Five Tips on Solo Travel

Not everyone can truly appreciate the joys of traveling alone, and that’s perfectly understandable. After all, great moments and experiences can only become more meaningful if we have loved ones to share them with.

But whether you’re in it for some soul-searching or because your friends ditched you at the last minute, traveling alone is the kind of experience you will always find yourself reliving and going back to. I should know. Granted, I’ve only done it twice, and I’m far from being an expert traveler. But as nervous as I was the first time I set foot on uncharted territories all by myself, I still managed to learn a few tips during my short adventures. And today, I want to share them with you.

Know your destination

Knowing the basics of your destination is always the number one rule. If you’re traveling alone, this becomes doubly important because not only don’t you have your trusty, over-planning friend (ala Miranda on Sex and the City 2) to prepare an itinerary for the whole trip, it will also ease your anxiety about being all alone in a strange place. Search the Internet for pictures of the city you want to visit, check out their local tourism Web sites and forums, and go over maps and addresses. By the time you land and get out of the airport, you’d feel less like an out-of-place tourist especially when you see familiar landmarks.

Safety first!

Common sense is always your best weapon against untoward incidents during travels, so never leave home without it. Being away from your “real life” will give you a sense of newfound freedom, but it doesn’t give you license to be careless. Some choices you make while you’re away will have consequences that you can’t just leave and forget at the airport. So be smart and vigilant. Always make sure that someone from home knows exactly where you are. When I was traveling in 2010, I changed hotels and locations every three days, so I made sure that a friend or family member knew where I was or how to reach my hotel in case they couldn’t contact me.

Bring company

The inanimate kind. Even if your day is packed with random explorations and side trips, you’d still be having some “down times”—be it killing time in a long ferry ride, waiting for your lunch at a cafe, or lazing around at the beach. This is the best time for you to bust out your company of choice. Mine would be books, but you’re free to bring your Kindles, iPads, or PSPs. Aside from keeping boredom at bay, looking occupied can also discourage persistent souvenir vendors and the likes. This was especially helpful to me whenever I went out to eat. Sitting alone at a seaside bar always attracted the kind of attention that a girl least wants, but I was able to avoid uncomfortable eye contacts and awkward small talks by keeping busy with my journal and my book.

Stranger danger?

Not talking to strangers doesn’t really apply when you’re traveling, does it? You’ll miss out on local knowledge and a chance to make friends. There’s no harm in talking to strangers as long as you’re careful about it. Stick to public places if you go out with your new friends, and avoid giving out personal information. I hung out with a couple of British backpackers and some locals during my last solo trip. They knew I was traveling by myself, but I told them I also had friends living in the city. (I mentioned a specific neighborhood that I remembered from my research beforehand. See tip #1.) Sure, that was a lie, but I didn’t want them (or anyone who might be listening in) to think that I was completely alone. So it’s OK to lie a little. Be friendly, but don’t let your guard down.

The three I’s

Interact – Ask questions, start conversations with fellow travelers, talk to your boat operator or driver. I travel to gain a new perspective and a wider understanding of the world around me, and there’s no better way to learn than discovering the local color and listening to stories of people from different walks of life.

Indulge – Take this chance to really experience your perfect vacation. Be lazy and sleep on a hammock by the beach all day if you want to. You don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn because your friend booked another island hopping tour. You want another round of dessert? Go right ahead. There’s no friend to nag you about the bus you need to catch.

(Find) Inspiration – Whether you’re burned out from your stressful job or tired of your uneventful days, it’s almost a guarantee that traveling will bring some welcome inspiration back into your life. So make sure you take some time to enjoy the little things as you go from one adventure to the next. In the end, traveling isn’t really about how many places you’ve seen but how the journey has helped you grow.

So it’s time to make up your mind. Mark your calendar, find the right backpack, and pick the perfect destination. There’s no turning back now—you’re all set for your first adventure as a solo traveler.

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I write for a living. I don't think I'm good at it, but since I can't be a rap superstar (though not for the lack of trying!!!), it will have to do. Traveling is my one true love, and it has changed the way I see my country and my life. In between writing and vagabonding, I read zombie survival guides. Also, my laptop has a retarded L key.

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One Response to “Five Tips on Solo Travel”
  1. Places naman kung saan ok mag travel solo! :)

    I love this post!

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