On my now not-so-recent solo trip, I was really worried about the solo aspect of it. I was intimidated by the idea of being alone with my thoughts for a full week. Obviously, I still had WiFi and a phone, so this wasn’t the Martian or anything, but I was scared I was going to go a whole day without saying words to another human being and I don’t know, forget how to speak. Mostly, though, I was afraid of eating dinner by myself. Would I survive the stares of being at a table of one?
Clearly, I did. Or really, I just avoided tables altogether and sat at bars instead.
The solo travel experience was one I enjoyed. Turns out, I’m pretty fine with being with my own thoughts for week, and it’s really nice to do whatever you want whenever you want to do it. I’d definitely travel alone again in the future, but I’m also really really open to traveling with other people, too. 🙂
Here’s what I learned makes a great solo trip:
1: Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
By all means, try out a fake name on your solo trip – but don’t plan things you wouldn’t do in your normal life. Going on a solo trip is all about doing what *you* want to do. Second, when you’re uneasy and in a new environment, you’re going to want some comforts of routine.
I learned during my trip that the solo AirBnb experience is one I prefer over hostels. I had a room to myself in the hostel, but I didn’t take advantage of living the hostel life – I didn’t meet other travelers there or hang out at the hostel bar at all. I’d much rather get up early and walk all day, have a nice dinner and go to bed (like I do in my regular life) so why did I book a hostel that has a bar that stays open until 4AM?
Don’t do it.
2: Keep it casual.
Cafes, bars, and restaurants with open seating are the easiest places to feel comfortable as a party of one when going out to eat. Obviously this means it’s easier in the morning and for lunch, and makes it a little harder at night.
The really funny part to me was that in Iceland – because the sun sets so late – many of the bars and restaurants have light-blocking curtains to amp up the ambiance. This makes it extremely difficult to see into the bars before you go in – so I wasn’t really sure of the vibe or if there were even open seats before going into most restaurants.
For me, I opted for bar seating if it was available, and never had to sit at a table for one for dinner. It makes it so much easier to start a conversation with the bartender or another patron. My last night in Reykjavik I ate at the bar at a pub for dinner and struck up a conversation with another female solo traveler – from San Francisco!
3: Have a plan.
So you know when you’re out with friends and someone recommends a place to eat dinner and it’s so nice to not have to make a decision about it? Yeah, that doesn’t happen on a solo trip. You have to research, find, and navigate to everywhere during your whole trip – and it is super tiring. The best way to combat this is to plan as much as you can in advance.
You don’t have to plan every hour of every day, (and shouldn’t) but having a good idea of what you want to do each day and where you want to eat will make the stress of the trip that much less. One pro tip – save locations on your Google maps and then you’ll be able to find one of your saved places when you’re out and about.
3: Be open to random conversations.
This one is a tough one, but TRY not to look at your phone all the time. A person with a phone in front of them looks busy. We all do it when we want to ignore something happening around us – and so people ignore you, too. So do your best not to use it as a crutch. Sit and people watch. Ask the person near you a question.
While I wasn’t the best at this, I tried to be. At Duck and Cover in Copenhagen, I befriended the bartender and the manager on a slow night, talking booze and cities and travel. All by being open to conversation.
4: Be safe.
A solo trip is not the time to walk home from the bar through the scary side of town on your own, nor is it the time to randomly tell strangers where you’re staying. Use common sense, but err on the side of caution. If you’re ever considering two ways to go, choose the safer one.
One of the nights in Reykjavik, I really wanted to go out to try to see the Northern Lights, but the best places to see the Northern Lights are where it is pitch black and there are no streetllights. I started to walk to the Marina around 12:30AM, but then decided it was just a little too dark. I ended up walking to a big park in the center of town and seeing the lNorthern Lights just fine – and I befriended a few hysterical women from Chicago while I was there.
5: Always bring a book.
Sometimes, you don’t want to be alone with your thoughts and there’s no one to talk to. This is where a book comes in real handy. It gives you something to do without staring at your phone. On my trip, I read A Man Called Ove – and it was kind of like the feeling of having a friend to talk to – as a really great book does . That is until I sobbed on the flight home at the ending. (SO GOOD, THIS BOOK)
Have you ever traveled alone? What other advice would you add?