“Are you traveling alone? Isn’t it lonely?”
That’s probably the most common question I get. For those of you who do not know, I set out on a journey across Europe 2 months ago and haven’t looked back since. I’m now living in Paris, France at the moment. I left my home in San Francisco with only a 22″ bag and my own two feet.
I know there are some of you out there who are playing with the idea of setting off on a similar journey, but perhaps are a little nervous about doing it alone. My goal with this post is to encourage and inspire you to consider this type of travel.
I’ve done trips with family, friends and, of course, by myself. They all offer different experiences and it is beneficial to experience all three.
Traveling with friends is nice because you always have someone to share experiences with and a familiar face to see everyday. You have a companion your whole trip so you feel secure. You tend to stick with this person throughout the trip and decide as a pair as to what you want to do while you’re traveling.
Traveling alone offers a much different experience. It’s just you. To some, that sounds scary. I found that by traveling alone I met a lot more people than when I was traveling with friends. I forced myself to be more social, say yes a lot more and try new things. It was exciting! You don’t have that security of having something or someone that is familiar. To me, that’s one of the best parts of travel. Escaping what is familiar and discovering something new. Not only did I meet a lot of amazing friends along the way, but also I had the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted. It’s a lot more flexible. If I wanted to stay in a country a couple extra days, it wasn’t a problem!
So if you plan on traveling solo, I want to provide my top 7 tips to help better your journey. Without further adieu, here is my list!
1) Take the free walking tour
A must do in every city as you get a lot more historical information and it makes the city more interesting to walk around in. Hostels will always have a walking tour brochure for more information. Another good reason is that you’ll often meet other travelers during the tour. It’s a great way to get out there and meet new people along the way. You’ll also find that a lot of travelers will have the same destinations as yourself. It’s a great way to connect and possibly find a new travel partner. Although all the places they generally take you are very touristy and crowded locations, it’s a great way to figure out the places you want to come back to when it’s less busy.
All free walking tours work on a tip basis. At the end, you have the opportunity to show your appreciation to the tour guide by giving him or her a tip.
2) Connect on Facebook or E-mail
Once you’ve met a new friend, don’t hesitate to exchange Facebook information or emails. Actually the best way to find a person on Facebook is by email as I’m sure it will be much more difficult to find someone who has a very common name or has unique characters. So, get an email and connect on Facebook. It’s probably the only way to stay in touch and communicate. Be sure to stay in contact! This will also allow your friends and family to track your travels.
If you find that it’s difficult to get accommodation or you are feeling especially lonely that day, reach out to Couchsurfing and post in the group. Often travelers are looking to meet up to get lost in the city. It’s also great way to meet locals and perhaps find a place to stay for the night! I’ve also noticed that most of the people in Couchsurfing are very friendly and eager to meet travelers or locals. It’s a much different vibe than meeting someone on the street because you already have something in common.
4) Pub crawl
What better way to meet some new travelers? Drinks? Yes, please. This is a great way to socialize and meet other travelers. The only downside I can think of is that you are usually always meeting other travelers, not locals.
5) Pack light
Don’t bring a huge bag. You’ll hate yourself later. I don’t know about you, but my packing seems to get worse over time. My once neatly packed bag is now stuffed to the brim because I often find myself without ample time to really condense my bag. So when you pack your bag the first time, be sure to leave a little extra space for souvenirs and when your bag contents expand. This is also a key tip if you are weak. Please don’t pack a huge suitcase that you can’t carry or manage. It pains me to see people struggling to get their bag up the stairs or on the overhead luggage racks. If there isn’t someone to help you, you’re not going to have a fun time with that bag.
6) Ask Questions
If you are lost, need directions or don’t understand, ask questions! This is not the time to be a man or stubborn and just try to figure it out. I’ve met some wonderful people by just asking how to get somewhere. It also beats walking around for hours trying to figure out where a certain street is. If you have a smartphone, Google maps is AMAZING.
7) Assume the best and try something new
If you’re a nay-sayer, now is not the time. You’re on an adventure and it’s time to take a couple risks and try something new. I’ve met some of the coolest people by leaving my comfort zone a little and get ready for discovery the experience and the greatest hens party ideas.