Traveling can be intimidating. Being alone can be scary. Combining the two is, understandably, overwhelming. For one thing, if your flight is canceled and you have to camp out at the airport hotel, traveling solo means you don’t have anyone to split the cost with. If you want to visit the hidden corners of a new country, traveling with someone is always a guarantee that you’ll never be the only tourist in the room. Besides, women have real reasons to be afraid of traveling alone, there are security and personal safety matters to consider. And what of the concerned relatives who are not supportive?
But, if you ask anyone who’s done it, they’re likely to tell you that the adventure was totally worth it. Solo travel is all about meeting strangers, going to restaurants, seeing the sites, changing plans, improvising – all on your own terms and on your own time.
We’re just a few diaries away from publishing our 35th Travel Diary here at Refinery29. Of those, six are solo Travel Diaries: Six women took the time to write about how they packed their fears, first-aid kits, and walking shoes and just explored a new city (or several cities). Some of these women wanted to be alone to explore a new country on their own time. Others, just need to get away and re-acquaint themselves with their lives beyond their typical responsibilities. Some didn’t give it too much thought and just hit the ground running.
The Travel Diaries series is about real people sharing their experiences so that their peers can learn from them — and vicariously sate their wanderlust. So we sifted through our old solo trip Travel Diaries (and the comments!) to bring to you the best solo travel tips, straight from our diarists themselves in the hopes it might convince you to book your own.
Tip: Friends can still be a part of solo adventure: Build your trip around friends you haven’t seen in a while and explore their cities on their schedule.
Diary: a 35-year-old executive assistant and mother takes some time to herself and visits friends in San Francisco and Los Angeles with a pit-stop at a Monterey goat farm.
“Most of my prep was just talking with my friends about planning a few highlights for our time together, but I really didn’t want to over-schedule things. Hanging out was the ultimate goal.”
Tip: There will be unexpected bumps in the road: Your trip is not ruined, even if you get sick and miss a day of excursions.
Diary: A 25-year old journalist eats her way through Singapore and Malaysia and survives mild food poisoning during her solo trip.
“Feeling better so I go for a walk. I walk through the Eco Park again and check out the museum dedicated to Malaysian ecology. I decide to book a hop-on-hop-off bus tour since I missed the tour I signed up for through my hostel. I usually hate doing those kind of touristy things, but it’s $12 and I really would like to see some of KL despite how tired and gross I feel. I wander over to the bus stop and get on the beautiful, air conditioned bus.”
Tip: Fill your days by learning as much as you can and take the time to practice “slow travel.” Watch documentaries, use Duolingo, and visit as many museums as possible so you can absorb everything you can about the city you’re in.
Diary: A 28-year old solo traveler tries her best to walk through every museum gallery and shop for bespoke shoes in Vienna as she tracks 15 days of her 22-day trip.
“Vienna has over 100 museums and I’ve hardly visited more than 15 in total. You can easily spend months in Vienna and not see all the sights. Ideally, I would stay for 2 months or more in each country I visit and learn the local language to truly understand its history and culture in addition to visiting all the museums and palaces.”
Tip: Consider a location-tracking app so you’re friends and family can keep track of your location.
Diary: A 32-year-old life insurance underwriter spends 20 days on a solo adventure, touring Croatia.
“My worries dissipate a little when I remember that my mother is obsessively tracking my movements back home using an app, so I text and update her on the situation so she can pay extra attention today just in case.”
Tip: Coffee shops are the solo traveler’s best friend. What better place to kill time on your own, undisturbed?
“I also get coffee a million times a day when I travel solo! It’s just so easy to do and no one bothers you for being alone.” – commenter