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Navigating the Wild Wilderness of Solo Travel - From the Beginning

Hey fellow adventurers and aspiring solo travellers! You're in for a treat with this week’s blog. I’m your friendly guide, and today, we're diving into the wild world of solo travel and where to begin - a scary prospect, but a bucket list dream that many want to turn into reality.

I was inspired by a fellow traveller who felt silly for asking a question about navigating the airport (you can see that blog post here) in a travel Facebook group I’m in and it got me thinking about how fortunate many of us are to travel frequently, but how daunting that first-time experience can be, even more so as a solo traveller! This time we’re exploring how to get ready for that first solo experience. I'm not suggesting you jump in and do what I did... hopping on a plane a few days after my 21st birthday destined for the other side of the world with a backpack. The tips below are broken down to how I go there.

Time for your pre solo adventure ‘Prep Talk’.

Gaby at Heathrow T5 ready to go travelling

Before you even Google flights and scare yourself with the daunting tasks of what, where, how and when, let's rewind a bit and talk about the crucial warm-up exercises before you plunge headfirst into the solo travel marathon. Think of it as the training montage before the big adventure movie begins.

I’ve added some of my top tips for you to try and these are going to help you prepare for your solo adventure:

Dining Solo

Eating alone in your hometown might seem a pointless task, but it's a skill worth mastering. Start small – head to a local café or restaurant solo. Bring a book or simply people-watch. You'll quickly realise that the only judgment coming your way is from your own imagination.

Mini Day Trips

Take a day trip to a nearby village or city that you've never explored is a great way to become a tourist in your own backyard. Wander aimlessly, discover hidden gems, and flex those navigation muscles. Being able to get up and out exploring new places is another great skill that will sure help you.

Overnight Adventures

Now that you're comfortable with dining solo and navigating your local surroundings, it's time to level up. Book an overnight stay! This is the perfect opportunity to test your packing skills and get used to the idea of sleeping in a new place on your own.

Weekend Independence

You’ve ticked off the above, so naturally it’s time to extend your solo escapades to a weekend getaway. Choose a destination that intrigues you but isn't too far away. This is your chance to refine your itinerary planning skills, balance exploration with relaxation, and learn the art of solo budgeting.

The Grand Solo Finale

You've aced the solo dining, conquered day trips, and mastered the art of weekend wanderlust. Now, it's time for the grand finale – the one you’ve been waiting for. A week or more of solo travel. Choose a destination that calls to your adventurous spirit. Revel in the joy of making spontaneous decisions, meeting new people, and immersing yourself in a foreign culture. This is where the true magic of solo travel unfolds.

Remember, each step is a victory, and every challenge is an opportunity for growth. If you don’t manage to complete the overnight adventures or the weekend getaways, don’t be hard on yourself! They’re big steps to take and if you don’t achieve them the first time, it doesn’t mean your solo adventures are a thing of the past.

Let’s move onto The Grand Solo Finale.

So you’ve chosen your destination and the date is quickly approaching. There are a few things to think about that will differ from the overnight stay and weekend getaway you previously ticked off. Don’t fear. Here comes another list (it’s super easy to follow) to ensure you don’t forget a thing!

  • Packing: Say it with me - "I am not the Queen of England, and I do not need my entire wardrobe for a weekend getaway." Learn to pack efficiently. Trust me; no one cares if you wear the same shirt two days in a row. My rule I’ve learnt over the years is to firstly make outfits that you can mix and match together. Basics are great!! Secondly, whatever you think you’ll need lay out and then remove half. You’re not going to want a super heavy bag even if the luggage allowance of 23kg sounds appealing.

  • Airport Shenanigans: So, you've made it through the airport process at home, but now you’re in a foreign environment and it’s different. First things first, don’t panic. Been there, almost done that! Also, don’t be afraid to embrace the airport hustle. Smile at the grumpy security guard, and don't be shy about asking for directions. (Airport staff are there to help you remember). All airports even though their appearance may differ the concept is exactly the same.

  • From Runways to Room Keys: You've landed in a foreign land, and now the real adventure begins. For your first trip, especially if you’re arriving late/or after public transport may have stopped, make sure to arrange airport transportation in advance. Trusting your gut in a new city is one thing, but trying to decipher a foreign public transportation system at midnight is a whole different ballgame. If you’re feeling up to it use the transport system. It tends to be a lot cheaper, which is a bonus for the budget.

  • Accommodation: Opt for accommodations that balance safety with social opportunities. It’s important to think about what you’d like from your accommodation. Hostels can be a goldmine for solo travellers, but there are many kinds. A party hostel or chilled out hostel will be the difference in you getting good amounts of sleep. Trust me, I’ve been in the party hostels before and when you have a trip booked for a sunrise hike leaving at 3am and pass your dorm mates coming in from their night out it becomes high priority for your next trip! You’ll meet people from every corner of the globe, and chances are, they're just as lost and eager to make friends as you are.

  • Embrace the Solo Adventure: Now that you're settled, it's time to hit the streets. Don't be afraid to dine alone. It's not sad; it's empowering. You managed to do it at home, where you knew people. Who do you know around here?! Take a book, observe the world around you, and relish in the fact that you can order dessert without anyone judging you. You're a solo warrior, and this is your time to shine.

  • Local Gems Over Tourist Traps: When planning your solo excursions, go off the beaten path. Sure, the touristy spots are a must, but the real magic happens in the hidden alleys, local markets, and hole-in-the-wall cafes. Strike up conversations with locals, ask for recommendations at your accommodation, use apps such as Get Your Guide to find experience and let the serendipity of solo travel guide you.

Remember, solo travel is not about finding yourself; it's about discovering the world on your own terms. So, don’t be disheartened if your first trip isn’t as magical as you see on social media and you have low points that you don't see your favourite travel agents show, just remember we were all there once and just because it's not on their social media doesn't mean it doesn't happen!

Happy travels, fellow solo adventurers!

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