Reaping the Rewards of Solo Travel

When it comes to solo travel, there are two kinds of people: those who love it and those who are anxious about it. For the fearless adventurers, going solo may provide much-needed time alone, which can be rare at home. These types enjoy being able to read, explore and eat what and when they want. Perhaps they’re so independent that they only make new friends if they feel like it and enjoy planning agendas that include time spent alone.

The more anxious group, on the other hand, may be concerned that solo travel would be too lonely. They may even worry about cultural stigmas attached to traveling solo, even on a business trip.

Whatever camp you fall into, here are some well-proven tips to traveling by yourself safely, smartly and enjoyably.

Solo Travel: Own It

It’s all about your mindset. If you’re worried people will think you have no friends, that you’ll be lonely or that there’s just something wrong with solo travel, here’s your first tip: Get over it.

Decide if this trip is a chance to enjoy some alone time or to meet natives or other travelers. There’s nothing wrong with either; it’s all up to you. But before you go, make sure you:

  • Make a copy of your itinerary and leave it with someone at home. Copy your passport and other important documents, scan them into your electronic devices and email them to a friend; this will make things easier if you lose your ID.
  • Don’t forget to do a little research so you’ll be prepared for your destination. Check in with your social networks for tips on places to visit or to schedule time with contacts in the place you’re traveling to.
  • Pack light for ease of movement. Look into the Transportation Security Administration’s precheck as a way to save time and reduce the stress of security lines.
  • Bring books and magazines (even the guilty pleasures), or load up your reading device. And if you’re bringing a smartphone or tablet, fill it with TV episodes or movies you’ve been meaning to binge-watch.

All Adventurers Are Created Equal

The idea that women shouldn’t travel alone tops our list of travel myths. But if you feel anxiety for any reason, it’s within your rights to bring along items (or skills) that make you feel safer. A safety whistle can work wonders, but even more empowering than that can be taking some self-defense classes so you can feel more at ease walking down those cobblestone streets alone at night. A few lessons before a big trip can make any traveler feel more confident.

Male or female, leave your high-end bling at home. Expensive watches, rings and your grandmother’s pearls may make you feel good, but leaving them locked at home provides you with one less thing you have to worry about losing.

Take Care of Yourself

Travel can be hard on the body, even if it’s just feeling cramped from a long flight. Make use of hotel fitness centers and spas when available. You can even ask about a local yoga class to stretch out physically and get aligned mentally, too. And, who knows? You may make some new friends to show you around the local spots.

If you’re on a long trip or have a lot of full days or nights, be sure to schedule some time to take it easy. Enjoy a leisurely morning at a cafe. See a show. Catch up on your sleep — remember, you’re on vacation.

Eating Alone

Don’t let sad memories of eating alone in the school cafeteria keep you from dining solo. Eat at the bar: You’ll feel less conspicuously stag than at a table, and you can chat up the bartender and other patrons. Or sit by a window and people-watch. Become a regular during your stay, and tip well from the start — it’s nice to have a “home spot” where waiters recognize you with a smile.

Last tip: Always carry protein bars and a bottle of water with you, in case adventure, work or travel delays keep you from a restaurant.

Whether you have natural anxiety at the thought of traveling alone or you get a thrill from the challenge, if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll find you can do more than you ever thought possible.

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