How To Travel Solo
By Lisa Lubin
1st July 2016
At first thought, traveling solo can seem daunting and scary. I never thought I would travel alone, well, until I did it. And it wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties that I really embraced it.
I had set out to take a career break and travel the world and I knew I couldn’t wait for someone to join me. At first, it did feel funny, but then I learned how to hack traveling solo and it became my preferred way to go!
Traveling alone actually makes you more open to meeting people, to experiencing new things, and to getting in touch with yourself and what you really enjoy doing with your time. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. I know it’s easier said than done, so here are some solid tips on how to go solo and love it!
A smile and a few words in the local language go a long way. Smiling is contagious and instantly makes you a friendly, more approachable person. You know what they say: smile and the world smiles with you. The more open you are, the easier you will find it to meet other people and make friends.
There are so many more options nowadays for lodging. And many of these lend themselves to meeting new folks. Hostels have come a long way and are a varied lot. Keep in mind, most not only have dorm rooms, but also single and double rooms, if you are more comfortable having your own space. I loved getting a single room. That way I had the communal atmosphere that comes with a hostel and could meet many other solo travelers, but still could shut a door at the end of the day.
They may not be luxury hotels, but oftentimes hostels come with so many included extras that hotels do not: free tours, free breakfast, free coffee, book exchanges, movie nights, use of a washer & dryer, instant friends, and real advice (no concierge--just real locals with real opinions).
Another way to get more local is to stay in an apartment. Sites like couchsurfing.com and airbnb.com allow you to rent a room and get to know the owners. I’ve made many good friends around the world who have welcomed me into their homes. It’s like having an instant buddy to not only eat a meal with, but also get great, real advice on what to see and do.
Of course while you are out seeing the world, you don’t want to be stuck behind a computer screen. But the Internet opens up so many doors for travelers that it has really become a wonderful tool. Not only can you book your next place to stay and read about destinations, there are heaps of sites, message boards, and blogs dedicated to travel.
You can find local tours, read reviews for restaurants and hotels, and seek out meet-up groups. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram can keep you in touch with friends and family back home, but also are neat ways to reach out to locals. Try sending out a tweet for advice on #Budapest and see who answers!
Take a Tour
Today, all tours are not created equal. They are not the generic big coach tours they once were. There are tours for all interests – hiking, camping, eating, and pub-crawling. A cool way to get to know a new city and spend some time with others is to participate in a bicycle tour. City bike tours from Bangkok and Buenos Aires to Berlin & London offer up a closer view of the city on two wheels.
Longer tours, lasting a few days to weeks are great for solo travelers as you are instantly part of a family. I used Intrepid Travel on three different tours through Vietnam, Cambodia, & Egypt and enjoyed each one. These are also a break from the challenge of figuring everything out yourself.
Volunteer or Get a Job
On my two and a half year journey around the world I taught English to executives in Istanbul, served up lattes and Vegemite sandwiches in Melbourne, volunteered at an English Immersion program in Spain, and spent my Christmas week with homeless in London.
These were some of the most memorable experiences of my travels. I was able to meet and interact with locals plus each experience gives you a window into the local culture that you just can’t get as a tourist.
Take a Class
A large part of travel is about learning – opening your heart and your mind to new experiences and cultures. The whole act of travel can be one big education. On top of that real-life learning, there are fun classes everywhere. How about learning to Tango in Argentina or cook pasta Bolognese in Bologna or even trying to surf the waves at Bondi Beach? You will meet other travelers and bond over a shared interest and celebrate each other’s triumphs.
Lisa Lubin is an established travel/food writer, three-time Emmy®-award winning TV producer, & travel industry expert. After a decade in broadcasting she took a sabbatical, which turned into three years traveling around the world.
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