By Priya Shah
From hiking the Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand to sleeping in the Australian Outback, solo travel has given me more than just beautiful places to visit. In the process, I’ve learned so much about myself. Every time I take a solo trip—whether it’s to the other side of the world or even a couple hours away—I become more comfortable in my own skin.
As someone who has traveled solo many times, I get a lot of questions and comments. The one comment I hear most, especially from women, is, “I could never travel alone.”
Here’s the thing. You *can* travel alone. I’ll have you know that not only do I travel alone, but I go to concerts alone, take myself out to lunch/dinner alone, and to the movies alone. I’m a BIG fan of going out on dates with me. You’re stuck with *you* for the rest of your life. Might as well enjoy your own company!
I’m a big believer that women should take a solo trip at least once in their lifetimes — it’s SO important to spend time with you and solo travel is a great way to learn what you like and dislike. Plus, while I’ve done a ton of solo traveling, I always make amazing friends through hostels, tours, happy hour, and meetup groups so I’m never *really* alone.
If you’ve been curious about solo travel, here are some tips to get you on your way.
mindset is everything
Traveling solo as a woman is really not scary. Let me repeat that — solo travel for women is not scary.
Of course, as always, be aware of your surroundings and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home. The media, especially, shares horror stories about certain destinations and well-meaning friends/family can put unwelcoming *ideas* in your head. When I first considered moving to Australia for a year, a girl who I went to high school with told me I was being unrealistic and that I should do something more practical like apply to grad school. I didn’t listen to her and a year later I was at the airport with a one-way plane ticket in my hands.
Yes, I was terrified of moving to a different country on the other side of the world. I felt like I was going to throw up. But I went anyway.
figure out your travel style
I’m not a party animal and you will not find me hopping from bar-to-bar until the crack of dawn (no shame if that’s your game). I love sightseeing, exploring a neighborhood on foot, hiking, and taking day trips. I do enjoy nice dinners, fancy cocktails, markets, shopping, and walking and eating. (Literally — of one of my favorite activities is to walk and eat, especially at food markets.)
I’m also not sure if long-term travel is something I enjoy. While my year in Australia was incredible for my personal growth, I was exhausted by the end of it. However, I enjoyed gallivanting around New Zealand for three months and craved more time at the end of my trip. Nowadays, my trips are a bit shorter — ten days here, a weekend there. But I still make the most out of them.
So what’s your travel style? It may take some experimenting to figure it out and that’s okay.
decide on your budget
The second most common concern I hear when it comes to solo travel is not having enough money. This is a gray area because depending on where you want to go, where you stay, and for how long, your trip can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.
Last year I took a weekend trip from Chicago, IL to Madison, WI. While some might say that’s not a *real* trip, I disagree. I got to experience a cute new town. Plus I scored Megabus’s $1 deals both ways and my roundtrip cost was less than five bucks ($1 each way + booking fees).
Keep an eye out for deals — I’d recommend being flexible with seasons and time frames. Also last year, I found a roundtrip flight to Amsterdam from Chicago for less than $400 during off-peak season. (Winter, but the weather wasn’t that bad!) Most domestic trips within the U.S. cost way more than that! I had a whole row to myself during both flights, too.
choose your accommodations wisely
I used to stay in hostels a lot. Now that I’m getting older, I’d rather opt for hotels and Airbnbs for more privacy and comfort. If I do stay at a hostel, which is definitely a more affordable option, I’ll go for the smallest room (usually 4 people and, if available, women only). I always read reviews of hostels first, by the way. You can book and read reviews on hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com. Also, read reviews on TripAdvisor!
Hostels are a great way to meet new friends since many have common areas, walking tours, and other activities. Some even have a bar and restaurant, or a kitchen if you want to save some $$$ by cooking.
If you’re not into hostels, no prob. Many hotels also have common areas and happy hours at the hotel bar. And if you’re staying at an Airbnb, consider looking into an Airbnb experience where you can have a local show you around!
It really doesn’t matter where you stay as long as you’re comfortable.
plan your activities in advance
I have a rule where I pick 2-3 must-sees while on my solo trips. I’ll make sure I do at least one thing a day or every other day. (I also schedule some rest/chill time depending on how long I’m traveling.) For example, maybe there’s a museum you really want to see. Make that a must for one day, and then play it by ear. I personally don’t like to cram in a million things because my body and mind just can’t handle or enjoy it.
Other ideas: walking tours (a lot of them are free and accept tips at the end), markets, hiking, renting a bike and exploring the neighborhood, or just walking around aimlessly finding hidden gems and taking selfies! (I’m all about taking selfies!)
Have you gone on a solo trip before or are you considering giving it a try? Tell us about it!
Priya Shah is a Chicago-based freelance copywriter and serial blogger armed with a journalism degree and a strong background in providing clients with value, creativity, and a killer voice. She’s also a world-traveler, has lived abroad, and loves exploring other cultures.