Traveling the World Alone (13 Months in… 13 Lessons Learned)

Traveling the world alone can be one of the most liberating… And daunting experiences we can have in life.

Think about going to a busy restaurant alone, it can seem a little scary. Now replace the restaurant with a country and it can be terrifying.

Whether you are heading out for a two week or two year trip, to travel solo requires trust, a thirst for adventure, embracing the unknown and a certain level of bravado.

It also opens up a new world of experiences and people that can widen your perspective, deliver euphoric highs and accelerate your personal growth.

13 months ago I bought a one way ticket to Nepal, traveling solo throughout Asia has seen me hit with some of the most difficult challenges and blessed with complete abundance.

Here I’ll share 13 solo travel tips I have learned during the last 13 months.

Should I Travel Alone?

Yes.

The world is accessible, safe and many destinations cater for solo travelers. Travel to the other side of the world and hostels will still play your favorite songs and fellow travelers will quickly make you feel at home.

From the moment you set off on your journey you will feel a real buzz from the nerves and excitement of the unknown adventure ahead of you.

Traveling solo gives you the freedom to choose where and when you go, what you do and who you spend your time with. It provides you with the opportunity to open up to the local community with ease and really immerse into your travel experience

Overlooking hills in Nepal

I have to get a little spiritual

Travel also brings us detachment, we have to detach from the comfort of old friends around us, from past fears and insecurities, from expectation and from control. As you make your way across new towns, cities and countries you will grow confidence in your character and embrace the adventure.

Finally you will learn, a lot... You’ll learn about yourself, with time away from the seemingly endless pressures of life, your thoughts will become clearer.

You will have more time to read or listen to podcasts. You will be in foreign places with locals that live a way of life you may not have experienced first-hand, these are the most treasured exchanges.

How to Travel Yourself

The most important thing is that you let go of being comfortable and embrace what comes your way.

There is definitely some research which can save you time and money when you fly into a new land.

Check for transport from the airport to you accommodation. Most places will have taxi drivers greeting you and asking you where you are going and offering their services. Public transport, Grab and other methods of transport will be your cheapest option.

Know the currency exchange rate. Misreading or misinterpreting the pricing could cost you more than necessary. Having an understanding of the local economy will also help you negotiate and save.

Take a chance, buy your ticket and enjoy the freedom.

13 Solo Travel Tips

Solo travel brings a lot of uncertainty. You will be faced with of loneliness, self-doubt and fear, these are merely fleeting moments you will overcome. You will be greeted with new people, experiences, activities, cultures, smells, sights and sounds, that will remain with you for a lifetime.  

Here are 13 solo travel tips I have picked up along the way to help you have an unforgettable trip.

1. Stay in Hostels

Staying in hostels gives you a great chance of being surrounded by other solo travelers. Common areas bring people together, you can find yourself chilling, trying your hand at circus skills and enjoying dance parties on a whim (yes one of my hostels included frequent, random dance parties)

You may find group yoga sessions, led by other hostel guests, groups of people to explore your new area with and a travel buddy for a few days/weeks.

Working at hostels is one of the best ways to reduce costs, immerse into a community and have a great time.

Group together in front of a hostel

If your hostel sucks…no worries there are plenty others to choose from it’s part of travelling. Sites like Hostel World and Booking.com have an abundance of hostels to choose from around the world.

I have stayed in hostels across the world from Prague to Kathmandu, and have overwhelmingly been surrounded by wonderful people who, like you will be on a journey of exploration.

2. Be Patient

When you get somewhere new, be patient. It may take a few hours to meet somebody, you may have to take a walk around and enjoy a coffee or just unwind and relax.

Don’t expect to always immediately jump straight into an epic adventure, take the time to immerse into your new surroundings and appreciate where you are.

Don’t let the fear have a voice, instead of seeking the comforts of your smartphone, seek the opportunity to be at ease in the unfamiliar and immerse into it.

3. Pack Light

Two weeks, two months or two years, your backpack can become heavy very quickly. Pack light and only what is essential.

A big part of solo travel is letting go of things which may weigh us down…. Baggage which we are still holding onto, what better way to start than with your literal baggage.

There is a freedom which comes with lessening our need for ‘stuff’. You will have much less to lose or break and best of all carry around with you, as you are faced with unexpectedly long walks.

Solo Traveler have produced a neat little article on ‘Bare Minimum Packing’ which can serve as a guide.

4. Be Proactive

It may seem contradictory to being patient, but you will also need to be proactive throughout your trip.

If there are people in a common area, go and introduce yourself and get involved. If you fancy going to see some sights, ask people if they would like to join you. There will always be walking tours and activities you can jump on and meet people while discovering the area.

Solo travel is the perfect opportunity for you to break out from the shackles of mental emancipation.

5. Learn a few Words

Learning how to say a few words in the local language immediately brings barriers down. You effort in learning their language is always appreciated and can save you money when negotiating.

As you travel around and explore more, the further you go from the beaten path the less English is spoken. Learn the basics:

  • Hello
  • How are you?
  • How much?
  • Thank you
  • Your Welcome
  • Bye
  • My name is…  What’s your name?

Even a small list like this will help endear you to the locals and immerse yourself a little more into their culture.

6. Go off the Beaten Track

This is why you are going out to travel solo right? You are heading out to explore new possibilities, environments and cultures.

The last thing you want to do is stay within the same bubble of comforts you are used to or visit only tourist attractions.

Sure they are beautiful and you will meet other tourists, but you will miss out on the true essence of solo travel.

Chilling with local Balinese people

By heading off the beaten track you will experience the small villages where you can be warmly embraced. Make friends with locals and be invited for dinner or a night and see the hidden gems only they know about.

7. Try Something(s) New

Solo travel is your moment to try the things you never had the opportunity to before and maybe even pick up a new hobby.

For the adventurous; go bungee jumping, canyoning or rock climbing.

For the creative; learn an instrument, get a drawing book or try your hand at puppet making (yup have given this a shot)

For the spiritual; go on a meditation retreat, a yoga ashram or sound healing session.

There is a long list of activities ranging from traditional to globally popular which are waiting for you to enjoy, be the embarrassing newbie (it doesn’t matter here) make new friends and potentially find a new passion.

8. Embrace Local Transport (Get Lost)

Depending on where you go, local transport can look like a chaos… India anybody? It is also going to be one of the most hilarious, story filled and entertaining journeys you will take.

Whether it’s a 20 minute bus ride or 20 hour train journey, heading onto certain public transport systems will open your eyes to everyday life wherever you are.

Buses in Kathmandu

It can also offer a great way to see the city you are in and discover some hidden gems yourself. By getting a little lost you will also discover conversations you may not have had before and the perfect little spot you can’t get enough of.

9. Look at People not your Guidebook

I have a little disagreement with guide books. Sure they are great sources of information, especially around laws, safety and local customs.

However they are also great guides on where everybody else went. When out and about don’t hide into the guidebook for your information, look to ask people you come across. They live there and they will know what is really going on.

Small family run businesses struggle because we all go to where the guidebooks tell us, removing the chance of finding the magical little spots and the real travel experience.

Yes, you may remove the ‘risk’ of a bad meal, but do we solo travel to avoid potential minor risks… Or to explore the world?

10. Habitually Say Yes

This is within reason of course, don’t say yes to stupid or incredibly dangerous things (balance the payout). But don’t say no because of … [insert generic excuse you would normally make].

By saying yes you will open yourself up to the travel experience. New places, new people, new activities, new stories and new opportunities… Everything solo travel is about.

Visiting Bali rice fields

11. Speak to Strangers

I have gone on about the importance and freedom this gives in another post (check it out here).  

To keep it brief here, forget about stranger danger (be smart) and embrace strangers. By speaking with strangers you are breaking down any preconceptions and fear that builds up in your mind, and you will be rewarded with growth, connections and new experiences.

I usually use something called the happiness chart when I travel, in my notebook I will ask the person I’m with to draw a line graph representing their ideal life in terms of happiness and sadness. This immediately opens up a human connection, and also brings some fascinating conversations.

12. Let People Know Where you are

For piece of mind of your loved ones and your own safety, always let somebody know which country, city or hostel you are staying everytime you move.

This is a great precaution and also keeps a constant communication channel open with a loved one back home which you will both appreciate.

13. Learn Yourself

No not find yourself, learn yourself on a deeper level. Learn more about how you act in unfamiliar situations, how you handle being lost, or caught out in a torrential downpour.

Learn more about the foods you do and don’t like, how certain cultures make you feel and why.

Take the time to journal everyday and really discover why you chose to travel alone, what you hope to learn and experience.

If you allow it to, solo travel will change you and your life forever.

Take the Leap

Interior Helicopter

If you are on the fence about heading out into the world on a solo trip. I would highly recommend it. If you have the time, resources and health, then now is the perfect time to head out.

There are many other solo travelers out there, from all walks of society and you will meet some of the most interesting people along the way.

There are no guarantees about what you will experience, but it is guaranteed you will never have had an experience like it before.

If you’re still unsure about solo travel, read other great blogs out there, leave me a comment or write a message if I can offer you more advice.

Deciding to take my first solo trip was one of the top three decisions of my life

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