As my upcoming trip to Iceland and London approaches, I thought it would only be appropriate to write about my experiences travelling by myself.
First, let me say this; there is no shame in you travelling, and going on an adventure, by yourself. You are strong and independent, and experiencing things by yourself helps you grow in all facets of your life. You will meet people, you will learn a lot, and if these are things that you are worried about, think of all the books you can read and the great food you can eat. I won’t dismay that sharing experiences with someone else is wonderful… but this is about you wanting to do something for YOU. If you’re comfortable at home being alone, then really what’s the difference? Your comfort zone? Your familiar space? Try to make these new experiences your comfort zone. If you start to feel anxious or worried about something that is out of your control, think of the worst case scenario and prepare for that; as long as you are safe and healthy, you are capable of anything.
With that, my first point is BRING ENTERTAINMENT! You are in an exotic space, and absolutely should not be spending time on your phone or in your hotel. But, there will be a lot of downtime when you are in restaurants or waiting in line or simply taking in a scenery. Therefore, I recommend books or, better-yet, a Kindle. It is small, easily rechargeable and gives you a library at your fingertips. I only recently purchased one and am already obsessed. This entertainment may also include LISTENING MATERIAL; when you’re walking around a historic city maybe try looking for a podcast or local radio show. You will feel less alone, and have the opportunity to learn while you’re exploring. Maybe try a discussion on the place you are going? You could also create a playlist that keeps you upbeat, warm and fuzzy (I had ‘Love on the Weekend’ by John Mayer on repeat for a week).
Have you ever been on a trip, with family or friends, and wanted to do something that no one else did? Or do you typically find that you’re interests in foreign places are different from others? Now is your opportunity to explore everything and anything YOU want, rather than following the group and appeasing others. I am the person who, when in a new country or culture, wants to live like a local. But usually the people that I travel with want to see the big sites and hit the best tourist spots, so I make a point to either go to the place by myself later on, or travel alone and hit MY spots at a later date. Honestly, there’s no satisfaction like your own contentment.
While it is an unfortunate reality, being financially stable can relieve a lot of your stress while travelling and I am not just referring to a comfortable spending budget. By this I mean, plan for all different scenarios; can you afford to buy a new ticket in an emergency? If plans fall through, can you arrange new accommodations? If you get lost, can you spring for a safe route home? If your safety is in jeopardy do you have a back-up plan? It sucks, but having an emergency budget (stashed away) is going to get you what you need fast. Obviously, this is also dependent on where you go and what you are doing on a daily basis but, when I was in Rome by myself, I was constantly getting lost and in densely populated tourist areas – being hyper-aware of my surroundings – but I knew that if I was too lost or if something were to happen to my belongings, I had enough money in the bank to get home.
Because you are by yourself, the reality is that time doesn’t fly by like it does when you’re with others, and it takes practice to appreciate the slowness of time that comes with travelling by yourself. However, by making a schedule or plan, you have a little bit more structure and the opportunity to fill your days with activities so that you are keeping busy and really, not even realizing that you’re alone. I would recommend ranking them from most to least important so that if you take more time at one site, and don’t have enough time for the others, you got to see what was most important. I would recommend any DK Eye Witness Top 10 books on the city you’re exploring and writing out a day-to-day guide for yourself. These books are pocket sized and have pull-out maps where you can outline routes.
Obviously, if you’re going on a trip for more than 8 hours, you need to pack a bag. I adore packing for my trips and picking my favourite pieces but part of this is preparation for events, outings, weather and just overall comfort. Pack efficiently and effectively so that you are comfortable, but also prepared. Layers are key of weather you can’t really anticipate, and you really don’t need 6 bikinis for a beach trip; 2 tops, 2 bottoms that you can mix and match (I say this delicately as I have plenty of friends who overpack, and am also someone who shops A LOT while travelling). With this, coincides the theme of packing lightly; if you are by yourself I would say do not check a bag as a) it is more convenient and b) should your bag get lost, you have no alternatives or people to share a toothbrush with.
Overall, remember that this trip is FOR YOU AND ONLY YOU! Do what you want, wear what you want, love who you are and just have fun. Appreciate the beauty in diversity and seek comfort in your own seclusion. And finally, remember that it is okay to be lonely while travelling alone, but its not for forever, and there is no shame in spending a night-in with Netflix and a pizza; even if you’re 3000 miles from your own bed.