4 Less Common Tips For Solo Travel
Four simple tips to help you feel less lonely when traveling alone.
There are only really four senses you need when you travel solo: a sense of safety, of humor, and of adventure.
One of my first rules for traveling alone, whether it’s around the world or just on the subway is “don’t bring headphones.”
As someone who carries around her headphones religiously, this has been a hard rule to break. But for good reason. Pack them with you, sure, but don’t have them on your person. Headphones are an instant opportunity block. How many conversations will you over hear? None. How much of the local buzz will you hear? None. How many times will you strike up a conversation with another solo traveler? Probably zero.
I get the temptation to use headphones and music as a comfort blanket to protect you from the loneliness that can hit from solo travel. I know how fun it can be to just plug in and pretend you are in your own little movie montage with your favorite soundtrack, but sometimes the better option is to unplug and tune in to what’s around you. Not only is this safer by making you more aware of your surroundings, but it is much more rewarding too.
Smile! This is a good rule for life and I know it makes you want to roll your eyes to infinity but I’ve been trying this for the past few weeks and not only does it make other people feel good and more likely to approach you, but it’s pretty hilarious too. People don’t smile at each other very often so you can get a good chuckle out of the incredulous double take people do when you catch them off guard with a friendly smile. This is the original icebreaker. But try to be judicious in who you give a smile to, lest you end up giving a silent thumbs up to a potential creep.
Traveling to beautiful places always means taking beautiful pictures, too. But how many times have you posed by yourself in front of a monument while a stranger has taken your picture? Oh, never? Well, get ready. My fool proof tactic is to find a couple or group of people. Ask one of them to take your picture, and ask the rest of them to get in the picture with you. Yes, everyone in the picture! It may seem a little odd at first but hardly ever will someone turn you down. Even better, ask someone to take a selfie with you. The people who are game for that are the people you should start a conversation with. Not only do you have record of your travels, but you have a bunch of pictures with random strangers cheesing right along with you. It’ll make a great story to take home to your friends and family. “These are all my international friends!” Hello fool proof icebreaker, nice to meet you.
Keep a travel log. There will likely be a lot of instances where you will turn and look next to you out of reflex to share with someone the places you are visiting. Because of that, there will likely be a lot of instances where you will get weird looks from strangers. This is why I suggest keeping a travel log. Write down your thoughts and feelings, your big revelations and your little ones. Writing down your thoughts as you visit each place is just as good as having someone there to share with you because you are having a conversation with you and yourself. It will also become a treasured, homemade souvenir from your travels. To make it even more meaningful, see if you can find a handmade journal in a street fair or market. I still have my teal leather bound diary from London with a dragonfly set in topaz on the front and it is probably my favorite thing I’ve ever brought home aside from my mini alpaca fur figurine from Peru.
There are only really four senses you need when you travel solo: a sense of safety, of humor, and of adventure. If you have these, you will no doubt find the fourth and most important sense one can have while traveling alone: a sense of self.