As lockdown begins to lift in the UK (and all over the world), you might be thinking of taking more trips once it’s safe to do so. But honestly? Although we are not openly talking about it, I’ve seen a few comments here and there about how lockdown has made people lose a lot of friends. I’m here to tell you, your travel dreams are not over. Even if you’re too scared at this moment in time. Welcome to the world of solo travel!
Solo travel was a complete process for me. I had to take small steps into making it a fun, comfortable experience. Luckily I’ve always been a bit of a loner, but the issues for me were a vomit phobia and how I get sleep hallucinations when I stay in unfamiliar places. Both things are incredibly scary to me and held me back for a while. There is a misconception that in order to “really experience” solo travel, you have to put on a backpack and disappear to Asia or Australia for months at a time. Although that’s some people’s reality, it doesn’t have to be yours. So what are the 5 steps to solo travel?
Shopping In Your Local Town Or A Town Less Than An Hour Away
Your first step into solo travel is to ease yourself into getting comfortable doing things alone. For me, mine was clothes shopping in a town 45 minutes on the bus away from me. For most, your safe space is probably your home/bed (like me), so knowing I was less than an hour away from it was a huge help. I would also add in here to eat by yourself too. For a lot of people, eating alone is a huge nerve-racking experience. This is a good stepping stone to take if you start early. Grab a Subway, Pret, McDonald’s, etc (not sponsored) and sit in (once it’s allowed) or take it to a park bench. Play on your phone to ease your nerves.
There was a period of time where I couldn’t even get the bus to my local town alone. I was plagued with anxiety and I had to have someone texting me always. I’d get panic attacks on the local buses and I would feel like I’m choking constantly. I couldn’t even go shopping alone, how was I supposed to solo travel the world? I know some people feel the same way and heading to the supermarket is a big step, so again, take it at your own pace.
A Full Day Trip To Your City Or A Beach Town
Once you’re comfortable with the above step, the next step in your solo travel adventure is to hop on a train/coach/in your car and head to your nearest big city and pretend like you’re a tourist. It’s time to wake up early and pretend it’s the first time you’ve seen a skyscraper. Time to do the cheesy things you’ve always wanted to do too!
Funnily, I accidentally ended up doing this step! While I was waiting for someone from my past to finish work in London, I had 7 hours to kill. I live near London anyway (It’s probably an hour and a half to get to the good stuff) so I pretended it was the first time I’d ever set my eyes on the London Eye.
If you participate in any solo tours or experiences, the host usually knows and this becomes a benefit to you very quickly. They make you feel at ease (my experience) and usually ask your story. I’d also say that booking a 2-hour tour for your trip (in advance) is a good way to break up the day too.
If you’re not a fan of crowds or the hustle and bustle of the large city you live near, I’d recommend a beach town that’s within a decent time frame.
If you’re from the UK and feeling braver, I’d also recommend a day trip to Europe (obviously once it’s allowed). I also did this first before I stayed overnight anywhere. I left early in the morning and returned late at night. People might argue that it is “not very environmentally friendly” but that plane is leaving with or without you. Usually, that plane is cheaper than a train in the UK anyway.
One Night Stay In Your Home Country
Now you’re comfortable staying away from home, alone, all day it’s time to step it up a notch and stay away from home one night. As someone from the UK, this is very easy to say and do. However, if you’re anywhere else in the world then I’d recommend staying in a town that’s 2-4 hours away from where you live. (Also, I would call you a solo traveller at this point!)
I would personally book a hotel for this one night. I think hostels can be a greater experience if you’re staying for longer. I’d suggest hostels if your budget is tight, but for one night I would really recommend a hotel. You’re in a safer environment and have someone downstairs at all times. These small things can make a difference.
If you’re still not comfortable with eating by yourself, what I do is head to the supermarket and get dinner/snacks to eat in my room. If you’re feeling brave but not that brave, why not eat at the restaurant in your hotel if it has one?
One Night/Two Night Stay In A Place You Have To Catch A Flight For
(I tried to be open for all countries in this heading)
UK People, it’s time to hop on a flight for a weekend away in Europe. America, it’s time to hop on a flight to a different state. Everyone else, it’s time to hop on a flight within a few hours from home! Also, congratulations! If you’ve reached this stage you are “officially” a solo traveller (although I’d say you met this at step 2 but…)
This step might make you anxious, but to get to this step and through it, I’d recommend booking day tours, a hostel, walking tours, food tours, or whatever takes your fancy. Having things booked at a set time allows you to feel some sort of comfort and organisation.
When I stayed in Lisbon on my first solo trip (which was two nights) I arrived in the afternoon, had a wander around, ate and returned to my hostel (I had a private room because I am a light sleeper). The next day I booked an all-day local tour. There were 8 of us in total (including the guide) and I was the only solo traveller. This left at 7 am and I returned around 8 pm. This also allows you to see more of the place you’re in/more places in a shorter time frame, maximising the most of your trip. On the third day, I slept in. I knew I had to be at an airport for a certain time and was getting an Uber there, so I allowed myself to get lost and see where Lisbon took me.
Time For A Group Tour!
The final step in your solo travelling adventure! Going on a group tour is a pretty good way to see a large chunk of the country in a short amount of time, as well as being around people. Even if you’re an introvert and are not a people person (I wrote about this – A Introverted Guide To Group Travel). I decided to do a group tour for a destination far away from home. Vietnam to be exact! (I wrote about some places there too) I had to make my own way to the meetup at the hostel and from then on I was with a group of people. (I also visited Disney World solo for 9 days because I knew I was in a bubble and would always have someone to talk to!)
Another good thing about group tours is there are chunks of time where you have “free time” and you can go off with your new pals or completely by yourself. This helps you get your footing in a completely different environment but also be back by a certain time. Also, you get to have experiences that you would never have had by yourself. I went to a noodle-making workshop which was only available to people as part of group tours!
Remember, if you’re not a people person, taking a group tour is a good way to do things. You have all your travel within the tour organised for you, sometimes restaurants too and day activities. It’s a good step if you’re far from home. You’re there for the experiences, so also don’t be too hard on yourself if you do not make friends for life too.
On group tours, you’ll usually be in the same room as someone else in a similar age range to you and the same gender as you. The most that I’ve ever stayed in a room with was 4 people and we were all in the same age bracket. This is designed to help you make friends too. You can pay extra for a private room on group tours if you prefer it!
That concludes my 5 step guide to ease yourself into solo travel, but there are a few more general tips I wanted to share with you.
If you’re nervous about eating alone in a restaurant, I’d recommend playing on your phone or reading a book. As well as chatting to the staff. I was in the middle of Nice once, chatting to a waitress and found out that her uncle lived in the same town I was from. Small world! These little encounters can get you through your trip. If you’re worried about looking rude by being on your phone, just think, you will probably never see these people again.
Having headphones in is a good way to tell people you do not want to talk. Usually, I do this without playing music when travelling. It helps with comfort and also blocks out the overwhelming sounds of the city but not completely, so you are aware of your surroundings. Speaking of ears, earbuds are your best friend! Especially if you’re staying in a hostel. People snore, even if they tell you they don’t.
I’d recommend locks on your bag and not trust your stuff in a room with strangers. When you solo travel, it’s very easy to make friends and get comfortable quickly. This is your reminder to still lock your bags!
If you’re a solo traveller, you might be wondering how you can get pictures of yourself. Typically I ask someone to take a photo of me if they have a big camera on them. Sometimes I’ve been approached by people as they see me struggling (haha!) and I always frame the shot and then offer to take pictures for them too. I also own a phone tripod with a Bluetooth clicker (but I forget to bring this!)
And that’s a wrap from me! I hope you enjoyed my post and if you ever take a solo trip adventure and follow my steps, please let me know! Life is too short to wait on other people! Happy solo tripping.🧳