5 Steps To Start Traveling Solo
Many women say they’d like to try out solo travel but are nervous because they’ve never done it before. They aren't sure if it’s safe, worry about what others might think, and fear they won't like themselves when they get all alone.
If you can relate to these incredibly common fears and concerns, you are not alone. Truthfully, my first solo trip happened by mistake (read about it here). Had I not been building self-confidence and practicing self-care in the months and years prior, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go through with it. But even still, I wrestled with all of those concerns during that first trip and continue, at times, to wrestle with them.
With my own fears and past experiences in mind, I’ve created this five-step guide to help ease you into solo travel. Each of the five activities below is designed to help you become more comfortable spending time alone and acknowledging that you are worth treating yourself.
We’re all at different places in our journeys, so if you are already comfortable doing any of these activities, feel free to jump ahead to the next one. Or, better yet, repeat the exercise because it never hurts to splurge on self-care.
Grab a good book, crossword puzzle, and/or a journal (whatever your thing is that isn’t digital) and head to a local coffee shop. Treat yourself to a drink and find a comfy chair to sit in and read.
Power down your phone and commit to not turning it on for a specific amount of time -- at least one hour or three chapters of your book (whatever makes sense for you). Powering down your phone is important to keep yourself fully engaged in the moment. Further, constantly checking social media is known to increase feelings of loneliness and depression.
Part of traveling solo is becoming comfortable with being alone with yourself and allowing yourself to feel worthy of the experience and worthy of self-care. Taking the time to sit and read with a drink of choice is a nice way to practice showing yourself that care.
Repeat this at least two or three times until you become more comfortable.
Going to the movies alone might be nerve wracking at first, but once you do it you'll start to feel like a badass. The goal here is to do something solo that is normally considered, for no particular reason, a group activity. Think about it -- you don't feel weird watching a movie at home by yourself, and you don't talk to other people while at the movie theatre, so why should it matter if you see a movie with others or alone?
If you’re worried about feeling out of place, try going to a matinee or choosing a movie that’s been out for a few weeks. Both are usually less crowded, and it’s not uncommon to see other solo viewers at matinees.
Be sure to buy yourself some popcorn or favorite movie snack. Going solo is for practice; the popcorn is the treat. Both are necessary as you prepare to solo travel.
Anytime you start to feel like people are judging you (or whatever crazy nonsense your brain may come up with), remind yourself that you are enjoying the movie alone by choice and are a badass for taking control of your life and not waiting for others to validate you or your choices.
Repeat this at least two or three times until you begin to feel comfortable (at which point you’ll want to do this all the time because going to the movies by yourself really is badass).
You know how some people take staycations? Our next exercise is a version of that.
Brainstorm a list of activities and places you’ve been wanting to do or explore close by. A museum, concert, park, art exhibit, winery, or a nearby town’s Main Street... Most likely you've been waiting for a convenient time and a friend or friends to join you. Now is finally your chance.
Give yourself at least a half day. Don’t invite anyone. Power down your phone.
And just go for it!
Try to do at least one activity from your list at least once or twice a month.
Don’t be intimidated by eating alone at a restaurant, but do go with a plan. Once again, power down your phone. Everyone nervously fidgets with their phones to avoid feelings of loneliness, but your goal is to practice sitting with that feeling and becoming comfortable in your own presence. Bring a book or magazine to read while waiting for your food.
If the idea of a solo dinner is too much, try breakfast or lunch, meals with lower expectations from others.
Requesting a table for one and sitting alone with only the server to talk to may seem too difficult at first. If so, start by picking a restaurant with counter service, like a Panera or Five Guys, and then work your way up to a sit down restaurant. You may even want to make it more fun by going to a new place you’ve been wanting to try (although that may add too much “out of the comfort zone” for some people, so do what feels right for you).
Once again, if you feel intimidated, remind yourself that you are dining alone by choice, and your goal is growing and becoming more confident.
Repeat three to five times, working your way up to a nicer restaurant with wait staff at dinner time.
Plan An Overnight
I’ve got two suggestions for planning that first overnight.
The first option is to pick a nearby city or town that you are interested in visiting or exploring. Book a hotel or Airbnb, and plan a full day's worth of activities and exploration.
The second option is to visit friends or friends of friends in a place you don't know very well. Spend your days exploring while they are at work or involved in their own activities. You can still make plans with them in the evenings, but the goal is to get used to being alone and entertaining yourself all day in a new place. I've done this in New York City, Orlando, Atlanta, and London. Not only is staying with people you know a great excuse to catch up with friends, but it also places you into the experience of being outside your normal element while still having a bit of a safety net.
Depending on your comfort level, repeat this a couple of times before taking the leap with your first solo trip.
When planning your first solo trip, ease into it by carefully considering your destination. You may not want to start someplace too exotic. I recommend picking a location in your home country or maybe a city you've already been to before but where you’d like to spend some more time. Or if you’re feeling confident enough to go international, consider a European country where most people will be fluent in English (or your native language).
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for suggestions from some pretty amazing women on their top solo travel safety tips, favorite destinations for solo trips, and what they wish they knew before their first solo adventures.
And, of course, if you need help with planning out any of your trip details, check out the solo travel support and trip planning services I offer.