Last Updated on 23/12/2020
My first time as a solo female traveller was more of a predicament than a choice. It wasn’t the right time for most people and those who were planning to travel didn’t want to do exactly what I wanted. It didn’t feel right to just abandon my plans and join someone else’s out of fear. It turns out it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
If you’re about to travel solo for the first time then here’s a little bit of advice I’ve learnt: travelling solo is challenging but over time, it will get easier. You’ll discover how empowering it is and you’ll relish the sense of achievement it brings.
Solo travel is also no picnic, and if you’ve decided to do it then that’s half the battle. Nerves can play a big part in doubting yourself. When this happens may even feel yourself starting to back out. It happens, whatever level of experience you have. So, here are a few things I tell myself when I get worried about an upcoming solo trip:
1. Celebrate your achievements
Photo credit: Khamkéo Vilaysing
That feeling of triumph when all those months of planning and stress pay off and you’ve finally made it to the other side of the world all on your own. You’ve done it! You’ve made it in one piece and that was surprisingly easy too. Now that’s an unbeatable feeling.
2. You call the shots
You’re completely in charge of where you’re going next without any compromises because hey, it’s your time! You call the shots. Hey, if you want to just spend a day or two relaxing on the beach on the beach instead racing off to every landmark then so be it. There’s no one else to tell you not to. Enjoy that sweet taste of freedom.
3. You meet more people
Photo credit: Ivana Cajina
When you’re a solo traveller you automatically become more approachable which invites the possibility of new friends and new experiences to treasure forever. Not sure where to start? Book yourself into a hostel (hot tip: read the reviews first), join a tour, do a group activity and you’ll soon meet dozens of people. You can read the pros and cons of doing a group tour as a solo traveller here.
4. Don’t be afraid to say no
You have the option and the courage to say no when you feel like it and experience some alone time to just be you. This is a surprisingly important perk. It’s true, plans change and you might end up veering off your itinerary but if suddenly find yourself not feeling the new travel plans, hostel, destination or group then you have every right and the power to say no. Seriously, this is YOUR trip. You don’t have to follow anyone else if you don’t want to.
5. Your self-confidence will grow
Photo credit: Leio McLaren
Everywhere you go will have its challenges, but they will only assist your problem-solving skills. These skills will allow your self-confidence to grow and benefit you for a lifetime. As a solo traveller, you’re everything from the navigator to the interpreter, banker and planner all at once. Not to mention, you learn a huge amount about new cultures and people. There’s no question you’ll grow and become stronger in yourself.
6. Packing gets easier… with a few goes
Discovering that being able to limit yourself to only the essentials is not a myth, and they really can be packed into one backpack in such an efficient way that frantic rummaging is avoided. Don’t believe me? I’ve got two words for you: packing cubes. They’re an absolute lifesaver when you’re trying to keep a messy bag to a minimum. You can fit more in (double perk) and you know where everything is. No more chaos. Read my tips for packing a carry-on here!
7. You will never feel 100% ready
Photo credit: Tyler Nix
Embrace that pre-trip crippling fear because all the planning in the world will never make you feel 100% ready. Yes, it’s time to step away from the laptop and the endless blogs, forums, videos and websites you’ve been trawling because just like any major decision in life you will never feel ready.
There will always be that little niggle of fear in your mind that’s whispering “oh God, you can’t do this”. Embrace it. Acknowledge it and push through it because when push comes to shove you actually know more than you realise. You just have to let yourself. Take that leap of faith and go. Being scared is a good thing, it means you’re on the right track.
8. You’ll get better at travel photography
Use your travels to improve your photography skills because the best souvenirs are memories and what better way to capture them than with a good quality photo? Say goodbye to the photo-bomb thumb (in my case) and own that camera. True, this takes time and a heck of a lot of fumbling when you’re solo. You don’t have the liberty of a travel photographer buddy. You don’t need to let that stand in your way. Bring a small tripod along with you or keep an eye out for people who are willing to take a photo of you.
Hot tip: go for people who have a camera themselves as chances are they’ll know what they’re doing. Incidentally, it’s good to wise up on the ethics of taking photos abroad. I’ve got you covered in this post here.
9. Travelling solo is a privilege
Photo credit: Maximilien T’Scharner
It’s important to understand that travelling is a huge privilege which isn’t awarded on a universal scale. Be grateful every day for such an opportunity, even when it gets hard. Appreciate it to its full potential for all the ladies out there for whom travelling can only remain a dream.
10. You’ll be unstoppable
And finally, alone time with yourself is a rewarding experience which will make you become more self-aware and independent. Having the courage to travel by yourself will make you realise that you don’t need to fit in with anyone else to appreciate you for you. A woman who knows what she’s capable of is unstoppable and such a realisation of strength will serve you long after your trip has ended. Get ready to own it!