A Beginner’s Guide to Travelling Solo
If you are reading this, I’m sure that by now you have decided to take the first plunge into solo travelling or are at least contemplating whether you should do one or not.
From my first solo travel I learnt a lot of things about myself and started feeling more comfortable with myself.
“I traveled alone far enough and met myself.” — Nimish Jaitapkar
It can be argued that solo travel pushes you out of your comfort zone in a way like no other. Language barrier, getting lost or falling ill can initially be terrifying by yourself; however, it soon becomes apparent that you can be capable of far more than you ever imagined.
Also, as a nice bonus, traveling solo will also allow you to experience just how helpful others can be. It’s amazing how far out of their way people will go when you request help — from simply recommending a place to visit, to providing a ride and sharing food.
Even though the industry has seen a rise in travellers travelling alone, there are still quite a few who continue to perceive solo travel as an intimidating and daunting activity. Even though safety and boredom could be ones major concerns, the benefits of traveling alone are extensive.
My decision to travel alone was an impulsive one and as the dates for the trip got closer, I started getting anxiety attacks. However after fifteen days of travelling alone, when I was returning home, I felt really proud of myself. I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t contain my tears in the flight as I was filled with so many different emotions. I had done something I could never imagine myself doing, and I enjoyed it so much that I promised myself to travel once or twice every year.
Anyways, for people who are yet to take the leap, a few good samaritans like me are here to help 😛 In this blog we’ll talk about orchestrating your first solo travel. It is a compilation of self experiences as well as empirical suggestions to make your first solo trip a wonderful and memorable experience.
If you haven’t yet decided on the place you would like to visit, start with that. Look up the top travel destinations by Lonely planet or National Geographic. If you are able to boil down to the top three places, start by checking the costs. If you are a working professional with limited number of leaves, see if you can complete your trip in those many days. Check the weather conditions for that period in order to indulge in an unobstructed travel.
Once you have decided on the place, research your destination. Look for various itineraries uploaded by travel companies and bloggers. Read about the various experiences the place has to offer, the language of communication, food habits and means of travel.
If you are planning a long trip, you can look for more and more things to do at that particular place once there. On the other hand, if you are planning a shorter trip, plan your day-to-day activities, well in advance. The worst feeling is when you come back from your trip to realise that you missed a few attractions or activities of your liking.
I personally like to go into the details of the top places to try out local cuisine, top places to shop and even top places to have a couple of drinks and shake a leg with the locals-well in advance.
The best experience of travelling is obtained while travelling with the locals. For travellers with limited time in their hands, taking flights in between cities may seem a logical option but I suggest you should hop on a local train/bus/ferry whenever you get a chance. Such form of travel calls for a lot of interaction with the local people and helps one to experience the local culture.
With flights becoming cheaper than ever, inter-city trains have become a less preferred option for a lot of people. But for a backpacker, overnight train journeys are sometimes the best option as they provide a bed to sleep for a small cost.
“If you don’t need it, pack it anyway. You might need it.”
There are two types of travellers. The rucksack backpackers and the suitcase bag draggers. Depending on your manner of travel, you may choose what kind of luggage to carry. I usually prefer a strolley with hard casing as it is water proof and keeps any delicate luggage safe. I also carry a backpack as it comes handy for day trips. Rucksacks can be your best friend for long treks but they aren’t great for organised packing which I always prefer.
Make a list, a long list of travel essentials. This list can easily be accomplished by observing yourself for a week. Note down all the things that you use throughout the week and list them down. Buy a small, waterproof toiletries bag and pack small portions of all the required items in it. Pack enough clothes for the trip. There is seldom any use of buying new clothes when you are on your trip, unless you are an avid shopper and you can find cheap and nice clothes there.
Pack according to the weather. It’s no use carrying multiple pairs of trousers or jackets to a beach destination while the same would be essential in a cold destination.
Don’t carry a lot of undergarments and clothing accessories like socks or scarfs as there are laundromats available at most of the destinations.
A single traveller is more approachable than a group of travellers. Every traveller has a story to tell and experiences to share. When on a solo trip try and pick up conversations with as many people as possible. On my solo trips I have realized that you never really travel alone. The world is full of friends, waiting to get to know you.
It is totally fine if you enjoy solitude, but what is the use of you traveling, if you don’t learn about other cultures and traditions? And what could be a better way to learn that than having a small talk with a fellow traveler or a local over a cigarette or a beer.
To facilitate conversations, you may spend time at your hostel’s common area or sign up for group day trips or other activities like surfing lessons, kick-boxing classes or even diving trips. Whenever you see a pub crawl being advertised, do sign up for that as, in my experience, pub crawls are a great way to make friends.
Of course no-one will be comfortable enough to approach you if you carry a snooty face around. A smile is always inviting and one of the best ice breakers, according to me.
When I was in Thailand, I met so many people from different countries; trust me if Antarctica had permanent residency, I would have even met a traveller from there.
“Not all who wonder are lost. Unless they are pissed and trying to find their way back to the hostel.” — J. R. R. Tolkien
Hostels are undoubtedly the best places to stay for travellers. A person learns a lot of things while staying in one. Be it, the cultural diversity or the cheap cost, hostels always attract travellers. Imagine this, you check into a hostel where you will be sharing a room with four people. Each person is from a different country, speaks a different language, has different cultural background. The one thing that will connect each one of you to the other is, travel. Be it any nationality, colour or race, all your dorm mates will be travellers.
With growing competition, hostels have started offering more and more facilities, like free WiFi, complimentary breakfast, good beds and much more for a very small price. There are some famous hostel chains like Lub D, Slumber Party, Zostel etc. which are reliable and provide you with state of the art facilities.
There are also various aggregator websites and applications like Hostelworld.com and Booking.com which provide a huge list of options along with promotional offers and discounts on hostels. The best feature of these, which I use at will is the one where you can pay a token and reserve a bed. The token is hardly a dollar and the feature comes handy if you don’t like the hostel after visiting it or if your stay gets cancelled or changed due to any unforeseen circumstances.
Even though, the people at a hostel are very friendly, one must not get carried away and leave their belongings unattended. Hostels always provide lockers and cabinets, usually free of cost or at a small price where one can keep their belongings safe.
Assuming that you are all set and ready to go on your first solo trip, I would like to throw in some quick tips for a safe and enjoyable experience.
1. Respect others.
No one is of a lower stature or eminence than you. The more you respect others, the more they will respect you and the better your stay will be.
2. Keep multiple copies of your identification documents.
Along with all the things we spoke about, pack a folder with copies of all your identification documents and self attest them. You would be asked to drop a copy of your passport or driving licence while renting a motorcycle or car. The same is applicable while checking in to your hostel or while taking a ferry in between cities.
3. Wander light at night.
While wandering around a city’s lanes and by-lanes at night, don’t carry a lot of expensive things. Just carry your phone and wallet with just the required amount of cash. This way, you have nothing really to lose.
4. Get high responsibly
Every destination has something interesting to offer which could get you high. Be it some good local alcohol or some famous drug (where ever it is legal). Be vice, but be wiser.
5. Respect the law of the land
We might come from a country where freedom of speech is constitutional, but there a lot of countries where this isn’t true. Some countries are even concerned with the kind of attire you put on. You must comply with the laws of the land in order to have the best travel experience. This also enables you to have a new experience of living the way locals do and the way they dress. Wearing a hijab could definitely be a new experience.
6. Experience everything
You should experience everything the place has to offer. From cliff to scuba diving, from discotheques to strip clubs, from fine dine to street food, everything should be on your list. In fact you should scout for more experiences and share them with the world. This helps your fellow travellers as well as the locals (by opening up a new avenue to earn revenue) in a huge way.
7. Keep your close ones informed
You are far away from home. It is possible that you could fall into some kind of trouble or mishap. Hence, it is important for you to keep someone reliable updated about your whereabouts. Share the contact details of the places you will be staying at along with your itinerary. Some countries provide travel insurance and hotlines to help you, if you are in trouble. Keep the contact details of your country’s embassy handy.
8. Don’t be where you shouldn’t be
Every place has a light and a dark side. You are less likely to fall in trouble if you wander around well lit areas of a place. Some of the famous cities like Paris and New York are known for causing trouble to tourists. Hence, you should be vigilant when wandering at night and listen to the locals when they tell you about the hazards of wandering in a particular part of the city.
I’m aware I could have been a bit boring while talking about some obvious things here. But WTH, sometimes we know it all but still happen to ignore the obvious.
Anyways, I’m done being your grandma now and it’s time you take the initiative and get started with the planning for your first solo travel.
Until next time. Safe travels!