Solo Travel

6 Simple Ways To Ease Into Solo Travel

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Croatian Sailing I never really thought about the concept of solo travel until I was in Italy for my job after college and my roommate brought it up. She said during our Christmas break she wanted to do some solo traveling. She wanted to see the castles in Romania. The thought of traveling solo seemed so foreign to me, considering for our job we took groups of students around Europe, and prior to that when I studied abroad, we were always traveling in groups.

However, the more I traveled, the more I read travel blogs. I was engrossed in stories of times spent abroad and kept seeing the term "solo travel" pop up. My curiosity about traveling solo began to grow and I started looking into it. After all, while I'd love to travel with my friends, it gets to a point where it becomes too difficult to coordinate schedules, budgets, and expectations.

Are you thinking about solo travel? If it excites you in just the slightest, then you should try it.

Amalfi Coast Positano boats

You can start easy. Start by going to a new city where you don't know anyone for a day. Have a plan with a bunch of things to do (or even no plan at all - whatever you prefer).

I'd didn't realize it at the time, but when I moved to DC for a summer job I took the first step. While I was going to meet and spend most of time with my co-workers, I didn't know anyone doing the program. I had never been to DC. I didn't know anyone at all. Taking a leap of faith to do something I've always wanted to do led to an unforgettable summer with new friendships, a rewarding job, and a city that holds a dear spot in my heart.

ROME

When I moved to Italy shortly after my summer in DC, I was the first one of our staff to arrive. Like DC, I hadn't met anyone I was working with in Italy either. I was by myself for a few days before everyone else started trickling in. Between the jet lag I was out and about, re-exploring the streets of the city I had studied abroad in two years prior. It was yet another incredible experience and something I'll remember forever.

6 ways to ease into solo travel:

  • Move somewhere completely new for a job - this helps you get used to taking risks by traveling somewhere foreign to you where you don't know anyone (living with your co-workers makes the transition smoother)
  • Sign up for a tour by yourself with a tour company - you'll meet others in the group and travel together
  • Volunteer abroad with a group or organization
  • Teach English abroad through a TEFL/TESOL/ESL company that has an orientation for other teachers in the same city you're moving to
  • Go somewhere solo and meet up with friends of friends
  • Do couchsurfing or air bnb to meet and stay with locals

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Solo travel doesn't have to be lonely. In fact, some people tend to favor it versus going with people they already know. I've only had a full long weekend of full "solo travel" in Paris, but taking "risks" by moving to DC or to Italy by myself previously helped ease that fear. Also, Paris is a very touristy city so I knew I'd meet plenty of others traveling too (and I did!). While I haven't done a huge solo trip for a long period of time, the thought of going somewhere alone doesn't intimidate me like it used to.

I encourage you to consider traveling solo. It can be an amazing, eye-opening experience and is something I think everyone should try at least once in their lives, even if only for a few days. Getting out of your comfort zone allows you to grow, and solo travel - or easing into it like one of the ways above - will certainly do that.

10 Things Travel Taught Me

Sedona 7

Sedona 7

It can be difficult to sum up how travel changes you or what you learn from travel.

I feel like a lot of the time this happens when people asked how your trip abroad was. When I got back from my study abroad program a few years ago, all I could really say was, "It was amazing," because it was amazing. It's difficult to describe it in more detail to someone who doesn't share that common ground.

But as the years have gone on and I've been able to travel a little more, I've been able to reflect on what I've learned so far.

1. People are very similar

Humans have the same basic needs: to be fed, to have shelter, to be loved. We want to surround ourselves with positive people, friends, and family. We want to better the lives of others. We want to learn and to grow.

People are very similar, even if their ways of eating, living, or loving are vastly different than your own. They don't do things in a "weird" way, they just do things differently. And that is okay.

Florence

Florence

2. The world isn't as scary as you think

It's important to keep your wits about you while you travel (just as you would in any city) and to research the cities you're visiting beforehand to be aware of tourist scams. However, most people are nice people, and the world isn't as scary as you think.

In Paris, I encountered girls asking me if I spoke English, thrusting their "petitions" (scams) into my face, but I simply ignored them. However, there were quite a few people I encountered as a solo female traveler that weekend showed nothing but kindness.

Also read: Solo Travel Stories That Confirmed My Faith In Humanity

3. Your appearance doesn't define you

When you travel, you can wear what you want, put on makeup if you want, or do your hair if you want. You'll never see these people again, so what does it matter if you decide to not make your hair perfect or wear the same thing two days in a row?

Istanbul Mosques

Istanbul Mosques

4. ...But it is still smart to respect customs, especially in terms of dress

When you travel you're likely to come across religious locations. In Italy, you're required to cover your shoulders, knees, and toes in churches. In Turkey, females must wear a headscarf in mosques.

In general, knowing the cultural clothing customs will not only help you blend in, but show the locals you care enough about their culture while you're spending time in their country.

5. You can communicate with body language just as much with words

It's best to know at least a few phrases in the foreign language before you go and to attempt to use them. However, unless you're fluent, there will be parts of your conversation with others that sound entirely like gibberish. I've had a number of conversations where body language and/or the usage of hand signals were the majority of the conversation.

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DSC_1080

6. I'm better at directions than I thought (and other soft skills)

Navigation was never my strong suit. When I got my driver's license at age 16 I was constantly getting lost...in the city I grew up in. Traveling forced me to be aware of where I was going and to be able to find my way around. Slowly but surely, I became more confident with directions to the point where I was leading tours for my job in Europe to cities I hadn't been to before.

When you travel you learn so much that is applicable to everyday life. Independence, communication, and cultural understanding are a few soft skills one tends to pick up abroad.

7. You can learn more from the world than you can from a textbook

Going off of the above point - travel makes you wiser beyond your years. Going to school isn't something to be taken lightly, and even if you build off your education, there is so much to learn when you travel. You get life experience that you could never get by reading a book or watching a movie.

8. Material things aren't important

The more I travel, the more I realize I don't need a ton of material things. When you're traveling with just a small suitcase of possessions, it becomes clearer that you truly don't need a ton of stuff. Growing up on vacations I used to love to take home souvenirs. Now I'd rather spend it on experiences versus tacky trinkets.

I'll cherish the memories of the times I spent on a boat cruising through the Mediterranean or clinking beer steins with Germans at Oktoberfest more than snow globes that say "Cannes, France" or "Munich, Germany."

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switzerland interlaken

9. Give it a second chance

It's important to give things another shot, because not everything is perfect. I fell ill with a terrible stomach ache a couple days before my weekend in Switzerland - a country I was extremely excited to visit as it held a high spot on my bucket list. I also lost my debit card in Turkey the weekend prior and had to borrow cash from friends throughout the weekend. And to top it off, it was really foggy, so even if I had had money to go skydiving, the weather conditions weren't safe.

Needless to say, the weekend in Switzerland was my least favorite trip in Europe.

But it wasn't Switzerland's fault. There were just a number of factors and unfavorable coincidences that all happened at the same time. I'll be sure to give Switzerland another chance if the opportunity arises. You can't totally judge something entirely based on one experience.

Denver Horses 4

Denver Horses 4

10. Getting out of your comfort zone allows you to grow

One of my college professors once said something along the lines of, "When you look back at a past relationship, you have three periods: the comfort of being in the relationship, the break-up and grieving portion - which is undoubtedly the toughest part - and the part where you move on from it. Which part did you learn the most? After the breakup, when everything seems unfamiliar and tough and scary. You're out of your comfort zone. But after you've gone through it, you'll look back and realize that the point when you were out of your comfort zone was when you learned the most."

Moving to DC (a city I'd never been to) the summer after college for a job was out of my comfort zone. Moving to Italy at the end of that summer to work in Europe was even more out of my comfort zone. Leading a group of students by myself from the thermal baths through the Hungarian metro was, you guessed it, out of my comfort zone. But I did it. I pushed past the fear and got through it, and learned so much from doing so.

After all, facing your fears is the only way to get over them.

Solo Travel Stories That Confirmed My Faith In Humanity

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Pin this!

There is no doubt that while travel is amazing, it does come with the occasional struggle. When I was leaving Lake Como with a friend last year, the taxi driver first overcharged us, and even though we paid him the full price, he still chased us all the way into the train station.

We missed our train to Milan because he started shouting, "Polizia! Polizia!" and almost got us arrested. Luckily the police officers believed us when we told them we did indeed pay him the right amount and he was just trying to scam us.

In that moment, I was not too fond of strangers.

For every frustrating situation like that, there is usually at least one (if not more!) good situation to make up for it.

Solo Travel Stories That Confirmed My Faith In Humanity

During my solo weekend in Paris this summer, I experienced the kindness of strangers firsthand. I was by myself, in a foreign country, in a foreign city. Paris is an easy city to travel in, but these few moments where I was given a helping hand definitely confirmed my faith in humanity, and that a majority of the world is made up of good people.

The English Couple and The Louvre Tickets

While waiting in line underground to get into The Louvre, I was chatting with an English couple while we waited. I told them that I was most excited to see Napoleon's Rooms, which I believed would be worth the extra few euros to get in. They said they were most excited for all the Italian paintings.

Once inside, we rushed to the ticket machines and were lucky to get there when we did - a massive line began forming behind us for the ticket machines. On the screen, I was surprised I wasn't prompted to purchase the add-on for Napoleon's Rooms and asked the English couple if they knew anything about that.

They offered to hold my machine (one of them stood at mine and the other stood at their's) while I quickly ran over to the information booth to ask. Turns out there was no extra fee for the rooms! I hurried back to the machine, thanked the couple for holding it for me, and was grateful I didn't have to stand in the continuously-growing line.

The Vietnamese Man That Led Me To Starbucks

Since Paris was the first portion of my summer Europe trip, I was really jet lagged. On Sunday after hours of walking and exploring the city, I collapsed onto my hotel bed into a deep sleep. When I woke up from that long nap at 9pm, I happened to be really hungry. Upon the realization that it was late Sunday night and the cafes and grocery stores were closed, I thought I might have to skip dinner and wait till morning.

But - alas - there was a Starbucks around the corner! I walked over to it and my hopes were tarnished as the sign on the door said it closed at 7pm on Sundays. As if on cue, a man walked up to me and told me there was a different Starbucks about 10 minutes away that was open till 10pm on Sundays. He said he was headed to that area and would show me the way.

In the past I would've had my guard up and politely declined, but my instincts told me he was a normal person and not a serial killer. As we walked we chatted about where we were from and the differences in culture (he was from Vietnam and is living in Paris). We parted ways once we got to Starbucks, but I'll remember our conversation and the kindness of him showing me the way. I was also glad to find food!

The American Students at The Eiffel Tower

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The next night I walked a long 45 minute walk from my hotel to the Eiffel Tower to see it light up at sunset. I found a nice spot in the grass and was marveling at the enormity and beauty of the tower. A man came and sat down near me, photographing the tower. He then started a conversation with me, saying he was a magazine photographer and it was his first assignment. I learned he was from Turkey, and told them I was in Istanbul recently.

Our conversation wasn't really going anywhere after that, but he lingered a little. My gut instincts told me he was also a normal man and there was nothing to worry about. (Besides, there were hundreds of people around anyway).

However, a group of American students sitting near me noticed this and invited me to sit with them. They weren't sure if I was uncomfortable or not, but in case it was a bad situation, wanted to help me out. I learned they went to school in Florida and were studying abroad for the summer. We chatted about college, Paris, traveling after graduation, etc. It was nice to make temporary friends for the evening and know that even though we had never met prior, they were kind enough to invite me to hang out with them to keep me out of a (potentially) bad situation.

While these are all little moments of kindness, they are all moments where I realized that most people are good people.

Even things like holding the door for someone, giving a warm smile, or pointing out directions to those who are lost goes a long way. Let's continue the kindness both while traveling and in everyday life!

More posts on solo travel right here >>>

It's Better To See Something Once Than Hear About It a Thousand Times

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DSC_0260 Earlier this summer, I got an exciting and somewhat unexpected opportunity to go to Europe to work for a few weeks. With that opportunity came flights paid for by the company, and which could be flexible if I wanted to travel before/after. Of COURSE I jumped at the opportunity to do a little side-traveling! While I wanted to do a big trip around the Balkans or travel around Spain and Portugal for a few weeks, there was no way my budget would've allowed either trips at the time.

Instead, I chose to spend a long weekend in one of the most popular European destinations...Paris.

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Though I had been to Europe a few times prior and had even been to the French Riviera, I had never made it up to Paris. I've had so many friends tell me that I would love the city, and from the popularity in books and movies I knew I had to get there.

I had seen so many pictures throughout my life of Paris and the iconic Eiffel Tower. I had seen videos on Instagram of friends jumping or dancing around with the tower in the background. I had seen it sparkling at night in the background of a scene on Gossip Girl, my favorite show.

Seeing the Eiffel Tower in real life from Placa de la Concorde was exciting, but it wasn't until I got up close to it that it took my breath away. That thing is giant! I found a spot in the grass in perfect view of the tower and watched it slowly light up as the sun set. It was beyond beautiful - much more so in person than it was in photos. And then it sparkled at 11pm that summer night and was even more gorgeous.

1 Eiffel Tower at Night

I realized at that moment why Paris is such a popular city for people to travel to. You can find beauty everywhere in Paris - even at the seemingly "cliche" spots like the Eiffel Tower. That's why this quote resonates with me:

"It's Better To See Something Once Than Hear About It a Thousand Times"

If you've been wanderlust-ing about going somewhere, find an opportunity and go. Looking at pictures of your dream destination will only fulfill you for so long.

3 Things I Learned During My First Solo Trip

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Paris passport My long weekend in Paris this summer was the first time I ever traveled solo, and I learned a lot within that short span of time. I had a lot of questions before I left, which I can assume are the same nervous jitters most people get when they travel by themselves for the first time, especially to a foreign city. Starting in Paris was a good "intro" to solo travel, so if I ever travel by myself again, I have a good impression of it.

3 Things I Learned During My First Solo Trip

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1. Do your research

I read travel blogs, looked up places I was going on TripAdvisor and Yelp, and skimmed a couple guide books. Since I didn't do any formal tours of the city, I looked up a quick history of the main attractions I'd be walking past to have a little background knowledge. Most importantly, I found quite a few tips and tricks over TripAdvisor and Yelp about where I was going - like cutting my time in line at The Louvre in half by going in the underground entrance! Research also helped me be aware of the tourist scams so I could avoid them.

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2. Walking is the best way to see the city

I lucked out in Paris with beautiful sunny weather every day, which made walking everywhere enjoyable. One morning I got up early to make an hour-long trek from my hotel to Notre Dame. I loved seeing the city slowly wake up and the peacefulness of walking along the Seine. I took a couple wrong turns (but quickly found my way!) and stumbled across cool things I never would've found, had I taken a cab or public transportation.

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3. People are friendly

The hotel staff was very friendly, because, well, they're a hotel staff. They were so nice and gave me tips and showed me scenic routes to walk on a map. But even out in the city, people were friendly too. If I had to ask a Parisian something, of course I would try to attempt my best to say it in French first, or at least ask them in French if they spoke English. I never experienced any of the stereotypical "Parisian snottiness," everyone was friendly. I met a number of other people traveling as well who were from all over the world. Smiling is the universal language.

Paris in the summer was a great intro to solo travel for a number of reasons: it's already a pretty safe city, and since it's high season, there are plenty of people/tourists out and about; it happened to be warm and sunny, which was great for walking (and saving money on not using public transport); and there is so much to do in the city that you're bound to avoid boredom and loneliness. I would definitely suggest Paris as an intro to solo travel.

How To Pack For 2 Weeks With Just a Carry-On

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DSC_0529 I was recently in Europe for about 2.5 weeks (18 days). While the first few days in Paris were just for fun (and my first solo travel experience), I then went to Vienna, Prague, and Berlin for a work trip. I needed to pack both work and casual clothes, my shoes, toiletries, makeup, laptop, and camera, and leave a little room for souvenirs.

Checking a large bag is a hassle, plus it's heavy to drag through the airport. Also, a multi-country trip means a lot of transportation, and a large bag is just annoying to pack and re-pack. Therefore, I packed for my whole two and a half weeks with just a carry-on, and want to show you that you can too!

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First off, my carry-on is the largest size for standard American flights. Since all my flights allowed for one free checked bag up to 50 lbs, my carry-on easily fit the size and weight requirements to check it.

I didn't have to check my carry-on, but going hands-free through the airport is so nice. All I had to hang onto was my Longchamp. Since I was traveling by myself, this made things like going to the bathroom or buying food at a crowded kiosk much easier since I didn't have to lug a roller bag around the airport.

How did I do it?

Space Bags

Once I started using Space Bags, I can't believe I traveled for so many years without them. They come in a number of sizes, and I was able to fit two carry-on sized Space Bags into my suitcase. You can find them at Target or similar stores!

Roll your clothes

Even with the Space Bags, I still rolled all my clothes. Rolling clothes takes up the least amount of space. If your clothes are wrinkled once you get there, use the hotel iron. No iron? Hang your clothes in the bathroom while you're showering to steam out the wrinkles.

Travel sized toiletries

I used to always bring my big toothpaste tube with me on trips. I don't know why I did that, because I had a number of random mini tubes I got for free from the dentist over the years. Two mini tubes of toothpaste lasted my whole 2.5 weeks, and I just threw them away before I left. I did the same with my mini shampoo bottle, body wash, etc.

Be realistic about what you'll actually wear

I brought four pairs of shoes: 2 pairs of flats, 1 pair of boat shoes, and 1 pair of sandals. I love heels, but knew that with the cobblestone streets + jet lag + hours of walking, I wouldn't wear them. So I didn't bring heels. I also exercise every day at home, but was about to be working 15 hour days for the majority of my trip, which left very little time for exercise. So I didn't bring athletic shoes or gym clothes.

There you have it! How I was able to fit everything I needed for 2 weeks into carry-on. Have more tips? Leave 'em in the comments!

Traveling Solo: 5 Questions Answered

DSC_0407Never did I ever think I'd travel on my own somewhere, by myself, in a foreign country, for fun. Though I had a great travel opportunity come up for work where I'd be able to make my flight dates flexible and could travel on my own before/after. This was a last-minute gig, so friends or family weren't able to join me because of jobs, expensive flights, etc.

I didn't let that stop me. I knew that if I wanted to do some extra travel, I'd have to travel solo.

Originally I was looking into planning a couple weeks in the Balkans/Southeast Europe: Romania-Bulgaria-Bosnia & Herzegovina-Croatia-Slovenia. That would've been too expensive at the time. Then I looked into Portugal-Spain-France-Belgium-Netherlands. That was too expensive too. So I settled for a weekend in Paris, and I'm glad I did. It was my first visit to the city, it held a high spot on my bucket list, and according to my research it was considered very safe for tourists.

Even though I was a little overwhelmed before I flew out of the airport, I felt more confident than I had in previous trips abroad. I was a little nervous to be all "alone" and by myself, but I had a feeling that it would be worth it. And it was!

I questioned a few things before I left, because I was nervous - traveling by myself was way out of my comfort zone. Here are the questions I had before I left, and my answers now that it's over:

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1. How do I get photos of myself if I'm not with someone to take it for me?

The best way is to just ask! There were plenty of tourists in Paris, and especially if you're at a touristy spot (like the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, etc.) there will be tourists taking photos. Sometimes you'll see a group of people attempting to take a selfie - this is the perfect opportunity to offer to take a photo of them, and then you can ask them to return the favor to get a photo of you. Win-win!

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2. Should I eat at restaurants alone?

To be honest, I barely ate in Paris. Haha! This was the first leg of my trip and the jet lag made me really nauseous, and food was not appetizing at all. I was also major budgeting because I had two weeks of travel ahead, plus I was moving when I got back to the States. I ate at a couple cafes by myself, and I was fine. Nobody gave me weird looks. I didn't feel embarrassed to be by myself or anything, since there were other people by themselves too. At one cafe the guy working there was excited to find out I was from Seattle, because Grey's Anatomy is his favorite show, and was asking me all kinds of questions. As far as nice restaurants though, I didn't experience any...because the food in Paris (well, most things in Paris) was so expensive!

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3. Will I be safe walking by myself at night?

There was never a moment I didn't feel safe by myself in Paris, day or night. I will note that it was "high season" for tourists, as well as summer, so there were a ton of people out and about on the main streets. I didn't stray into any dark alleys, or anywhere that seemed "sketchy." I just kept confident and knew where I was going, avoided the scammers, and navigated easily. I was fine!

Wherever you go solo, make sure to do your research beforehand. I was fine walking by myself in Paris in the areas I was in, but in other areas (or other cities) I might have not been. If you're ever in doubt, find an area with a lot of people around or take a (legit) taxi.

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4. What if I get lonely?

I only spent about 3 1/2 days solo before I met up with the staff I was working with for the rest of the trip, and with so many things to do, I never felt lonely. There were plenty of other people walking around, so I was rarely "alone." And I met new people - something I wouldn't have done, had I gone with a friend.

paris maps

5. What if I get lost?

I've never had the best sense of direction, so when the hotel guy handed me a map and pointed the route on how to get to The Louvre, a wave of fear washed over me as I stepped out onto the streets for the first time. Surprisingly, I kept the map in my bag and navigated my way to The Louvre easily. Getting around Paris was much easier than I thought, and since I was by myself and actually paying attention, I had no trouble finding my way.

Having a physical map, a phone with GPS (download maps to use offline), and the address and phone number of your hotel/hostel/accommodations are always smart to have on hand in case you get lost. If you're still stuck, then it doesn't hurt to ask someone to point you in the right direction - most people are friendly and will be happy to help you out!