Three Key Tips To Make The Most Out Of Traveling Alone

travelling
Illustrations by Sally Choi

“Alone” is one of those words with an unnecessarily negative connotation — people conflate it with loneliness and despondency, assuming that if a person is alone it’s because they have no one to spend time with. But even the most social people need time to disconnect from others and recharge, and one of the best ways to do that is to travel solo. Traveling alone can be a daunting task; you’re in a place you’ve never been before and  you’re by yourself? For those who’ve done it, however, it’s often one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable.

One of the most appealing aspects of traveling alone is that it allows you to truly immerse yourself in the environment you’re in. Whether it’s just a town over (the so-called staycation) or you crossed multiple borders to get there, traveling by yourself forces you to engage with the environment around you, and not just spend all day chatting with your travel partner. You can sit in a park and watch people walk by, or listen to other people talk at a cafe. It’s a freeing experience, because you can eat or take breaks just when you need to, or visit the places you’re interested in and skip the ones you’re not. In short, you’re not beholden to the interests and whims of your would be travel partner. You can be more spontaneous in planning when you travel, where you travel, and how you travel. That said, there are some important things to keep in mind.

Keep Your Itinerary Flexible

travelling solo2-02-02When it comes to traveling in groups, especially larger ones, the itinerary is often timed to the minute. It allows you to see as much of where you’re going as possible, but often that means you don’t get to spend much time doing something you like or too much time seeing something you consider boring. One of the main appeals of traveling alone is that you can set your own itinerary, but don’t be afraid to keep your schedule wide open and light. Jot down a few places you know you want to go, and spend the rest of the time meandering through interesting neighborhoods or sitting in front of a painting you’re particularly keen on. You should embrace the solitude, rather than feeling forced to be busy all the time.

Stay Safe 

travelling-solo3Traveling alone allows you to lighten your itinerary, but there are other things you need to prepare more for than if you were in a group. Traveling solo means you need to be extra vigilant, because larger groups are less likely to be threatened by thieves. That’s why it helps to look less like a tourist — not because of the judgmental eyes of locals, but for the prying eyes of would be criminals who prey on oblivious travelers. You should know where you’re traveling so you can be aware of any areas you should steer clear from or what common safety concerns are.  Cut out excess baggage. For instance, do you really need to bring your laptop on a weekend trip to a beach town? Consider keeping things like your wallet in your front pocket, or wear a jacket with a lot of pockets (even better if they zip or clasp) which will allow you to eschew carrying a bag. That said, there are certain things you’ll need to carry that you wouldn’t otherwise, because no one will be able to provide them for you.

Pack Smart

travel-solo4You want to travel light for safety and convenience, but there’s nothing worse than being caught without something you forgot. Pack extras of things that might get dirty (shirts, underwear, and socks), and fewer heavy things you won’t need multiples of for a short trip (pants, jackets, and shoes). There are some things you may want that you wouldn’t otherwise bring. If you’re planning on sitting by the beach by yourself for a few hours, pack a couple paperbacks you’re fond of. Bring some snacks for in between meals. One of the best things to carry, no matter how you’re traveling, is a portable phone charger. They’re light, usually pretty cheap, and will guarantee that you’re not caught alone at night without a working phone or stuck in a library with your phone plugged in all day.