6 years ago I boarded a plane for the first time solo. I booked a short break to Barcelona. I wasn’t really a regularly flyer, I had little knowledge of the Spanish language and I’d never stayed in a hotel on my own.
Fast forward 6 years, I’d worked for 5 years as a flight attendant, I’d moved to Spain and I’d taken 8 solo trips.
My first two trips Barcelona, Spain and Nice, France I booked a hotel room. I couldn’t imagine staying in a hostel dorm sharing with strangers. I was quite shy at the time. After moving to Spain I booked the next one. Ao Nang, Thailand.
Yes it was time for long haul and to share a dorm. Why did I choose a hostel dorm this time? One reason, finance! I had the option to spend a week in Thailand in a budget hostel sitting on the curb eating a cheese and ham toastie from 7-eleven for lunch or not going away at all.
I’d already been to Thailand once for 6 weeks I felt comfortable arriving at the airport and boarding the bus. Once I reached the hostel I was like hmm what have I done. After being shown to my bunk by the hostel worker I went out to find some tea. I specifically chose a hostel with curtains on the bunk so if I wanted to I could hide.
That trip I booked excursions specifically so I could meet people during the day with a hope of making friends so I could hang out at night. The main obstacle was eating dinner. I didn’t want to sit at a table while a restaurant was full of couples and groups. However I overcame it a few times.
I learnt during that trip that actually I could travel alone, I could be at peace with myself and after returning and working the summer in Mallorca I decided to attempt a longer period away.
Teaching in Vietnam. If you read my blog post it was full of ups and downs. During this trip though I found that I grew a new confidence a new zest for life.
Then covid happened, the world stopped. There i was penned up in an appartment just after finding my new found desire for adventure. As soon as the cases calmed down in Europe I was straight on Skyscanner and I had booked a week in Italy, travelling by train from city to city only staying in hostels. The world had changed now though. The first hostel I arrived in Milan had 8 beds. I was so hyped to see new faces. After checking in I was told, you are the only person in that room tonight.
It felt so strange, it felt lonely. My next stop was Bologna where the hostel was running their dorm at 50% capacity. Before I knew it I was in the lounge area drinking beers and swapping stories with new found Friends. This was the new solo travel that I knew I wanted I knew I needed.
I loved the feeling of being free, of not being judged, being a blank canvas. When you travel solo and you meet new people you are what you are then and now. You have no history.
And then, Amsterdam. A city I had travelled to more than 10 times with friends and with groups of up to 10 people.
I knew the city like the back of my hand. I wasn’t sure how long I would stay maybe 3-4 nights, however I realised on the first day that the city felt very different solo. Everywhere I looked there were groups of friends having the time of their lives. My hostel was fine but the beds were like pods (16 in total) the curtains all stayed closed and after 2 nights I decided to leave and fly to Naples, Italy.
After this trip I went for a week to Portugal exploring Lisbon and Porto. Due to the virus there were very few tourists which made it great for photography not so good for being social with both the hostels being very quiet.
This brings me on to my biggest solo adventure 5 weeks in Brazil in December 2020. That’s right Brazil during the pandemic. Was it a crazy thing to do? Maybe. I had a once in a lifetime experience and more than ever I realised how content I was in my life. It was very very tough to meet people I spent most of my evenings in my room and I actually went for more hotels than hostels.
My tips for travelling solo,
1) DO IT, take the plunge try it at least once! Travelling solo you are what you are in that moment. You have no history, people meet you at face value. You can eat, drink and sleep when you want.
2) Pack light! Especially when staying in a hostel dorm. You don’t need all that stuff you think you do. It’s much easier to hop on and off of a flight or ferry with just a backpack.
3) Be prepared. Have some entertainment on your phone, download some series on Netflix’s get the Kindle app so you have a book to read.
4) SMILE- this is the number one way to make friends. A smile leads to a hello which leads to a conversation.
5) Don’t expect everything to go smoothly. Have a back up plan, take copies of your documents and don’t expose yourself to danger by flashing valuables in public. Know you route back to your accommodation.
6) Pack a padlock for your hostel dorm locker!
7) Balance going with the flow to having a rough plan. Sometimes flight prices can spiral so can accommodation. Be ready that you might have to change your plans depending on your budget.
8) EAT street food and local food. This will save you money and give you an authentic experience.
9) Use apps such as booking.com to find a hostel but if you are booking last minute go into the hostel and ask if the price is lower than online.
10) Support local businesses. Get an idea of prices online but trade with the local people. Often the big companies take a big cut of the profits.
11) Tip. Don’t be tight, I remember the time I tipped 1$ in Cambodia I received a glowing smile it might not seem like alot of money but to these people it means the world.
12) Select your flight seat at the last minute. This will give you a higher chance of getting an empty row.
Have you travelled solo? Or is it on your to do list? Drop me a comment below.