Many people are amazed when they learn that I journey around the world as a solo traveller – and even more than that, I do not have a family ‘back home’ who know my every whereabouts and activity.
I truly am the epitome of a solo traveller!
While friends have a general idea of which country I am currently visiting, rarely could anyone give an exact location as to where I am staying and for how long.
I could never do that!
Aren’t you scared?
I can’t go to a movie by myself, let alone travel solo
These are just some of the comments I have heard over the years.
Before I get into some of my top suggestions and tips for travelling by yourself, there is one thing I really must mention first – and that is,
To be a successful solo traveller, you need to enjoy your own company!
While this may sound obvious, the only time I have ever encountered anyone who didn’t enjoy their solo travel experience was when that person was an extreme extrovert who adored and thrived on the company of others.
Despite the fact that I have had a relatively public career, I am quite a strong introvert and I intensely dislike crowds. I love being by myself (caveat, preferably if I have something to write on and with). If I have a choice between going to a party or going for dinner with one friend, the one friend wins every time. Even if you look at my media and speaking career, it was always me and a microphone. Yes, there may have been tens of thousands of people listening at any one time, or a couple of thousand people in the audience – but I was connecting with the woman driving her children to school; or the man jogging along the beach; or the lady in the front row with a huge smile, or the man half-way back wearing purple… I was never talking to a group of people – it was always just one person at a time.
I will often curl up somewhere wonderful and alive with people for the day and work, but while I may be surrounded by people, I have minimal interaction with them. I am essentially by myself and only engaging when I feel like it (or when I need to order another glass of wine!)
If that describes you or your preferred style of communication – read on!
Follow your passion!
It can be a daunting task to decide where to go and what to do when you get there – whether by yourself or not.
For me, I focus in on my passions. I know which countries and cultures are of interest, and then my other passions of history and photographing my journey come into play.
- Do you like ancient buildings?
- Do you adore museums and galleries?
- Are festivals your thing?
- Do you want to go hot air ballooning in several different countries?
- Is tracing your family tree what drives you?
- Speaking of driving, do you want to go to motor races all over the world?
Whatever it is, decide in advance where you want to go and why.
I will write a separate post on navigating visas around the world, but for now at least be aware that every country has different rules and regulations about how long you can stay and what you can do while you are there.
Once you have decided on your destination, do some research so you are certain your trip meets that country’s requirements.
…and it should go without saying that if you are travelling abroad, you need a valid passport – and again, different countries stipulate that it needs to have a certain number of months validity before they will allow you to enter (usually 3-6 months until your passport expires).
How to get there
While air travel is the default for most people, consider the myriad other ways of getting to your destination.
Depending upon geography, you could:
- Travel by train – and even here there are options such as first-class and overnight sleepers
- Drive – or be driven (for instance, I am being driven from Hungary to Slovakia on this upcoming trip – and it is ridiculously affordable! One just needs to go hunting to find safe, reliable and cost-effective deals – or in my case, I asked a colleague for a referral)
- Go by boat – ferries (that I think look like small ocean liners) are the usual, but again there are all types of floating options…
- Kayak – yes, kayak! I met a woman a few weeks ago who kayaked from Ireland to Romania!
- Cycle, skateboard, walk…
The list is only limited by your imagination and passions!
Feeling safe and secure when travelling by yourself also means having all your documents etc in one place.
For me when it comes to accommodation, that means all my long-term accommodation I book on AirBnB and all my shorter stays are on Hotels.com.
That way, all my bookings are located in one place – if I get stuck there is only one number I need to call…
Also, remember that immigration officials will want the name of the hotel you are headed to when you get off the plan/train/automobile – so make sure you have that handy when you enter the country.
Plan Your Itinerary
This one comes with a caveat. While I always know when I am entering and leaving a country, I do not always have a day by day itinerary planned out – hmmmm, make that I rarely have a day by day itinerary.
If there is a particular event on a specific day, that obviously goes into the calendar, but apart from that, I pretty much make my schedule as I go along.
This may be a little daunting for you – if so, there is a lot to be said for having a clear list of places to go and things to do mapped out day by day. Just make sure you don’t over book yourself. The purpose of your trip is to have fun, not to wear yourself out seeing seven countries in five days.
Stay in touch
OK, this is a case of do as I say, not do as I do.
Especially if you are new to travelling by yourself, it is a good idea to keep in touch with friends and relatives on your journey.
One idea is to have a set time each day to check in with someone – friend, mother, father, sister…
This not only makes them feel better, it might make you feel more secure as well.
Hmmmmm, another ‘do as I say’ example.
When God was handing out the ‘packing light’ gene, I am fairly certain I was off having a glass of wine beside a lovely fire some place.
Regardless, the less ‘stuff’ (technical term) you take with you, the more you will thank yourself.
While it is wonderful to take photos and share them online, particularly when travelling by yourself, be conscious of how much information you are relaying in those photos.
Here I am not talking about the obvious of not drinking brown water… I am talking about eating well, exercising, making sure you drink enough (fresh) water.
These are elements that are often overlooked or forgotten completely when we travel.
Make sure you look at your diet and routine before you leave and build that into your trip.
For instance, if you know you get a caffeine headache if you don’t get your early morning brew, make sure you have that covered when you travel. The last thing you want is to lose half a day of exploring because your head is splitting open because you cannot find a local Starbucks.
I have met people on my travels who have become life-long friends – and others who are part of an amusing story…
It’s a good idea to set up a special email address for when you are travelling. You will want to give a number of people your email address – it’s a prudent tip, especially if you are travelling alone, to make sure they are who they say they are before you give them full access to your life and social media profiles!
It doesn’t matter whether you are heading across your own state or across the globe, keeping your valuables safe is a priority.
I tend to have a place for everything – for instance, each credit and debit card has its own slot so I can see instantly that they are all there.
When I am paying by card, I never close my wallet until the card is safely back in its home – that’s just my way of making sure I always have them with me when I leave.
My passport lives in my wallet.
Keep your bags zippered shut at all times – and always keep your wallet and passport on your person.
Another good tip is to at least know the number to dial emergency in the country you are visiting. You never know when it might come in handy.
It is also a good idea to keep your emergency contacts (such as family members etc) on a card in your wallet.
Again, I will go into this in more detail in another post, but I tend to always have my main iPhone with me, but rarely (if ever) use global roaming. I find it more cost-effective to put a local SIM card in my now out-dated and unlocked iPhone and use that as a wifi hotspot.
The benefit of retaining my main phone is that if ever I do get into trouble, I at least know I can flip over to international roaming and will most likely be able to get a signal.
I also use Skpe for all my calls – both video and voice.
Another gadget that is small and has saved me a lot of dollars is a Skyroam. Again, that will be covered in another post, but you can Google it for yourself.
Aside from all the obvious things that I (hopefully) don’t need to tell you – like don’t go out walking alone at night – solo travel can be one of the most rewarding, empowering, uplifting and inspiring things you will ever do!
If you need any other info or ideas, drop me a line!
…and remember, above all… Have fun!