How To: Solo Travel
Traveling solo is something that everyone should do at least once. It gives you more freedom to do what you want and on your terms, helping you push out of your comfort zone.
Traveling solo is a great way to learn more about yourself and boost your confidence. Yes, it is intimidating to go to a new country where you don't speak the language, are alone, and figure out customs and culture yourself. But once you do, you're filled with a great sense of fulfillment.
Most of my trips are made solo. In this short post, I will share the best practices I do to enhance my solo travel so you can ensure a great experience.
Many places are home to expat groups. Expats come in masses to places with a low cost of living, notably Central and South America and parts of Europe.
Meeting with expats is as simple as searching for "Expats in (country)" on Facebook or Google. Many results will come up, and the first result is usually the most active group. Typically, these groups also have a WhatsApp group for those currently in the country to get together for events.
It's as simple as making a Facebook post introducing yourself.
I've attended language exchanges, coffee tastings, salsa dancing lessons, and games nights, organized through expat groups.
In Ecuador, every Sunday the expat group went on hikes. I was able to hike around Laguna Cuicocha, a lake about halfway to the Colombian border, and a six-hour-long ring hike around a volcano.
In my experience, I've noticed many locals attend expat meetings, mainly to improve their English. Expat gatherings with locals offer an excellent insight into a country's culture, and you can meet people to spend time with during your trip.
Sometimes it doesn't make sense to use your Marriott of Hilton points on a nice hotel. Hotels are great, but if you're traveling alone, it can get pretty lonely sometimes - and, if you're not staying at a W or a more socially oriented hotel, meeting people is not easy at all. Hostels, I book via Hostelworld, are the other option and can offer compelling accommodation.
There are always people around. It's easy to strike up a conversation with your roommate for the night. If you stay in a more posh hostel and have a private room, it's easy to meet people in the common room or kitchen.
Many hostels offer free group activities - these might be a pub crawl around at night or walking tours during the day. Hostels I have stayed at provided free movie nights that brought people together for their stay. Granted, it was in Italian, but it seemed pretty fun for those people watching!
Plus, the clientele at a hostel is different from a hotel. Hostel guests are typically a younger group and stay in a hostel to meet people. They're usually very open and are eager to get to know people. If hotel guests are business travelers or an older couple, hostels are the opposite. You're almost always guaranteed to meet some exciting people keen to explore the city and share experiences together.
Just bring an eyemask and earplugs - or keep the amenity kit you received from your flight.
Free Walking Tours:
Almost every city has English-speaking walking tours - in fact, during the height of 2020, when much of the world was shut down, I was able to find a walking tour in Istanbul, and only one other showed up.
While many require booking ahead, some don't need a reservation. Just show up at a meeting point at a specific time.
Walking tours are the best way to spend the first day in a city. They show you the hotspots you shouldn't miss, give you the chance to ask someone who has lived in a town for a while questions, and help prepare your itinerary for the rest of your time.
What's better is that the guest decides the value. No prepayment is required, and guides are paid in the form of tips, and you are free to determine how much the tour is worth to you. I have never had a bad tour and have always received valuable and fascinating insight about a place.
The "experience economy" is alive and well, and Airbnb has cashed in with Airbnb Experiences, their formalized answer to TripAdvisor and Expedia's experience more corporate search and forums.
Airbnb has a reputation for hosting authentic experiences with knowledgeable guides. Like many Airbnb stays, those who run experiences are keen to showcase their culture and home to the world.
Most of these experiences are food-oriented. However, anything goes. I've participated in a horseback riding tour in the Andes mountains while in Colombia and went coffee tasting in Ecuador.
I have had excellent solo travel experiences in Turkey, Colombia, and Ecuador. No matter where you want to go, solo travel offers a different experience than the traditional. It's up to you to make the most of it and step out of your comfort zone. I guarantee you'll be happy you did.
Don't be shy. Just go for it!