiating.
10. ASK LOCALS
I'm assuming you want to go travelling to fully immerse yourself in a new culture, and what better way to do that than to get the locals input. Ask someone at the hostel if they have any recommendations and if they don't then try asking someone next time you go grab food, a taxi driver or have a stalk on Instagram and see where people are hanging out.
11. WAKE UP AT SUNRISE
It makes me kind of sad when people say they don't like waking up for sunrise because there is something unprecedented and magical about wandering around somewhere foreign with quiet, peaceful streets. I recommend waking up at sunrise at least once per stop and going to one of the most beautiful spots of the city and just sitting and enjoying, it is magic every time.
12. KEEP A LITTLE BAG OF SNACKS
Maybe I'm turning into a little bit of a middle aged man, however I think it's handy to carry around some little snacks. As someone who gets incredibly hangry if I'm not fed, a muesli bar, fruit or nuts can go a long way to prevent me from scowling all the way back to the hostel.
13. SHARE THE PRICE
Travelling by yourself can mean that the price for things can add up, which isn't the best when you're on a budget. I recommend trying to get people to split the price on as much as possible to cut down your overheads. Taxis, dinner, groceries, sunscreen, shampoo, alcohol, you name it!
14. HAPPY COW
This is for the vegans and vegetarians among us. I highly recommend buying Happy Cow, which is an app which tells you all the different restaurants, cafes, organic supermarkets, takeaway spots, etc that offer vegetarian/vegan food or places which are purely vegetarian and vegan. It has been my lifesaver when I am looking for some good food, especially in countries which don't necessarily have a lot of options!
Myself, along with a lot of other travellers love going out for a party and a drink (or 10), and doing this while travelling is one of the FUNNEST ways to drink. I'm not the type of person to tell you not to drink overseas because it's unsafe because I don't believe that, however I would say to keep a few things in mind.
- Know how to get back home at the end of the night
- Don't take all your valuables
- Try and stick to some people you've met from your hostel
- Don't accept drinks from strangers unless you've seen the bartender pour it fresh
16. CREATE A PLAYLIST WITH YOUR FAVOURITE SONGS
If you are someone who feels anxious or stressed about travelling by yourself, create one (or a few) playlists filled with your favourite songs. I find these particularly comforting when I'm feeling homesick or in a bad mood. Having songs that remind you of good memories of home + some absolute bangers always cheer me up and you will feel a little less alone.
- SOME OF MY FAVOURITE SONGS TO JAM TO WHILE TRAVELLING SOLO -
7 Rings - Ariana Grande
SICKO MODE - Travis Scott
Sally - Thundamentals
All the Stars - Kendrick Lamar
Better - Khalid
I Like It - Cardi B
UFO - Mallrat
Thunderclouds - LSD
Make Time - Mallrat
Lost - Frank Ocean
Stolen Dance - Milky Chance
Princess of China - Coldplay
One Dance - Drake
The Greatest - Sia
Love on the Brain - Rihanna
MAKING THE MOST OF A CITY BY YOURSELF
Sometimes it's nice to be alone and I think you can really get a feel of a city when it's just you and no distractions, so here is a little list of my favourite things to do to make the most of my time.
- People watch at a cute cafe
- Visit a museum or art gallery
- Go on a free walking tour
- Get some hostel friends and go on a pubcrawl
- Watch the sunrise
- Wander around the streets for an hour or two
- Try some local food
Although I travel solo 90% of the time, I am rarely alone. As an excitable gemini there is nothing that gets me going more than the thought of making new friends and it is one of my favourite aspects of travel. I have met and made hundreds of friends travelling and all of them have impacted me in some way, shape or form and I want you to have the same chance to experience long, wild nights and spontaneous beach trips with complete strangers.
HERE IS HOW I MAKE FRIENDS:
1. DON'T OVER THINK IT
If you're planning a little opening monologue to a potential new friend, you are already off to a shaky start. Keep it natural and imagine you're talking to your friends from home. The more forced it is the more awkward the conversation.
2. HANG IN THE COMMON AREAS
I say this all the time, but people are not going to hunt you down in your bed with your headphones in and turned the other way. If you want to go out and make friends you have to put in the effort because it is a two way street. So if there is no one to talk to in your room sit in the kitchen, bar or common area and either straight up ask if you can join a group or start talking to someone one on one if you're feeling a little intimidated.
3. OPEN WITH AN EASY QUESTION
You'll come to realise that pretty much everyone opens with the same few questions because they are easy to ask and always sparks a conversation. Some of the most common ones are "Where are you from?" "Where else have you been?" "What do you recommend in the city?", etc. You get the point, keep it light and simple and go from there.
4. BE FORWARD
It's important to remember pretty much everyone is in the same boat and are all looking to make new friends, so never be shy to ask people what they are doing for the rest of the time they are in the city, if they want to get some drinks with you, if you could tag along to an activity they are doing. 99% of the time people will say yes, I promise.
Homesickness is a funny thing because as soon as you leave, you miss the comforts of home, you miss your friends, your family, your bed. Yet, when you finally arrive home, all you want to do is be back out in the world again. I've never really been one to get homesick as I've always been incredibly independent and the excitement of travelling normally gets the better of me, however I do understand and empathise with those of us who do get those pangs of heartache being away from home.
Everyone deals with homesickness in their own way, however for those of you who want a helping hand about how to cope with it, this is what I do in my times of sadness.
1. FIGURE OUT WHAT ASPECT OF HOME YOU'RE MISSING
Sometimes you may think you just miss the small comforts like having a room to yourself, when in actual fact you're actually missing the comforts of home and your family. So truly try to pinpoint what you're really missing from home, because sometimes it can be a lot more trivial than you think (you miss your dressing gown) or it can be a lot deeper than that.
2. ADDRESS YOUR FEELING OF LACK
So now you've figured out what you're missing, think about WHY you're missing it. If you're missing your parents, friends or even your pet, sometimes just picking up your phone and FaceTiming them can cheer you up tremendously. Again, if it is something small like missing your bed, turn your thoughts around and feel the gratitude for being able to travel and explore. List off what you've done on your trip and the amazing experiences you've had so far and move your mind away from the feeling of lack, I promise this will help the homesickness.
3. STOP FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF
Nothing good from ever feeling sorry for yourself, and it certainly shouldn't stop you from having one of the most amazing trips ever. Give yourself a few hours to be sad, cry and do what you need to do, then collect those feelings and move on. A swim in the ocean, shower, walk, or even a good nights sleep can change your whole outlook and make you feel so much better.
Ground yourself and calm your mind. Chances are you are overthinking your homesickness and making it into something much larger than what it actually is. Be quiet with your mind and release those feelings of angst and ENJOY your trip. You've been dreaming about this for so long and it's time you go out and love every second of your time away because I promise you'll miss the freedom of travelling as soon as you land home.
Solo travel is one of the best things I've ever done and you will love it. Take the nerves as a sign for a great adventure and be excited about the millions of different prospects that can turn up when you get out of your comfort zone and make that leap. I hope you have the absolute best time and I can't wait for you to live out your wildest dreams.