Cultural Experience | Resources

11 Tips for Surviving Your First Solo Travel Experience

Traveling solo doesn’t have to be scary. Make the most of your newly-found freedom with these 11 tips for surviving your first solo adventure.

1. When in doubt, go do something 

When you first arrive, it can be easy to stay holed-up in your room. I get it – it can feel very safe, especially if you’re feeling vulnerable traveling alone for the first time. I know it might be difficult, but resist this temptation. Grab your wallet and your camera (don’t forget your keys!) and go out on the town. Find a history museum, a delicious-looking restaurant, anything – whatever you do, just get yourself outside and start exploring with your new freedom! It might sound scary now, but you will thank yourself later for staying active.

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On my first day solo traveling in Tirana, Albania, I went to the history museum to learn about the past and present of this emerging democracy.


2. Try to make routines, old and new

Whether it’s a new school, destination, or experience, we can tend to feel very uncomfortable in new situations partially because our daily routines have been displaced. Try to keep up with your normal daily routines, like having that morning coffee while reading the newspaper, even when you’re traveling – it can help you feel more grounded in something familiar. Also see if you can find some new routines in line with local customs, like a daily walk in the evening.


3. Every day can be a different roller coaster of emotions – ride it out

One of the many reasons solo traveling is so amazing is that you have the opportunity to become much more in touch with your emotions, positive and negative. Especially when everything is so new during your first solo travel experience, every day might bring some unexpected feelings. Anticipate this and know that this is absolutely normal. Embrace these feelings, recognizing that nothing is forever. On the other hand, if you feel like you’re on top of the world, enjoy it!

11 Tips for Surviving Your First Solo Travel Experience durres albania smile beach sunset ocean sand study abroad intern image

4. You will get lonely (and that’s okay)

There’s no point in trying to fool yourself before you leave for your big solo adventure – there will be times that you will feel lonely. And that’s okay. Again, anticipate this, and when you come across this feeling, take the time to truly process and contemplate the emotion. Use this as an opportunity to not only get in touch with yourself, but also see how you handle such situations. It’s a valuable skill to know how you handle various emotions so that you can better cope the next time around. It’s all part of the process; embrace it.

More: Iceland: The Perfect Destination for Solo-Travellers

5. This too will pass

Much like the point above, if you find yourself overwhelmed, in over your head, or regretting that impromptu trip through the remote Albanian countryside crammed into the back of a Land Rover Defender with 3 young children (or maybe that’s just me…), know that these feelings of discomfort will pass. Loneliness will pass, too. The quote “life begins when you step outside of your comfort zone” is so true, so look at discomfort simply as a chance to grow as an independent individual. You never know what wonderful experiences and opportunities you will gain from immersing yourself in something wild and new.

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6. Be patient

I’m generally an impatient person. I’m used to efficiency, promptness, and punctuality, and I highly value these qualities in a person. However, it’s important to realize that even if you consider yourself patient, many other cultures in the world don’t operate as quickly or efficiently as yours might. Keep this in mind. In general, good things come to those who wait.


7. Don’t expect to make friends immediately (but expect to make friends)

Be patient when it comes to making friends abroad, too. Whether you’re shy or outgoing, making new friends while solo traveling can take a little time. Don’t expect to become the best of friends the first time you meet a person; just take it slow, be friendly, and let things progress naturally. At the same time, don’t worry that you will never make friends and that you will be lonely your entire journey – so many solo travelers make lifetime friendships while going it alone!

More: 10 Reasons not to wait for a travel partner and #travelsolo

8. Use Couchsurfing to make friends with travelers and locals

Especially if you’re based in a city for an extended period of time, Couchsurfing can be your best friend. I used Couchsurfing for the first time to find people to celebrate my birthday with me while solo traveling in Tirana, Albania, and it was so much fun! I hung out with many of them again and again throughout my time there. Post a topic on your city’s page about wanting to meet up and see what happens!

11 Tips for Surviving Your First Solo Travel Experience pub crawl birthday tirana albania couchsurfing friends study abroad intern image

I met these two Americans on a pub crawl in Tirana, Albania on my birthday! We’ve stayed in touch ever since.


9. Go with the flow

This is one of the biggest tips I can give to any solo traveler, or any traveler in general. Embracing this travel style of going with the flow is the best way to save money, feel more relaxed, and experience the most amazingly unanticipated journeys of your life! Being flexible and seeing where life takes you is one of the most important parts of solo traveling, and you will grow tremendously because of it.

11 Tips for Surviving Your First Solo Travel Experience theth albania hike mountains river study abroad intern image

I found a last-minute trip on an all-Albanian tour group traveling to Theth in the northern Albanian highlands, and I ended up having the experience of a lifetime!


10. Be satisfied with the little things

When you go with the flow, sometimes even the most amazing of experiences will have times that are uncomfortable, too. It’s times like these where it’s important to stop and appreciate the basics – you have air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink; you’re alive. Embracing the little things and realizing how little you really need is one of the most liberating feelings you will ever experience.


11. You’re so much stronger than you think

Solo travel is full of ups and downs. When you encounter times where you feel hopeless or lost, remember that you are so much stronger than you think you are, and solo travel is only making you stronger. When it comes down to it, you will feel like you’re on top of the world and can conquer any challenge – and that’s because you can.

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Claire Johnson

University of Michigan | 9 stories

Claire Johnson is an undergraduate student at The University of Michigan studying Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience. She has studied abroad in Austria and interned abroad in Albania. She also runs her own travel site for college students, The Wayfaring Collegiate. You can find these articles and more at

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