Why I Travel Solo
I usually go on last minute solo trips throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to travel with my friends that are about that life but sometimes it’s just not feasible. Not having someone to travel with is the last reason that you should be held back from doing what you love/seeing an amazing place on your bucket list. Since a lot of my friends are not flying from the same hub airport, do not have access to a hub, do not have the same flexibility with their schedule as me and the same budget as me, I tend to book solo trips without blinking an eye. I am very fortunate to live in a hub airport city with an American passport (many destinations do not require a visa or have the option to pay for a visa upon arrival), and I do not work on the weekends, so traveling often is very feasible for me. I didn’t choose this life; this life chose me. Solo traveling for me doesn’t require much thought or planning since that’s my style of traveling. It’s basically a weekend where I get to do what I want, when I want. It’s a really great way to get to know more about about yourself but also a new place while having to think and make decisions for yourself without the ability to fall on another person. It teaches you to take ownership over your own decisions. It’s also refreshing sometimes when you are the leader of a group always making all the decisions; solo travel is a break from that. I personally don’t need to have a full itinerary set in stone. Being in a new environment is a learning experience and gaining a better perspective on life is enough for me already to feel satisfied on a trip.
First Steps of Planning a Solo Trip
I am not much of a planner. This is one of the reasons why I prefer solo travel. For me, as long as I have a general gist of what I want to do and see in a destination, I am good to go, and sometimes no plan is better than having a full-fledged plan. Living in Brazil, has taught me that more likely than not, things may not go your way, so you have to be flexible about certain situations. For instance, I traveled to Guadeloupe for a long holiday weekend, and when I arrived I could not take a shower because the water was not working in the entire country at the moment, so I had to go with the flow. Also, some destinations are great for just laying on the beach all day and meeting locals and other tourists and seeing where it goes. This is just my preference. I receive travel inspiration for potential places to go through the flight deal alerts that I receive from one of the many travel blogs that I follow. Additionally, Fly.com has a section called “Today’s Best Fares” where you can set your departing city and time frame. After I see a cheap flight to a place that I’ve never been or even a place that I would love to return to, I start researching the country/city. A good starting point for me is on the “Things To Do” section of a country’s Trip Advisor page or on Viator to get a general idea of touristy options of that destination. My traveling planning style for myself is to book a flight to a new place with no concrete plan but general ideas of what to do/what to see. Those trips have given me the best travel memories.
How Do You Stay Entertained on a Trip by Myself?
Solo travel for me is stress free, answering to no one, complication-free travel. Of course, you will face some challenges traveling alone. I am not saying that it is easy. But travel can be as easy as you want it to be. I am perfectly comfortable with travelling myself, but a common question that I get asked is “How do you stay entertained by yourself?” or “How do you not get bored?” Quite the contrary, I don't see solo travel as lonely or boring, but rather I see it as an opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, connect with other solo travelers, and see all the places of your destination at your own pace and of your own accord. To me, traveling solo means you are even more entertained.- seeing things that you would otherwise not pay attention to. You have the chance to meet people that you otherwise might not interact with had you traveled with your friends and constantly stayed in a bubble. You get to eat when and where you want. You can go out, party as long or as little as you want. You can sleep when you want. It's all up to you, so in that regard, I never get bored by myself. If you're looking for people to keep you busy, wherever you travel to, you will have an entire country/city/town with new people to meet! I am also an extrovert so find comfort meeting and talking to people. That is fine for me and does not bother me at all.
Challenge Yourself; Push Out of Your Comfort Zone
If you are more of a reserved and quiet person that is interested in traveling solo, I would encourage you to challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and explore activities in smaller group settings. For instance, you could stay in a private room in a local’s house via Airbnb or have a private room to yourself in a hostel, so that you not only have alone time but also have the chance to socialize with locals and other travelers in a safe and friendly atmosphere.
Solo Travel Gives You a Unique Perspective and Travel Experience
My experience traveling solo has given me lifelong friendships all over the world and memories that I may not have gotten otherwise traveling with a group. I love that I can be selfish all I want and still have a good time wherever I go. Solo travel means making your own plans, having your own itinerary, or no itinerary at all. Although you are doing what you want, when you want, I encourage everyone to maintain an open mind to the place that you are visiting.
Tips for Solo Traveler
One of the downsides of traveling solo is not being able to rely on another person, another charged phone/battery, or another brain to help think for you. Here are some tips that will help make you more independent and make your solo traveling experience a million times more seamless.
Google Maps is your best friend. Download the map of the country that you are going to while on WiFi. This will help you save your phone battery and also still work even if your phone service does not
Download the local city metro map and try to understand the local system before walking out of your accommodation into the street looking like a lost puppy
Pack two portable power banks as back up to your phone battery in case you cannot charge your phone for whatever reason
Invest in a tripod / master the camera timer. This will step your selfie game up to a new level. Sometimes you may not feel comfortable asking strangers to take your photo or it may not come out how you want to, so this avoids all that and you can be your own photographer.
#TeamCarryOn I cannot stress this enough. When I arrive at the airport, I go straight to security, avoiding the ticket counter and any other long lines. I only travel with bring a carry on sized bag, because it decreases my travel time and also makes my travel experience hassle-free, especially when going through Customs. I never have to worry about lost bags or waiting for them to come out after the flight. #TeamCarryOn is the way to go. [Read more about my tips on how to pack lightly here - will add later. Stay tuned!]
Pack all of your essentials in your carry on. If you absolutely must check a bag (i.e.- you want to bring liquids over 3 ounces, etc), I highly recommend still having a carry on bag with all your essentials packed where in case anything happens to your checked bag, you are still good to go and not totally screwed over. Even if it is a direct flight, you never know. This was a huge lesson learned for me when I took a week-long trip the Amazon while studying abroad (super Amateur move). Please learn from my mistake!
Have your airline's mobile app on your phone. Check in online and screenshot your mobile boarding pass barcode (if your airline has this option). This also prevents having to go to the ticket counter/airport kiosks to obtain your boarding pass if you do not have phone service at that particular destination.
Pack all your essentials, such as toothbrush, toothpaste, underclothes, whatever you use on a daily basis (hair products, hair brush, etc.). If you are traveling solo (or really with others as well), come prepared. You do not want to be that person constantly asking your friend to use their lotion or hair products because more than likely, they only packed just enough for themselves. Pack accordingly.
Download WhatsApp. With this app, you can text and call for free on WiFi anywhere in the world. I even use WhatsApp to send and receive videos and photos between my Apple friends since I'm #teamAndroid and #teamPixel. This maintains the quality of the photo/video through iPhone and Androids. WhatsApp is also great, because you can call any number for free (as long as the person you're calling also has WhatsApp) even if you do have an international plan that doesn't cover the country you're traveling to. This app has changed my life, because can always keep in touch with friends that I make internationally and contact them on a regular basis.
Download Google Translate. This will help you learn local phrases and give you close-to-accurate translations of words in the local language where you are going. Google Translate has the option to download languages for offline translations, thus, not using your data and also saving your battery while traveling. There are some words that really don’t have a direct translation in your language so knowing the local language really helps. I can definitely attest to this while living in Brazil for several months. Also, Google Translate is helpful since you don’t want to be the obnoxious American assuming everyone in the world speaks English. I always find greeting someone in their local language or at least saying “thank you” in that language shows that you are understanding and open minded and usually they are more willing to help you because of this willingness to at least try.
Download Google Trips. The spontaneous traveler in me enjoys traveling to a new place knowing generally about it without a ton of research. Google Trips saves me time and makes my travels much more seamless by providing all my linked upcoming travels and itineraries in an offline app. This app gives you your reservations, tips on things to do, an option to bookmark all your favorite places, day plans suggestions, food & drink recommendations, tips on getting around, and a need to know section, such as shopping districts, markets, and malls. This is very similar to Triposo but Google Trips takes it up a notch by knowing your itinerary, flight info, and accommodation info. Check out the screenshots of the app below: