For me, solo travel has been one of my biggest achievements. Growing up I was such a home-bird; I wouldn’t go to sleepovers, I’d always choose a night in rather than a night out and I just loved spending time at home with the family. So stepping out of my comfort zone and boarding that plane for the first time by myself was a big deal. And to be honest, I couldn’t have gone any further from home if I’d tried. My first solo trip was to New Zealand. And leading up to that trip I hadn’t really thought too much about what travelling solo would mean. I remember being so excited in the weeks before my trip – I was excited to get there, excited for the flight, to meet new people, to have new adventures. But as soon as I checked in for my flight it suddenly dawned on me – I was completely alone. And I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit terrified.
The realisation had set in of what I was actually doing. I was going to the other side of the world, to a country where I knew no one, and where I didn’t know where anything was. And for someone who’s grown up in a little village where everyone knows everything about everyone else, I was completely freaked out. Looking back now, I do laugh at myself a little. Those feelings which were so real – and so loud – at the time, are now the things that make me want to travel. The feeling of visiting the unknown, meeting new people and seeing new things is exhilarating. But for the old me? It was almost traumatic.
But although I had all these anxious feelings, I knew I’d made an amazing choice. I knew that these feelings wouldn’t last forever and in a couple of days time I’d have made some friends, got my bearings and feel totally fine. It was one of those situations where you just have to focus on the positives and ride out the negatives. Throughout my flight I kept reminding myself I was on the very adventure that I’d been planning for years. I was finally on my way to the adventure of a lifetime.
So if you’re thinking about heading off on your very first solo adventure, and are feeling a little anxious or completely overwhelmed at the thought of it, here are some of my top tips on solo travelling!
Tip One: It’s okay to feel homesick and overwhelmed.
I don’t know if this is a tip or just a bit of an encouragement. But either way, it’s an important one. I feel like even the most seasoned traveller will feel homesick from time to time. It’s a completely natural feeling and you shouldn’t hide away from it or even be ashamed of it. In fact, I’d go as far to say that you should embrace it. For me at least, that homesick feeling is one I get when I know I’m on the edge of my comfort zone. I’m in unfamiliar territory. But if you’re standing at the edge of your comfort zone, it means you’re standing on the edge of something better. You’re on the verge of growing, of widening your experiences, improving yourself and widening your opportunities. Embrace the comfort zone and that homesick feeling and run with it – because at the end of your comfort zone is the beginning of a whole new adventure.
If you feel like those homesick feelings are taking over, here are some of my tried and tested ways to battle them…
- Stay focussed on why you’re travelling!
- Fill every day with an exciting adventure – it could be a hike, treating yourself to a coffee, doing something crazy like a skydive. Literally anything that takes your fancy!
- Hang out in the common room at your hostel!
- Book a tour.
- Tell your new pals how you’re feeling, and I bet you any money they’ll take your mind straight off it.
Tip Two: Book a Hostel.
This is a game changer. If you’re solo travelling then I strongly urge you to stay in a hostel, especially for your first few days/weeks (depending on the length of your trip). Truth be told, I’d never stayed in a hostel before I went to New Zealand, and I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for. But as a solo traveller, they are the best thing you could ask for. Hang out in the common spaces, talk to the people in your room, get to know people. What’s also an added bonus is that many hostels now offer free (or pretty cheap) tours of your destination so make sure you ask at reception if they’re running any! I remember on my first day in New Zealand, the girl sleeping in the bunk opposite me started chatting to me as I was unpacking a few bits and sorting myself out. We got talking and she ended up inviting me to go on a hike up Mt Eden with two of her friends. I ended up spending most of my first week in Auckland with them and it made my trip so much better and made me feel so much more settled!
Tip Three: Pack light.
Basically, if you can’t carry it, it’s too heavy. Whether you prefer to travel with a backpack or a suitcase, whether you’re going for a week or a year, make sure you can carry your own luggage. No one wants to have to drag around someone else’s bags because they packed too much!
Tip Four: Save the phone bill.
This is a great tip if you’re travelling for an extended period of time. Pop to your local phone shop before you leave and get your phone unlocked. That means you’ll be able to buy a local sim card in your destination and save yourself some hefty phone bills created by all those roaming charged. You’ll be able to upload those insta pics and use Google maps to your hearts content!
Bonus tip? Make use of public wifi! In 2021, I feel like most people probably do this anyway, but it’s always worth checking if your hotel, hostel or even the restaurant you’re eating in has some free wifi you can use. Do proceed with caution though and make sure you’re using a trusted connection!!
Tip Five: Stay in the light.
This one might sound weird but hear me out. What I mean is avoid the dodgy streets and dark side allies – especially if you’re walking by yourself at night. Even if it takes you an extra 20 minutes to walk through the lit city centre, it’s so much better to be safe than sorry. And if you can afford to, take a cab if you need to go out in the dark.
Tip Six: Ready, set, cook.
Learn how to cook a couple of delicious, cheap meals before you go travelling that are made of basic staples. Almost all countries will have very similar tinned beans, pasta, rice, etc. If you’re living in hostels, knowing how to cook nutritious, substantial meals which don’t break the bank are vital. Plus, they are a great way to make friends!
My go to meal? Mixed beans in chilli sauce, a couple of carrots and peppers, served with rice or pasta. Cheap as chips.
Tip Seven: Tell someone where you’re going.
One of my main tips for solo travel is to make sure you tell someone where you’re going and roughly what time you should arrive. That way if they don’t hear from you, they know when to check in. This goes for hikes too – if you’re heading out on a hike by yourself show someone where you’re going and the route you’re going to take. It could end up saving your life!
Solo travel is exciting, scary, and ultimately life changing.
You won’t come home from your travels the same – in fact if you do, you’ve probably done it wrong!
As you solo travel around your dream destinations, you will learn about the world, the people, the environment. But you’ll also learn about you – who you are and what you can stretch yourself to.
You’ll come home with a new energy, new passion, new way of looking at your home-town and the world alike. And the best part? You won’t regret it.