Traveling solo is something everyone should do at least once. It’s a wonderful way to immerse yourself in a different culture while also finding out about your true self as you navigate through new environments and experiences. Traveling alone can also seem like a scary experience if you have concerns about safety or getting lonely without a companion. But at HI USA, we embrace the brave and adventurous. At our hostels across America, you know you always have a place to stay where you’ll feel welcome and comfortable. We also understand that there’s a lot to think about before you take your solo trip, so to make things a little less daunting, we’ve come up with 11 tips every solo traveler should know before they go off into the great wide world.
11 Tips for Traveling Alone
1. Bring a ”life” folder:
This can be a plastic sleeve or smaller bag where you should keep a copy of your ID/passport, a list of emergency contacts, insurance information and your bus/train/plane tickets to your next destination. Keep this secure in your hostel locker so there’s no chance of losing important information while you’re out exploring.
2. Pack light:
Barring the kindness of strangers, traveling solo means you’ll be relying on yourself to carry your luggage as you move from place to place, so make sure you have a bag that is easy for you to carry. Bring only the essentials, and remember to leave room for gifts for friends and family back home! These not-so-obvious packing tips should also definitely help.
3. Check yourself:
Whenever you’re about to head out for the day or night, check that you have your essentials: wallet, ID, room keys, phone and a camera.
4. Enjoy your own company:
Don’t be afraid of being alone, because while it might be lonely at first, you’ll find that you’re quite good company and it’s completely ok to enjoy something by yourself! You’ll gain confidence and find yourself more in tune with your instincts. Remember to trust yourself and those instincts, and never be afraid to extract yourself from situations that make you feel uncomfortable. On the flip side, HI USA hostels make it easy to meet new friends from around the world. So don’t be shy about introducing yourself whenever you’re ready!
5. Keep your wits about you:
As often as possible, keep your eyes on the city in front of you rather than on your phone or a map (it’s a good idea do have your routes planned out before you head out). It will help make sure you’re never caught off guard, and you might just gain a greater understanding of the destination to boot!
While it may be tempting to constantly check in on social media, or text your bestie play-by-plays of all your adventures, don’t do it! You’ll gain so many new experiences and opportunities just by connecting with the present.
7. But tell someone your plans:
Even though you won’t be glued to your phone, be sure to let someone know your plans for the day before you head out, and a time later on in the day when they can expect to hear from you. That way, should anything go wrong, someone else knows of your whereabouts. Tip: make some new friends at your hostel to share your plans with. Who knows – they may even want to join you!
8. Bring a book:
A good book is an excellent companion on long plane, bus and train rides, and it also makes for a good conversation starter (rather than just scrolling through your phone). Many HI USA hostels have book exchanges, so you can leave a piece of yourself behind and take a bit of the hostel with you when you move on to your next destination.
9. Eat out alone at least once:
This one strikes terror in the hearts of even the bravest, but eating alone at a restaurant can actually be fun! Bring the aforementioned book, or make conversation with your server. Even better, sit at the restaurant bar or the diner counter, which are prime spots for meeting locals and chatting to the person behind the counter. You’re likely to get excellent local recommendations and tips this way.
10. Find a balance between planning and being flexible:
It’s always a good idea to have your hostel booked before you get there (and to let them know if you’ll be arriving late), and do make plans for things that are on your bucket list for the city you’re in. But don’t be afraid to let plans change once you make friends. Some of the best travel stories come from spontaneous adventures and last-minute decisions to go somewhere new. Be brave! (And just remember the rule about letting someone else back home know your plans.)
11. Take it easy:
Your senses might feel overloaded when traveling alone, but remember to take time to just stop, breathe and take it all in. Find a quiet spot in the hostel, or find a nice spot with a view, to sit and reflect, meditate or write in a journal so you can appreciate how truly awesome it is it be traveling alone.
Ready for you adventure? Be sure to book at hiusa.org and help build a more tolerant world.