25 Things Every Solo Traveler Should Do On A Trip

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Traveling alone is a one-of-a-kind experience. Ask anyone who has done a solo trip and they’ll tell you. You can feel like you’re on top of the world one minute, and the next can remind you that you’re a tiny speck swallowed up in it all. But that’s part of the draw, right?

That tug-of-war between adventure and risk that you don’t quite feel on a family vacation, honeymoon, or a weekend getaway with friends is really catching on. According to the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study, one in five travelers took their most recent leisure trip on their own.

There are endless advantages to traveling without anyone else in tow. You can choose your destination without having to consult or compromise. You set the budget, the dates, and the itinerary — and that’s all before you even arrive. While there, you have the luxury of pursuing anything that catches your eye, be it a piece of art, a side trail, your future spouse, or a nap. If it’s what you want, it’s not a waste of your time.

Although, the complete freedom of solo travel can sometimes seem intimidating, especially if you don’t consider yourself the spontaneous type. There are two reactions that come with knowing your entire excursion is up to you: peace and anxiety. If you’re feeling more of the latter, we’re here to help.

So book your ticket and find somewhere comfortable to stay, because you’re officially out of excuses. Regardless of where you’re headed, we’ve thought of 25 ways to maximize your me-time abroad. From dining out and shopping to touring and exploring, these suggestions may not all be for you, but that’s kind of the point of solo travel: to figure out what is.
This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure. It is reprinted here with permission.

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1. Take yourself out to dinner.
It can seem intuitive to grab food on the go or stock your backpack first, but there’s no reason a meal on your own shouldn’t be a sit-down affair — just as it would if you were meeting a date or a friend. In destinations known for group dining, you might be more comfortable finding a place where you can eat at the bar instead of at a table — and most bartenders will be up for a chat. Either way, treat yourself to an awesome meal and relish that you avoided the conversational ping-pong of, “Where should we go,” “I don’t know.”
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2. Learn the art of people-watching.
If your table for one happens to be on the sidewalk or by a window — or even facing the rest of the dining room — mealtime can be a great source of entertainment. Think of people-watching as a visual study of what’s different — and what’s universal — about the way passersby dress, carry themselves, greet each other, make jokes, and converse. You’ll be surprised by how interesting it is to be a fly on the wall of everyday human interaction. Post up on a park bench and observe, live-tweeting optional, sunglasses recommended.
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3. Meet the locals.
Talking to strangers is one thing that can seem intimidating about traveling alone. Though chances are it will be more effortless and rewarding than you’re imagining, meeting people abroad doesn’t have to be an in-the-moment interaction. Before you leave, ask friends and family if they have any connections where you’re heading. Talk to people who have been there. You might meet an old friend of your mom’s or a distant family member with memories to share. If you don’t end up with any leads, just keep in mind the easiest go-to ice breaker: “Hi, I’m from [insert home country or city] and I’m visiting for a week, do you have any recommendations?”
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4. Make a valiant attempt to speak the language.
Please don’t go in linguistically blind. Good solo travelers — and travelers in general — should at least get familiar with the conversational basics of your destinations’ official language: the everyday essential phrases. Even if you botch the pronunciation, your willingness to make the effort will be appreciated. Here’s a list of some of the best translation apps for travelers to help decode on the go.
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5. Ditch your map app.
If you’re in search of a particular address, by all means, navigate away. But if you’re not, and you’re staring down at your screen watching a GPS dot blip along the streets of Paris, stop that. You’re in Paris: Your eyeballs should be looking at everything that is not your phone. You don’t have to turn it off, just stow it safely away. Spend a few hours taking rights and lefts at random, and expect to happen upon something wonderful.
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6. In fact, ditch your phone altogether.
If you’re really brave — or need to save battery — power down for a while. If you end up getting lost, you’ll find your way — and walk a little taller when it’s over. You never know what you might find when you do.
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7. Spend some time in nature.
Like many other things on this list, you get to choose the level of adventure that appeals to you. Especially if you’re alone, you don’t need to summit a 10,000-foot mountain or dive from the top of a colossal waterfall into a plunge pool. A winding walk down some forest trails or a breezy bike ride through a park can be just as invigorating.
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8. Blend into the crowds.
Maybe being surrounded by luscious greenery isn’t your jam, and you’d prefer to be engulfed in a rush of colorful conversation. Scout out a local event or gathering place — a market, a sporting event, a festival, a parade — that interests you. These are some of the best places to get a feel for the energy of a place.
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9. Pay extra attention.
It’s not only smart to be alert and observant for your personal safety, but remembering to look up and down and around corners and over your shoulder ensures you’ll leave no detail undiscovered. In a new place, it’s easy to train your eye to notice the character and the minutiae of your surroundings. But it’s a skill you can take home with you, too.
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10. Be smart and safe.
Approaching your trip with a “what can go wrong probably will” attitude doesn’t make you a pessimist, it makes you prepared. Take all of the precautions you can think of. With advice on visas and passport tips, the U.S. State Department’s travel site is a great resource, and register your trip with your destination’s U.S. consulate office. It’s also smart to make sure you leave at least a rough outline of your plans with a few loved ones before you go.

Want more tips for traveling solo? Continue reading this article on Travel + Leisure.