Periodically, a reader writes in looking for advice on taking their first solo trip.
It would be easy for me to point them to any of the many excellent resources and articles we have developed on Solo Traveler: from our Start Here page to our Tips for Newbies, and from our Destinations for First-Time Solo Travelers to Getting Past the Fear: Taking Your First Solo Trip. Many times, I do exactly that.
But sometimes, what a person really needs is to hear from people who have been in their shoes, to get a bit of first-hand support and encouragement.
That’s where our friends in the Solo Travel Society come in.
A reader named John recently wrote, “I find myself at a point for the first time where I am ready for a vacation but have to do so alone. In the past, I have had a partner or friends that went with me. This time I am solo. Anyone have any tips that might help?”
I shared his question with our Facebook members, and they wasted no time responding, sharing their stories and offering advice.
It Will Be Easier than You Think
“It's so much easier (once you finally do it and realize) than you anticipate,” said Angela. “Another way is to join up with a tour company so you can meet people without the obligation of needing to hang out with them if you don't feel like. My first ever solo trip was back in 2007 and then I just started planning and traveling by myself and have never looked back. This site has particularly helped with tips and recommendations too. Thanks, Solo Travel Society!”
Jeff took his first solo trip in January for ten days. “As the date approached, I thought I was making a huge mistake. It was the best ten days so far this year and I have contracted the solovirus to travel alone more often.”
Take it Easy when You’re Solo for the First Time
Micheline recommends a weekend trip, in a nearby city. “If you’re miserable alone, you can just go home. For instance, Boston or Washington from New York City, Chicago or Toronto from Detroit.”
“Start small and short. Or join a group tour. It’s pretty empowering to travel alone, but I took baby steps getting there,” said Roxanne. “And if you do a group tour, you’ll meet others in a similar situation.”
“Go somewhere they speak your language (or you speak theirs) and are friendly,” advises Dianne. “Try Ireland – they’re the friendliest and most helpful people ever. When you start enjoying solo travel, venture out to every possible place on the planet!”
Kelli suggests staying in a hotel with a lively or cozy bar. “It’s a great place to unwind and not feel so “solo” which is important. Also pick out a couple of group tours or classes to join.”
You Don’t Have to Be Entirely on Your Own
The first trip is the hardest, said Beth. “Check into a hostel or approach people who are by themselves at bars with a book in front of them. I have made friends for life this way. You are only as alone as you want to be!”
Cynthia travels alone but books a lot of short (half or full-day) tours, so she’s not alone 100% of the time. “I've also joined groups for longer, organized tours, but prefer setting my own itinerary. Also, check out meetup.com for activities that might be of interest.”
“I just went on my first solo trip this past December and it was a European river cruise,” said Jen. “It was the perfect trip for being solo for the first time. I was surrounded by people and didn't have to go out of my way to meet and connect with others. Plus, most activities are planned so it was very low stress–no chance of getting lost!”
Elaine says that traveling solo is the best thing she’s ever done. “I met my best friend of fourteen years on one of these holidays, now we go on them together. I nagged a customer of mine to go on one, now she is in love for the first time in her life, in her mid-sixties. You’ll meet loads of different people who feel just the same as you and talk, these are brilliant therapy groups!”
You Will Learn a Lot About Yourself on Your First Solo Trip
“Give it a try and relish the growth you will experience!” encouraged Louetta.
Brad advised, “Remember it’s about having fun. Organize things for yourself that you find enjoyable. If you're not having a good time, you're wasting your time. Be self-sufficient and stand alone wherever you go.”
Allison took her first solo trip this past October and chose Amsterdam.
One of the mistakes I made was being afraid to look clueless. I hurried around, didn't ask for help when I was lost, and spent more time than necessary disoriented. When I let myself look as clueless as I was, locals stopped to offer help without my asking, and when I asked for help, people were great about it! That's lesson one: It's okay to stumble around a bit, and locals are often more than happy to help. Lesson two is not to pack in too many sites or activities. Going solo, you're doing all the planning and choosing, which is great, but you're also navigating the culture and landscape alone, which can be stressful and tiring. I learned a lot during my first trip, including what I'm good at, where I need to grow, and how to do this better next time. I'm already saving for my next solo trip – can't wait!
To ensure you keep moving forward, Theresa suggested, “Keep a journal so as to remember your personal strengths. It can be hard not to fall back into old patterns when you return home.”
Enjoy New-found Freedom
Kelly shared the following experience: “After a difficult divorce and raising my kids mostly on my own, I took my first solo trip when I turned 51, two years ago. All my friends are married, and schedules are hard to match so I had decided I wasn't going to wait for someone anymore. It was a bit scary to contemplate as my kids had been my traveling partners their entire lives. I thought I would be lonely, but it was absolutely liberating.”
Lucy took her first solo trip to California. “It was probably the best thing I ever did. At first, I was so nervous. I’d never travelled so far on my own. Ever since then I’ve never looked back. It has so many benefits, not having to ask, what shall we do today, where do you feel like eating? You can do everything you want, when you want. Enjoy!”
“It's different but also very fulfilling and you get to do what you want, when you want. You can splurge on a meal without someone else complaining about the cost. You can read in a cafe all day without someone forcing you to be a tourist. Go for it!” advises Libbie.
Just Do It
“Don’t think too hard about it. Just go. You’ll be surprised how easy it is, especially if you’ve traveled before. You won’t get lonely if you don’t isolate yourself, and maybe you’ll find that you’ll want the alone time. Take things as they come and don’t overthink.” Excellent advice from Brooke.
Catlyn said, “Just go. Solo travel is a great confidence builder.”
“Just do it!” said Naomi. “ And even if you don't feel confident, be sure to act confident, other people will never know!” Here are 10 Ways to Look Confident.
And finally, Linda urged John to “talk to everyone, carry a book so you can sit at cafes and relax on your own. Keep in contact with someone at home just for safety. A couple of minutes on WhatsApp or a video call on Facebook remind you that you have a life at home.”
The last word goes to John. To everyone who responded to his outreach, John says, “Thank you one and all for taking the time to share your experiences, advice, and wisdom.”