4 Empowering Tips for First-Time Solo Travelers

September 19, 2016
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Solo Travelers l Jennifer Huber l Quitting My Job to Travel: From Wall Street to Wanderlust

4 Empowering Tips for First-Time Solo Travelers

Five years ago, I would have laughed at the possibility of traveling alone in a foreign country. Society’s messages of the “dangerous unknown” had truly afflicted my imagination and dreams of travel. In my mind, I would forever be accompanied by a male companion during my travels.

Although I can’t pinpoint a pivotal moment in which these ideas changed, I credit my change in attitude to the many strong and independent women in my life, most notably my sister. Her stories of solo travel intrigued me; whether she was horseback riding around Iceland, enjoying haggis and beer in a typical Scottish pub, or conversing in Swedish in Stockholm with the locals, I envied her independence and courage.

Because of the encouragement from her and the other brave women I’ve chosen to surround myself with, last June, I found myself on a plane to Barcelona, guidebook in hand and the strongest sense of independence in my heart that I’d felt since moving away for college. The following are my reminders and tips for a successful first solo trip:

4 Empowering Tips for First-Time Solo Travelers

1. Take the time to…

Do exactly what you want. I mean this in the most literal sense. Traveling in a group or with a companion involves a lot of compromise, and the beauty of traveling alone is never having to do this. One day, I was able to explore the Picasso Museum for as long as my heart desired. While others may have deemed this boring, my curiosity and love for Spanish culture were fully fulfilled. Another day, I felt motivated to walk a few miles to a top-rated restaurant. While another travel companion might’ve opted for a closer option, my foodie heart was satisfied by the end of the afternoon. Solo travel was the perfect time to explore my passions and interests — on my own schedule.

Traveling Alone Tips!

2. It’s okay to call your mom when you’re out to eat at a restaurant.

I know what you’re thinking: the best part of traveling alone is being available to meet new people. I did, and it was great! However wonderful this part of the experience is, it certainly doesn’t need to be the entire experience. I enjoyed taking a break from being the outgoing and ever so social traveler to unwind with a good glass of cava and share how Gaudí’s work inspired me or how the windy Spanish roads enchanted me. Sharing my travels with someone who knows me deeply was a positive and reflective experience while traveling alone. Don’t feel ashamed for not spending every waking minute meeting new people — take the time you need to recharge and feel relaxed.

3. Skip the hostel-sponsored pub crawl and try your own route!

Although hostels can be a great resource for meeting like-minded individuals from around the world, there is one group of people you surely won’t meet there: the locals! During my solo trip in Barcelona, I opted out of the hostel-sponsored events and ventured out on my own. Instead of ending up at a club with 2€ shots and sticky floors, I found myself at a neighborhood block party testing my Catalan with a group of locals who had been attending the annual block party since they were children. We danced the night away in the lively streets of a quintessentially beautiful Barcelona neighborhood. Had I gone out with my hostel mates, I might never have experienced this kind of warm welcome with local flavor.

Traveling Alone Dos and Don'ts

Four Empowering Tips for First-Time Solo Travelers

4. Overcome the fear of asking for help.

During my time traveling alone, I shut off the part of my brain that replays Taken-like scenarios, and truly put my faith in the good people of Barcelona. Whether asking for directions, needing help navigating the transportation system, or translating a menu, it was difficult to ask for help at first. I learned, however, that the best way to overcome this strange feeling was to continue reaching out to strangers. Each time I did this, I felt more confident. And I met some wonderful Barcelona natives along the way, enriching my travels even more.

More often than not, I hear my peers saying solo travel would be impossible, stating the potential dangers that can occur while being alone and vulnerable. Undeniably, I used to think the same way. But just like almost any fear, the best way to overcome it is by jumping in headfirst. The best decision for me, and the one that ultimately restored much of my lost faith in humanity, was by jumping in headfirst and pressing the “purchase” button on my plane tickets for one. Now, where should I travel next?


Related Reading

Feeling the Fear and Doing it Anyway: Traveling Solo
Beginners’ Tips for Solo Travel
How Bucharest Turned Me into a Solo Traveler
My First Solo Trip: A Weekend in Kracow Poland



Four Empowering Tips for First-Time Solo Travelers

About Anna Waller

Anna WallerThroughout her life, Anna Waller has traveled all around the world, most recently while working in Spain as an elementary English teacher. In addition to traveling, her passions include scientific research, and she has worked on projects and publications ranging from physical chemistry to food market trends in Istanbul. Anna is currently pursuing a PhD in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois, but finds any and all opportunities to explore, travel, and create. Her current academic research efforts focus on sustainable solutions to malnutrition in developing countries.

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