Things Every Solo Traveler Should Do

Solo traveler
  1. Take yourself out to dinner.

It can seem intuitive to grab food on the go or stock your backpack first, but there’s no reason a meal on your own shouldn’t be a sit-down affair—just as it would if you were meeting a date or a friend. In destinations known for group dining, you might be more comfortable finding a place where you can eat at the bar instead of at a table; most bartenders will be up for a chat. Either way, treat yourself to an awesome meal.

  1. Learn the art of people watching

If your table for one happens to be on the sidewalk or by a window, or even facing the rest of the dining room, mealtime can be a great source of entertainment. Think of people-watching as a visual study of what’s different (and what’s universal) about the way passersby dress, carry themselves, greet each other, make jokes, and converse. You’ll be surprised by how interesting it is to be a fly on the wall of everyday human interaction.

  1. Meet the locals

Talking to strangers is one thing that can seem intimidating about traveling alone. Though chances are it will be more effortless and rewarding than you’re imagining, meeting people abroad doesn’t have to be an in-the-moment interaction. Before you leave, ask friends and family if they have any connections where you’re heading. Talk to people who have been there. You might meet an old friend of your mom’s or a distant family member with memories to share. If you don’t end up with any leads, just keep in mind the easiest go-to ice breaker: “Hi, I’m from [insert home country or city] and I’m visiting for a week, do you have any recommendations?”

  1. Make a valiant attempt to speak the language

Please don’t go in linguistically blind. Good solo travelers and travelers in general should at least get familiar with the conversational basics of your destinations’ official language; the everyday essential phrases. Even if you botch the pronunciation, your willingness to make the effort is appreciated.

  1. Ditch your map app

If you’re in search of a particular address, by all means, navigate away. But if you’re not, and you’re staring down at your screen watching a GPS dot blip along the streets of Paris, stop that. You’re in Paris: your eyeballs should be looking at everything that is not your phone. You don’t have to turn it off, just stow it safely away. Spend a few hours taking rights and lefts at random, and expect to happen upon something wonderful.

  1. In fact, ditch your phone altogether

If you’re really brave or need to save battery, power down for a while. If you end up getting lost, you’ll find your way and will walk a little taller when it’s over. You never know what you might find when you do.

  1. Blend into the crowds

Maybe being surrounded by luscious greenery isn’t your jam, and you’d prefer to be engulfed in a rush of colorful conversation. Scout out a local event or gathering place, a market, a sporting event, a festival, a parade that interests you. These are some of the best places to get a feel for the energy of a place.

  1. Pay extra attention

It’s not only smart to be alert and observant for your personal safety, but remembering to look up and down and around corners and over your shoulder ensures you’ll leave no detail undiscovered. In a new place, it’s easy to train your eye to notice the character and the minutiae of your surroundings. But it’s a skill you can take home with you, too.

  1. Be smart and safe

Approaching your trip with a “what can go wrong probably will” attitude doesn’t make you a pessimist, it makes you prepared. Take all of the precautions you can imagine. It’s also smart to make sure you leave at least a rough outline of your plans with a few loved ones before you go.

  1. Take a class in something you know

Find something you love to do at home and try it out abroad. Instead of having to miss your regular yoga session or weekly ceramics class, seek out a far-flung substitute and give it a shot. Doing an activity you’re comfortable with will keep you from feeling like an outsider, and it’s a smart way to meet locals and other travelers with mutual interests.

  1. Tag along with a tour group

There are tours focused on nature, art and architecture, horseback riding, scuba diving, breweries and vineyards. Your whole trip can be one continuous tour if you’d like. More and more companies are accommodating single travelers in search of the perfect solo safari, cruise, or other guided experience. It may be helpful to work with an agent to seek out specials and companies that work with solo travellers

  1. Do some low-key learning at museums and monuments

Some people love the deep-dive history and personal anecdotes a guide can provide, but if you prefer to peruse an occasional plaque here and there, then go it alone. That way, you’re free to wander, take your time, and be exactly as interested as you want to be.

  1. Keep a travel journal

Your photos will help you remember where you’ve been, but a journal can capture how it felt to be there. Document your trip and your thoughts, there will be many, however you choose. Notebooks have no rules.

  1. Attend a performance

Even when you go to see a show with friends, it can feel like the story playing out in front of you is yours alone. Catch a play. Take in a traditional dance performance. Spend all day at a music festival. Even if you don’t understand the language, in live performance, words and lyrics are no barriers to emotion.

  1. Pop into any shop that calls to you

Shopping alone is a luxury experience whether you’re stepping into a used bookstore or a pristine boutique. There will be no one waiting on the bench outside for you to wrap it up. You can ask about the price of a necklace and end up chatting for 45 minutes with the shop owner. Then, when you wear that necklace and someone compliments you on it, you get to tell your souvenir story.

  1. Don’t judge your choices

Try not to impose the phantom pressure of other people on yourself when making decisions. If you want to do something, it doesn’t matter whether or not you “should.” Even if it’s a nap, it’s not a waste of your time if it’s what you truly want. If you want to see the most popular tourist attractions, go. Don’t skip anything you are genuinely interested in because someone once made fun of it within earshot. You are traveling to make your heart happy and for nothing and no one else.

  1. Trust your instincts

Listen closely to any gut feelings you have about people, places, and things, and build confidence in those strange inner twinges we sometimes choose to ignore. You have to protect yourself. The first time you realize you’ve avoided or figured out a crisis on your own, whether that’s taking a wrong turn or realizing you just left your passport in the hotel safe after checking out—is so empowering.

  1. Get to know yourself

Traveling allows you to discover a destination, but that’s almost never the only way it changes you. Even if you consider yourself independent most days, you’re still surrounded by a comfort zone. On a solo trip, you leave all of that behind for a while. Your thoughts, actions, desires, and tastes may be different than you thought. Do yourself a favor and explore them.

Culled from Travel + Leisure

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