Traveling by yourself for the first time can be exhiliarating, thrilling, exciting and scary all at the same time. Most of us have only ever known traveling with others, whether with our family on vacations, trips with our school or college, or exploring the world with our friends. While some find solo travel exhilarating, many have some anxiety over flying alone for the first time, first time solo travel loneliness and how to have fun traveling alone.
All these scenarios meant we had someone to turn to for help or advice if we ever needed any, and on most of the trips the preparations were either done for us, in the case of our parents, or collectively when travelling in a group. The question we are going to answer in this article is what preparations, plans and precautions should you take if this is your first time travelling alone.
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Ignore (Almost) All the Advice from Others
You might be wondering why we say this, as surely everyone is being helpful with their advice? In a sense, they will be, however, the problem is whatever trip you are planning to go on by yourself, it is going to be different from all the trips of people who are trying to advise you. So, what were the correct preparations for their trip, may not be right for yours.
The key here is to focus on the trip you are going on by yourself, and make sure when you plan and prepare for your trip, you do it based on what you need, rather than what others say you need.
Make Copies of Your Documents
First, make copies of all the documents you’re likely to use or need and email these copies to someone you trust to keep them secure. The main ones will be your passport, driver’s license, flight tickets, and travel itineraries. This way, if any are lost, you will find it much easier to arrange replacements and deal with the people who are processing them. You should also always have digital photos of these on your phone, in a separate folder. Mine is called "admin" and contains my passport photo page, front and back of my driver’s license, social security card and important travel docs for a current trip. I also have printed copies (1 piece of paper) of all the same documents. I can assure you having these copies was extremely helpful when I lost my Passport in Israel (ahh, youth and carelessness) and had to go to the American Embassy to get a new passport.
One good tip to follow is to kep the real documents in a lockable safe in your accommodation and carry copies with you when you go out, just in case you need to refer to them. There’s less upheaval and stress if a copy gets lost when you are out, than if an original document goes missing.
Give Someone Your Entire Itinerary
This may well be the person to whom you gave the copies of the documents, but if not, you need at least one person, preferably a family member, who has your schedule, knows where you will be, and when you will be there. Ideally, you should list each of your flight times, airlines, flight numbers, hotel addresses and phone numbers, and any other information relevant to where you will be on any given date and time.
Have All the Important Numbers Handy
Most people think all they need is the number of their family back home, but there are other telephone numbers you should have at hand. Whether you are traveling to just one country or several, make a note of your country’s embassy number for each of them. You should also have the number of your bank’s international customer service number, and the same for your credit card company too.
It is also a good idea to make a note of any local amenities, services and other places you might need or want in the locations you will be traveling to. This could include local medical facilities, the police station, bus and train stations, and taxi services. You might not need them all, and with medical and police services we hope you don’t, but they’re good to have handy, just in case.
Pack the Minimum You Need, Not the Max
What you pack will obviously depend on what sort of trip you are going on. If it is to just one location, and you have transportation from the airport to your accommodation, then how much you take with you may not be an issue. However, bear in mind not every hotel will have bell hops, and if you are on the fifth floor and the lift is out of order, you may be glad you followed this advice.
If you plan to backpack across several countries, or expect to be moving around a lot, the last thing you need is to have that enjoyment spoiled by having to carry excess weight with you. This is where we advise packing light.
Keep in Touch with Family or Friends Back Home
This might seem one of the most obvious pieces of advice about traveling by yourself for the first time, and it is, but it is also the one which gets forgotten the most. When you are having a great time, it is easy to forget to call home, and even if you remember you might not think it is necessary, but it is.
Your loved ones will be concerned if they do not hear from you, and you do not even need to go to the extent of telephoning each time. A quick text message via a messaging app such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp will be enough to reassure them, and it only takes just a few seconds to do it.
To make or receive calls overseas, and to having access to the internet, using an international SIM card can save you a lot of money compared to adding the call and data costs to your cellphone bill.
Trust Your Instincts
For all the planning and precautions you might take beforehand, there can still be situations when you are traveling alone, which can make you feel nervous, and at worst put you in some distress.
It might be you’re in a bar and the atmosphere feels wrong or foreboding, or you could be talking to a stranger, and something they say, spooks you a little. These are two of the many scenarios you may come across which could be perfectly innocent, but the prudent thing to do whenever you feel uncomfortable is to remove yourself from the situation.
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Learn to take a great Selfie!
We all make fun of those selfie sticks, but the truth is when you’re traveling solo, it’s not always possible to ask someone else to take your photo, and you definitely want photos of yourself on vacation. Even more so, you want to show the world how proud and independent you are for traveling solo, a challenge many would never attempt!
Things to do when Traveling by Yourself for the First Time
Most people find traveling solo very freeing. You can do, eat and see what you want whenever you want without having to negotiate with anyone or make any comprises. Some great things to do include taking a free walking tour in a city, where you get a great feel for the city as well as the opportunity to meet other people. Have a meal by yourself, preferably outside and people-watch, which is always a great solo activity. If you’re self conscious, don’t be. No one else cares you’re eating alone.
Where to Stay when Traveling by Yourself
You can absolutely stay in any hotel or hostel when traveling solo, but I highly recommend you look into CoLiving, which is a fairly new concept. CoLiving is when someone manages a large and usually very nice house and rents out rooms to individuals or couples. These houses are targeted towards people are location independent, and often they are working most days, however, the prices are very reasonable and you’re sure to meet other adventurous people with whom you can spend evenings and weekends.
Much of what we advise above might suggest that traveling by yourself, especially for the first time, is dangerous, and full of unwanted situations. Nothing could be further from the truth. Traveling is one of the most rewarding experiences you could undertake, but as with any activity the better you plan, the more you will enjoy it.
So, if you make the appropriate plans before you travel, and follow our advice when you arrive, then your enjoyment will be enhanced, which is surely what traveling by yourself for the first time should be all about.