Updated: Jan 24
After a wonderful year of solo travel, and one additional year of 'slow-lo travel' in Bali that has been filled with more beautiful experiences than I could possibly name, I thought I'd put together the 7 things I have learned along the way, that I wish i knew at the beginning. Hopefully this will inspire your #solotravel journey!
Do your Research As a Type A, planning is something I do for fun. So there are few things in life that make me happier than planning a trip! But as much as it is a fun activity, as a solo female traveller (especially one of colour!) this is absolutely mandatory. The hard truth is that there are some places where solo travel as a woman is tough. Different countries have different ways of treating women, and it's best to be clued up before you go, even if just to know the cultural implications of solo travelling. I encountered this most when travelling through the Middle East and North Africa, where as a woman I had to be extra careful. However that shouldn't hinder you from the beauty there is in the world! just make sure you do your research beforehand, so you're not caught unaware.
Plan... And then prepare for your plans to get derailed So, as mentioned above, I'm a Type A. And as a Type A, this point was a much harder pill to swallow than the first! There's a funny quote that says "God laughs at your plans", and that couldn't be truer than when you go travelling. I've made numerous meticulously planned itineraries of my travels, only to have them completely thrown out of the water when I land! That's because solo travel is unpredictable- and that's the best part! You don't know who you'll meet, you don't know what you'll love, you don't know what that particular city will bring out of you... And you won't know until you're there! So what I've started doing is writing a list of things I'd like to do/ places I'd like to visit, and wait until I've spent a couple of days there to decide the itinerary. I now enjoy going to a new city and soaking up the culture and general energy of the place before deciding the pace of my trip. Some places, like Budapest or Stockholm have a buzz about them that makes you want to experience everything. Others, like Amsterdam or Copenhagen have a chilled vibe which makes you want to enjoy every moment. And then there's places like Cuba, which make you throw away the whole handbook and soak up whatever it is offering on that particular day!
Stop trying to do too much, and slow it down This is something that I wish I'd known earlier. I used to be someone who liked to 'do' a place. You know, how people say 'oh yeah I've done Bali', or 'I've done South America'? I'm embarrassed to say I used to be part of that club. I would end up doing so much on a holiday that I'd need a holiday to recover from my holiday! The truth is you can't really 'do' a place. You can only experience. That's why I've become a fan of slow travel, especially since starting my own business and having the freedom to work and travel at the same time. Slow travel shows respect to the places you go to, because instead of setting an expectation of what that holiday should be, you leave yourself free to go on a journey of discovery and experience.
Learn to say at least "hello", "goodbye", and "thank you" in the language of the country you are visiting Speaking both French and English, I'm pretty well covered language wise, which has made me a little cocky, to my detriment! I went to Cuba without knowing a word of Spanish, to Hungary not even knowing the name of the language, and to the Croatian countryside without speaking a lick, and it led to some extreme charades on my end! I would advise that you pack at least a pocketbook of most used phrases, or at the very least scribble a couple somewhere in a notebook. It will save you from looking a little mental signaling 'buspass' to a confused hungarian shopkeeper, or being forced to fast until lunchtime because you didn't know how to say 'I'd like breakfast please' to the friendly casa owner. And yes, both of these things (and more!), have happened to me so learn from my mistakes!
Getting up early is your secret trump card I never knew how much of a true advantage getting up early was until I went travelling. I absolutely hate travelling anywhere too touristy- but what I've found is, nowhere is touristy at 5 in the morning! So getting up and out early became my favourite way to truly experience a city. Being a solo female traveller, I don't always feel comfortable out on my own at night, but luckily for me, I've found that creeps and criminals aren't early risers! Getting up when the sun rises not only allows you to experience a place at its most natural and beautiful, it also means you have the city to yourself. Trust me, this is a tip you want to take on board!
Don't be afraid to explore new places on your own When I first travelled by myself, I was too scared to leave my hotel. The fear of the unknown overwhelmed me, and I ended up spending a long weekend in Amsterdam within the 4 walls of the lovely Marriott hotel. I had been so used o having someone with me, that I felt lost venturing out on my own. This made me realise how much I depended on others to define me, and revealed a hidden codependency. My 9 months living in Paris took that away. After the first couple of weeks of doing very little, I came to the realisation that I was allowing my fear to control me, and missing out on incredible experiences because of it. So I started small. A stroll along the Seine. A lazy afternoon eating charcuterie and cheese with a book whilst people watching. Fast forward a year, and I'm getting dressed up and taking myself out on solo dates in countries I've never been to (as you'll have seen if you follow me on Instagram!) So my advice would be to start small. Build up. And never let fear stand in the way of you having a beautiful experience.
Say "YES" to everything! The greatest thing about travelling on your own is no one defines who you are! You're not with people that have known you and have proceeded to put you in a box- you get to be whoever you want to be! So in that spirit, say no to nothing, and yes to everything! Let the adventurer in you, the playful side, the deep thinker, the philosopher, and more out. Allow yourself to discover more of yourself. There's a quote that says "I travelled far enough, and met myself" and it's absolutely true. Putting yourself in different situations and encountering different versions of yourself will allow you to understand your whole self better. To accept every side- not just the side that people in your day to day life know. Solo travel will bring out the YOU in you, if you'll allow it.
So there you have it! No excuses not to begin planning your next adventure once the world opens back up!
Signing out to enjoy the rest of her solo trip,