Of the many different types of travelers that circumnavigate the globe every day, fewer are as fascinating or enviable as the ‘Solo Traveler.’ Like the ‘Foreign Language Master’ and the ‘Perfect Carry-On Packer,’ solo travelers enchant and inspire us. And while most of our favorite traveling heroes—writers, explorers, philanthropists—set out unaccompanied, some of us are too intimidated to give it a try. At Indagare, we know that seeing the world on our own can lead to uniquely meaningful, transformative experiences, and this method of travel is becoming increasingly popular with seasoned globetrotters and young adventurers alike. As with any successful trip, an independent journey requires some planning, and there are important questions to consider. Here, we outline seven solo travel tips to help you get started.
This article is Part III of Indagare’s series on Solo Travel (read our second installation: Go It Alone: The Best Places for Solo Travel). Check back in future e-Newsletters for more, including inspiring accounts of those traveling alone. Contact Indagare to plan your solo travel journey.
Prepare properly and you can travel solo anywhere
One of the most challenging, but also most rewarding, elements of traveling alone is that you become entirely responsible for planning the itinerary and researching your destination. Indagare Travel Specialist Hannah Small advises that you should “always read ahead.” Look over maps of the area well before you arrive so that you will know which neighborhoods not to miss (and which you should avoid), and be able to orient yourself around the city, especially when taking cabs or public transportation. Other practical tips include carrying multiple photocopies of your passport and other personal information on you in different bags (in case of emergency or misplacement), keeping an extra credit card on you, but somewhere other than your wallet, and sharing your itinerary with friends at home and the manager at your hotel, so that someone will always know where you are. Finally, don’t forget to pack a carry-on full of the essentials. Two of our founder Melissa Biggs Bradley’s must-have items are the Skyroam mobile hotspot and a healthy digestion probiotic.
Know where to start
The vast possibilities offered by solo travel, while immensely exciting, can be overwhelming when you starting the planning process. Indagare can help you make sense of the logistics with a few “big picture” questions, so that you know where to start. Do you want to stay in one location, or move around from place to place? Are you ready for a lengthy adventure, or would you rather experiment with a weekend getaway that’s closer to home? Do you prefer the amusements of an urban capital, or are you looking to go off the beaten path? Once you make some of these larger decisions, it becomes much easier to choose the timing and destination for your trip—and you can focus on the fun stuff.
Consider your safety
While traveling by yourself can be more exciting and rewarding than traveling with others, it can also involve more risk. The fact that you’re alone should influence some decisions, like choosing to take a day trip from Rome to sleepy countryside villages instead of to busy cities with seedy reputations. Always be aware of your surroundings and continue to stay engaged as you are moving around. For female travelers in particular, safety is a concern. Indagare’s Hannah Small recommends dressing conservatively and trying to stay around other women; for instance, in Delhi there is a women’s-only car on the subway. In Hannah’s experience, “women really look out for other women.” If you are unsure about a destination, neighborhood or street, trust in your research and go with your instincts: if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Another valuable way to stay safe is to look up in advance scams against travelers that are common to your destination. If you know what to expect, you will feel more comfortable and empowered on your solo journey.
Related: Solo Travel: My Sister’s Legacy
Follow your passion
In return for a little extra preparation, solo travelers can enjoy the freedom of exploring any destination that intrigues them, in exactly the manner that they desire. Art fanatics can soak in the details of every single work within Berlin’s Museum Island without complaints of companions’ boredom and sore feet; Hemingway aficionados have full reign to traipse across Western Europe in search of every bar in which he ever sipped a drink; foodies can venture to far-flung destinations to try the exotic dishes that frighten their less adventurous buddies. If you do your research, no place is off-limits, and, together with Indagare, you can craft a dream itinerary that focuses specifically on your interests and passions.
Related: The Travel Bucket List
A solo trip doesn’t have to be a major commitment
Thanks to classic travelogues like Eat, Pray, Love, On the Road and Under the Tuscan Sun, we often associate solo travel with the process of “finding yourself,” usually by backpacking in your twenties or moving to Italy after a mid-life crisis. While such journeys can be infinitely valuable for personal wellness—and they keep the romantic allure of the solo trip alive—the notion that traveling alone should be reserved for particular moments in your life is a misconception. Now more than ever, busy parents are using solo weekend breaks to recharge; ambitious business owners are going on sabbaticals to work on their dream projects; and students are taking gap years before, during and after earning their degrees to participate in philanthropy initiatives around the world. The takeaway? You can (and should) travel by yourself throughout every stage of your life, and it will look and feel different each time.
Related: 10 Transformative Trips
Remember that being alone isn’t the same as being lonely
Many travelers choose to explore both new and familiar destinations on their own because it offers the chance for invaluable (and hard-to-find) time for personal introspection, reflection and relaxation. Sitting happily at a table for one provides an opportunity to check in with and give yourself some much-needed self-care, which is often the kind of love that we cultivate the least. In these moments, being alone is quite a different thing from being lonely. In fact, solo travel is becoming an increasingly popular way to socialize and make new friends. Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to meet locals for a language or cooking lesson, or to find fellow expats who are solo-exploring the same cities. Tech companies and hospitality groups alike have approached this phenomenon with enthusiasm, with the opening of such enterprises as the Dans Le Noir? in London, Paris, Auckland and Madrid. The restaurants combine socializing with culinary innovation in a blind dating–like experience that seats strangers together for dinner in the pitch-dark. When you embrace the freedom of solo travel, you may find that you discover parts of yourself that you never knew existed.
Related: The People We Meet Along the Way
Tune in rather than out
When many travelers contemplate the idea of visiting a destination alone, they envision themselves sitting at a small table in a café, sipping a coffee or a glass of wine and staring off into space. For some, this sounds like heaven; for others, excruciating boredom. Indagare’s Hannah Small puts it best when she advises how to face this possibility: “Don’t tune out, tune in.” Traveling by yourself provides the rare opportunity to open yourself completely to the place that you’re exploring. Instead of zoning out the white noise of your own existence, lean in to the sights and sounds of the world around you. Unencumbered by friends, children and significant others, you are completely free to make new acquaintances and serendipitous connections. Sit at the bar and request recommendations for the best local eateries—and perhaps a personalized cocktail—from the waiter; ask your taxi driver for his favorite side-street for shopping; smile when you are walking down the street. You’ll be amazed by the welcome and help you receive and the rewards that you gain from your efforts.
Related: Q&A with Photographer Roger Fishman
Many members of our Indagare community are firm believers in the power of solo travel, and we are here to craft the right experience for you. Indagare can help you plan your next solo trip with our destination guides and insider expertise. Contact us now to learn more.