I recently went on the first holiday in years. Now, you might wonder whether I’ve lost my mind – because clearly I am a travel blogger who travels a lot and goes on 5-10 trips per year. And to an extent that is true – I travel loads, get to experience different cultures and countries and share my experiences here and on my own blog. But that’s not a holiday. When I say I’ve been on a holiday, I mean I traveled abroad, discovered a whole new (to me) country and did not have to write about it. That I’m writing about it now doesn’t change the fact that while I was traveling everything I did, ate, saw and experienced happened because I wanted to do it 100%, and not because I was hoping to get some sort of story out of it.
Yet, I am a travel writer through and through, and so of course the story presented itself to me without even trying. In fact, the ‘not trying’ part is the story. Traveling the way I used to when I first started out exploring the world by myself reminded me of all the amazing experiences I had when I traveled for the first time. While I was accompanied by my partner this time, I remembered the perks of solo travel and all the situations in which you maybe doubt the decision to set out on your own altogether.
So, while exploring a new country and culture on my holiday, I also journeyed figuratively through my travel past and collected a list of ten unmissable experiences I think you should have on your first solo trip – or your second, third, fourth…
1) Go out of your comfort zone
Solo travel is about leaving behind the world and people that you’re used to and entering a whole lot of unknown.
Thailand was the first place I visited in a long time where I did not only not understand the language, but also had no clue how to read it. Later I found out that even if I tried, I probably pronounced everything wrong due to the complex intonation in Thai. Additionally, I visited at a highly sensitive time – the end of the mourning season for the late King – which made it difficult to gauge how to behave. I felt like the place was a cultural minefield and overcoming that feeling was quite outside my comfort zone.
Use the opportunity to go out of your comfort zone and see how far you can make it!
2) Regret packing too much
A classic… no matter how hard you try, you will pack too much on your first trip. In fact, I still pack too much even though I’ve been a frequent traveler for years. By the end of my first big solo adventure (
It’s OK – we’ve all been there!
Take a look at
3) Travel with strangers
Chances are you don’t want to be alone all the time. There are so many different ways for solo travelers to find travel buddies and connect with other travelers on the road.
I was always a huge fan of Couchsurfing groups and met all my travel buddies on my first big trip through the platform. Why not
Alternatively you are likely to meet like-minded travelers in your hostel or local nomad hangouts. Or you could
4) Eat something you don’t know
One of my favorite ways to experience a culture is through its food. Now, since
When I traveled to Canada for the first time, I was incredibly picky and certain vegetables were completely off limits for me – mushrooms for example. Life had different plans though, and my new travel buddies I met through couchsurfing offered to cook a meal for our group of four. It would have been rude to say no, and also I had this rule about saying yes to new experiences – and so I ate them, mushrooms. Ever since, they have become a staple in my diet!
Years later, when I traveled to Ecuador, I was not as lucky… Without proper Spanish language skills I went to a tiny local restaurant, took a seat at the rooftop terrace and ordered something that seemed to have avocado in it. It might have been the only word I could read from the menu, but what could go wrong with an avocado dish, right? Well, turns out I was served tripe. I might have left the restaurant with a still half-empty belly, but alas, I had tried something new and made an authentic local experience!
5) Do something crazy and spontaneous
Do you want to look back at your first solo trip and not have that one crazy story to tell, where you did something super spontaneous and out there? Exactly, I thought so!
6) Be alone and happy
This solo trip might be your first opportunity to
Every travel experience is a new challenge, but I tend to always come out stronger and more confident than before – and with every trip I become happier with who I am; flaws and all!
7) Renew your wardrobe
Remember when you packed too much? Well, you probably also packed all the wrong things.
Unless you are already skilled in packing in outfits, you might have thrown in that cute dress you love, but forgot to pack the belt you need to make the outfit perfect. Or you forgot to bring shoes you can actually walk in for a longer period of time. Or you left your day backpack at home… It all happened to me before, and will probably happen again.
The good thing is though, that this gives you an excuse to simply renew your wardrobe! The new you definitely deserves new clothes.
PS: Vintage shops will be your best friend!
8) Treat yourself
I learnt this lesson the hard way. The year I studied abroad in Iceland was the same year the infamous Eyjafjallajokull volcano errupted. Everybody and their mum went on one of these helicopter flights over the crater to get a close-up look at the erupting lava – everybody, but me. I was simply too cheap. A few weeks earlier I had turned down the opportunity to visit Greenland for a week for only €500 – again, I didn’t have the money and felt too proud asking my parents for a hand.
Sticking to your budget is important – otherwise you might run out of money halfway through your trip. However, I think it’s important to sometimes ditch your budget spread sheet and just treat yourself! I recommend having a back-up stash of money. You could spend it on a fancy hotel after weeks of glam-less hostel dorms or a nice meal to feed your soul as well as your body – or like me, on experiences you will never forget!
It’s been over seven years and I still regret the decisions I made in Iceland. When will I ever get the opportunity to fly over an erupting volcano or snatch such an amazing deal on a Greenland trip again? Right, never… Ever since I travel with an emergency adventure fund in the back of my head. If a
9) Deal with a crisis
With travel comes inevitably crisis. Delayed flights, missed connections, messed-up accommodation bookings, Delhi bellies, broken hearts – life on the road has many
10) Love yourself!
Before I started traveling, I was a very typical teenager. I was outgoing and seemed confident, but underneath the surface I also struggled with a lot of self-doubt. Was I ever good enough for anything? Solo travel changed all this though.
Now that I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know myself, I realized that I’m an awesome person just the way I am – and so are you! If anybody tries to tell you something different, send them on a solo trip, and they’ll learn to accept themselves and others just like you!
Now, I’d love to hear the stories about your first solo travel experiences! Have you ventured out on your own before, or is that something you’re still dreaming of?