How to start travelling solo

If you have never travelled solo before, it can be a petrifying thought. Believe me, I know! The idea of going away alone with no one for company? No one to have your back, or to chat to about what you experienced over dinner? But believe it or not, the new version of me now gets very excited by the prospect of solo travel. It’s now an opportunity to do what I want to do, in my own time, and on my own terms. But more importantly, it’s my chance to see the world and meet some wonderful people. So if you’ve ever wanted to start travelling solo but been too apprehensive, here’s how to get started!

Why travel solo?

Some of you may know that I met my husband while we were both travelling alone. That’s another story for another blog, but the point is that I still travel solo. Not because I don’t enjoy travelling with him, but because I get different things out of travelling solo.

But I also understand that it can take some time to feel comfortable alone on the road. But don’t miss out on travel because you’re alone or you may regret it. So whether you are single, or have no one who wants to go to the same places, or who can take the time off to join you, here are a few ideas on how to get started on your solo journey.

Step 1: Take a day trip

If you are not accustomed to being alone for more than a couple of hours in an unfamiliar environment, start with a day trip.

Do you live in a big city? Why not pick a part of it that you’ve never visited, or one that you’ve not been to for a while? If you’re in the countryside, heading to a nearby town could be your day trip. Make sure you pick one that you haven’t visited for a while, not where you go for your weekly shop. Another idea could be to take a day to head out of the city. Find a good hiking route, head to the beach for a long walk, or find a national park or stately home to explore.

Make a plan of what you can do while you’re there. It could be visiting a museum or exhibition that interests you. Or it could be wandering around the cobblestone streets of an old part of town. You want to have a destination and a plan of what to do when you’re there to keep you occupied, so you’re not fretting about being alone.

Don’t forget to factor in lunch! You can either scout out a place when you get there, or plan ahead and have picked out somewhere in advance. You can always grab a sandwich and eat in a local park, too.  

Take as many day trips as you need to when starting out your solo travelling adventure. There’s no hard-and-fast rule of when you will feel comfortable being alone. We’re all different, and the point of the day trips is to help you feel relaxed and confident that you can navigate your way around an unfamiliar place.  

And just like that, you’re a solo traveller!

German-style architecture in Helen, Georgia
A day trip to Helen in northern Georgia for me this summer

Step 2: Book a weekend away

Ready to go further or be away for longer? Book yourself a night away and take the weekend to explore!

You can do the same as you would on a day trip and plan a few activities, or you could mix it up and include joining a tour. It could be absolutely anything. A backstage tour of a theatre, a bike or walking tour of the city, a ghost tour!

Joining any kind of group gives you an opportunity to interact with others. If you’re shy or an introvert, it’s an easy way to meet people without the pressure of finding something to talk about. If you’re an extrovert, it’s your time to chat to someone if the only people you’ve spoken to are the hotel concierge and coffee barista.

You may also be surprised at who you meet! Here are some of my experiences meeting people when travelling solo.

Photo of author at the State Capitol bell in Montgomery, Alabama
A weekend trip to Montgomery, Alabama, my neighbouring state

Step 3: Travel to a different country or state

If you’re feeling comfortable with a weekend away, it’s time to move on to a longer trip. Maybe even head over the border to another country or state.

The same ideas apply. Have a plan of things that you want to see or do, even a loose one, so that you are not worried about staying busy or have time to dwell and worry about being alone. I love to explore by wandering around a city or town and mixing it up with something cultural. That way I’ve got something to keep me busy while still giving me time to wander around and sightsee.

With a little more time and less pressure to do things, you can linger over lunch or a coffee (or a drink!) and do some people watching. This is a great way to experience different lifestyles and cultures. A leisurely coffee at a café watching people walk their dogs or a lunchtime bite by a river while locals take an afternoon stroll, and the world starts to slow down. You forget your worries about being solo and start to lose yourself in the moment. Have a book or journal handy in case you start to feel self-conscious, but I promise you, no one cares that you’re alone.

Image of author with a view of Split, Croatia, in the background
A long weekend to Croatia to join a salsa festival (and do a little sightseeing)

Step 4: Head to another continent

If you’ve got this far, you don’t need any more encouragement from me!

But if this is your first time far from home, or in a part of the world that is so completely different to what you’re used to, stick to the same principles. Plan a few activities, book a couple of things in advance that you want to do, and work the rest of your time around them.

By now you are probably more comfortable interacting with other travellers you meet along the way. You’re also less likely to be worried about being alone and starting to enjoy the experience more.

Remember: any first time will be unsettling, and that’s normal. But you’ve got this. You’ve got a system in place that works, and you’ve got things to see and do planned and ready. Your book or journal are always there if you need them, but you’ll probably be having too much fun!  

Colourful graffiti from Cartagena, Colombia
A longer trip including Colombia, South America

Safety first

Covid-19 has changed our world. But with some sensible precautions and following the advice of local governments and the experts, we can still travel. The How to Travel and Stay Safe During a Pandemic blog gives you some tips for safe travel practices. And while Dos and Don’ts for Travellers is a little more geared to overseas travel, the principles still apply.

Whatever stage you’re at on your solo journey, staying safe is your top priority. I’ve put together a post with 7 Ways to Stay Safe While on the Road which can help. These apply whether you’re in the next town over or on the other side of the world. 

The guidance on travel changes rapidly, so keep an eye on your country’s recommendations. Guidance for UK passport holders is here, and for US citizens, it’s here.

I’m always here if you have any questions or need help to get going. Drop me a line or post a comment below – I’d love to help!

2 thoughts on “How to start travelling solo

  1. Henriette says:

    I’m so happy to read that you suggest taking a book and/or journal with you, for when you feel nervous. I think music works just as well to occupy your lone-fright mind. I did in fact always had all of the above with me, when I went in my first solo outdoor trip to the Alps this summer. When I was hiking etc. I was engaged with nature enough not to have the feeling I needed anything. On bus/train rides I’m used to listening to music. But I have to admit when I’m solo dining or having a coffee somewhere I too often don’t engage with my surrounding, nor do I read or write often enough. I have to admit… The old “I’m quickly going to check social media” is just too easy: something I’m used to, something familiar that relaxes me in unknown territories.

  2. Christina Petrides says:

    Henriette, you’re absolutely right, music is also a great distraction. As is social media, and I use both, too. I also love to people watch, and that gets easier with each trip as well as you start to feel less self-conscious. Keep travelling, sounds like you’re enjoying it!

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