Traveling alone can be a lot of things: relaxing, thrilling, stressful, and downright scary as hell. If you’re careful about where you go, how you get there, and how you conduct yourself when you’re there, traveling solo can be a safe and rewarding experience. Go where you want, when you want. But if you’re ready to take the plunge and travel by yourself, there are a couple things you need to remember to ensure your trip is safe and amazing.
First, know what you’re getting yourself into. Do as much destination research as you possibly can—in books, maps, the internet, or talk to friends. The more prepared you feel for the trip the better it will be, and the less stressed you’ll feel.
Additionally, you’ll want to know how best to fit in with the culture you’re visiting. Spend some time interacting with strangers and locals, or at least observing them first. Read up on the people you’ll be mingling with. If there’s a language barrier, memorize some useful go-to phrases.
Be smart about where you stay. It may not be a smart idea to be very isolated from other people (unless you’re into that, which I very much respect), so look for good hostels with community hangouts near great social scenes. Use a service like Hostel World to find the right place. Staying in a hostel can save you a lot of money, too—it’s rare that a single room is less expensive per person per night, ever.
Most importantly, even more than balancing a budget or choosing the right hotel, think about your safety. New countries or cities can be unfamiliar, and that’s scary. Be aware of your surroundings at all times: travel sans headphones or iPod, keep valuables out of easy reach, and keep stuff like a credit card, an ID, and the number of a local cab hidden close to you in case you get into a sticky wicket.
A lot of people are reluctant to travel without a companion with whom to share the experience. If you’re brave enough to go anyway but you’re worried you might get lonely on your trip, all you really need to do is look around you. Wherever you’re thinking of going is probably chock-full of other travelers, alone or not. Visit local eateries or pubs. Chat with other people in your hostel (especially these!) or hotel, or use social media to get in contact with other travelers.
Be smart, be safe, and be open to new experiences, and your solo trip is bound to be a wonderful experience.