by Kaeli Conforti, Contributor,
If you’ve ever thought about just taking a trip yourself instead of waiting for some unknown day in the future where your friends, family or lover will join you, you’re not alone. It’s no secret that solo travel is on the rise, but do you count yourself among the many who have tried it?
After spending the last 22 months backpacking solo around Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, I’ve learned so much about travel, life and myself. If you’re in the process of planning your own solo trip—however big or small—here are five important things to keep in mind.
1. You Are The Boss Of Your Own Adventure
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of arriving in a place that is completely new to you. And the best part? Because you’re traveling solo, how you choose to explore it is entirely up to you. This is your chance to do whatever you want whenever you want because this time, you’re running the show. Want to pull over and see what every single “Scenic Overlook” sign reveals on a national park road trip? Go for it. Feel the need for just one more selfie with that Elvis statue in the Oldies themed bar you stumbled upon? Sure! This is your trip, so feel free to cram in all the sightseeing and silly photo-ops you like or spend the day recovering from jet lag by staying in bed and bingeing your favorite show on Netflix. It’s all up to you.
2. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk To Random People
Despite what your parents might have told you about talking to strangers as a child, it’s those little conversations with random people while you’re waiting for a bus or riding in an Uber that tend to make a trip more memorable. While there are surely some unsavory characters out there and you should always trust your gut to tell if someone poses a real threat, it’s important to remember that not everyone is out to get you. Most of the time people are just curious, trying to be friendly or are initiating a conversation simply because you’re a novelty, a person from another country who is visiting theirs. Instead of putting on your headphones or instantly writing them off as being a weirdo, use this spontaneous chat as a chance to meet the locals or get recommendations for things to do during your trip.
3. It’s Okay To Have Bad Days
You may be on the trip of a lifetime, but let’s face it, every day is not a holiday. Sometimes things go incredibly wrong or you’re suddenly hit with uncontrollable pangs of homesickness. It happens and it’s completely okay to take some time to process whatever it is you’re feeling. Grab some coffee and go for a nice, long walk—strolling in a beautiful park or along the water always helped me feel better. Take yourself to a movie or spend the day doing something relaxing like writing in your journal or reading on the beach. Feeling lonely and starting to get mopey about it? Join a group tour for the day or do a Skype call with loved ones back home. If all else fails, try staying at a hostel instead of a hotel, as they’ll usually offer social activities like pub crawls and movie nights to help you meet your fellow travelers.
4. You Don’t Have To Spend A Fortune
Nowadays, a solo travel adventure might mean spending a year backpacking around the world, making the most of your two or three weeks of freedom or taking a long weekend to explore a new place close to home. As a result, your accommodation options are endless and can range from hostels to hotels and Airbnb stays meant to introduce you to new neighborhoods and opportunities to hang with the locals; I’ve had some great experiences by opting for a private room in someone’s home instead of renting out an entire apartment. House sitting is also a good option for folks planning long-term travel—just Google “house sitting” and the country you want to visit as some websites dedicated to this trend are country specific while others cover opportunities all over the world.
5. It’s Okay To Start Small
Remember, your first solo trip doesn’t have to be to a whole other continent. My first one was in 2011 and involved a four-hour bus ride from New York City to Washington, D.C., so I could spend a weekend checking out the cherry blossoms. Start by doing a staycation in another part of town, spending a few days in a new locale a bus or train ride away or tacking on a few vacation days to a business trip so you can get out there and explore a new city. Just do whatever you’re comfortable with and see how it all feels for you.