Thoughts From a First Solo Travel Experience
My latest trip to Prague had one key difference to many of my others: it was my first real solo trip. Solo travel is something I’d long been nervous about. But once you get used to it, it’s a lot of fun
If you are talking about travelling on my own, then technically it wasn’t. I’ve had four other trips (Paris, Venice, Luxembourg and Dubai) for business in which I added a day of annual leave to travel solo. But Prague was the first where I had no work to do and consciously chose to have the trip.
Despite often reading from my fellow travel bloggers the benefits of solo travel, I’d never really taken advantage of it. I love the idea of being able to do what I want when I want. But I’m also a socially awkward person who’s thinking “Do I look weird when I’m eating on my own?” and “What if I want to try the local beer?” Most importantly I’m thinking “what if something goes wrong?”
So why start travelling solo now?
I never thought I’d be the type to feel comfortable with solo travel. However, after my flight back from a business trip in Venice got cancelled a few years ago, I suddenly found myself with a weekend on my own. I ended up having a good time; it eased me into the idea because I had no choice.
When the person that was supposed to come with me to Prague had their annual leave denied quite close to the date of the trip, I thought why not go anyway?
I found out that it is easy to learn some tricks and tips to make a first solo trip fun. And in fact, it was perhaps even more fun than travelling with others. Here are my thoughts about solo travel.
Take an engrossing book
And pick a destination with cosy cafes. How often have I gotten to sit in a local cafe and just read my book on past trips? Answer: never. I also used cafe stop-offs as a way to warm up and to get all my thoughts down in my travel journal right away, which I never get to do!
Do things you wouldn’t on a group trip
“Hey let’s get up before sunrise to go look at Charles Bridge” would have probably gotten me a “no thanks” or “do we have to” when travelling with anyone else. Even after I explained we could see it without the crowds/take gorgeous photos. On this trip, I only had myself to battle with.
Charles Bridge at sunrise – worth getting up for
If you want to just spend a day wandering down whichever street you want, it’s completely up to you. Feel like hiking out of your way just to see one thing you want to? No one will complain. Or maybe you just feel like going and taking a nap randomly at 3 pm one day. Absolutely no one cares.
Consider a tour
I’m not talking about spending the whole trip on a tour or a tour that you could get more out of a Wikipedia page. Find something that interests you and see if there’s a group tour you can take.
For example, the Czech Republic’s beer is world famous. But I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy drinking a beer sat on my own in a bar. I wanted something that felt like a night out with like-minded people. As a result, I ended up on a beer tasting tour with a group. In the end, I had a great night chatting and meeting new people.
Even though Matt and I are travelling to Malta in the autumn together, he’s not as much of a fan of water sports as I am. I’m already looking at what paddleboarding and kayaking tours are available that I can take solo.
Start with lunch
Ok my fellow socially awkward people, this one’s for you. You want to eat out and experience all the food but you feel weird sitting alone. First of all, you shouldn’t and no one has noticed that you are. Still feeling awkward? Start with lunch. It is so much more common to see lots of people having lunch alone than dinner and you’ll get more comfortable with dining solo.
Take a book while you wait for your food. Or do what I did: start making notes about your trip and making social media posts on your phone! I think every one of my Instagram posts from Prague was made while I was waiting for my food.
Taking pictures on a solo trip is challenging
I think this is my least favourite thing about solo travel, I end up being in almost none of the pictures from my trip! I especially love the ones that Matt usually takes. He takes tons of photos and often I don’t know he’s taking them, which always end up being my favourite ones of me! I usually do manage to get a few beyond just selfies. Couples or families also often ask me to get a picture of them together and I’ll ask if they can take a few in return.
Picking the right destination
I think the more I travel alone the more comfortable I’ll feel about it, but I do think it helps to pick the right place for your first trip or two.
Prague was a great pick for my solo trip – it’s safe, easy to get around, and the type of place where I just wanted to walk around looking at everything. Everyone spoke English and I felt quite comfortable there. I found Venice and Dubai to be quite easy to travel solo to, and even though I went there with Matt, Copenhagen would make a great first solo travel trip!
I’m a planner when I travel anyway. I don’t map out an itinerary for each day, but I usually have a list of some things I’d like to see at some point during the time I’m visiting a place. Before I leave, I know roughly how to get from A to B, and know where I’m sleeping each night. And there’s another challenge: I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, meaning planning ahead is even more important to make sure I feel comfortable.
Before I left for Prague I knew exactly what route to take from the airport to my Airbnb, where to get a bit of currency before leaving the airport, and all my instructions on checking in to the accommodation. Of course, Europe is an easy one for me because my data works, but I think making sure you’ve arranged a SIM card if you don’t have your data is extra important when travelling solo.
Acting like a local
I kept getting confused for a local person while in Prague – people kept coming up to me to ask directions and I went to more than one place where the staff would speak to most people in English and turn around and start speaking Czech to me. Whether it was because I was on my own or because I’m so used to London (walking quickly, avoiding crowds, acting like I know where I’m going when I definitely do not), I’ve found this useful, even if it’s just because it makes me feel more comfortable.
You might not enjoy it at first
And that’s OK. I have had solo trips I just didn’t enjoy. For example, while in Paris on a business trip about five years ago, I just didn’t feel comfortable enough to go out in the evenings or to stray too far from the area I was staying in for various reasons. And it was my third time in Paris so I did know the city a bit already.
But solo travel is addicting
One month after getting back from Prague and I took an even bigger step – I booked a three week trip to Australia for November. While I won’t be on my own the whole time as I’ll be visiting with friends and family along the way, it still felt like a major step, much more challenging than a short city break! But it will be worth it, my biggest obstacle for visiting the country I’ve most wanted to see since I was about 3 was that I couldn’t find anyone to come along!
It is also proving much easier to plan than last year’s trip to Vietnam with Matt, as much as I’ll miss him while I’m away. I don’t have to take into account anyone’s budget or opinions but my own, or worry that he’s not enjoying it because I’ve tried to pack too much into one trip, no pressure of “can we just sit around and do nothing today”.
Have you done solo trips or would you consider it? What would you be most concerned about?
I love the freedom of travelling solo. There’s something very liberating about being able to choose exactly what you want to do, and when.
Mel • Your Travel Handbook
Some great thoughts! I love the idea of being able to do whatever you feel like and joining in group tours that interest you. November will be a great time to come to Australia, where will you be visiting?
Off a Small Island
Thanks! Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with a few stops along the way!
I love solo trips because you’re in control of your space.
You don’t need approval from friends before doing things you would enjoy normally and you can socialize with locals.
The Girl in Flat 26
I guess my biggest worry would be safety, but I agree when you say Prague feels safe, quite a lot of European cities do. Having someone to share the experience with is just the norm for me. 🙂 Good luck in Aus – I hope you have a brilliant time!
Off a Small Island
Yeah there’s loads of places I’d never travel to alone to because I’d worry about safety. Prague was a good choice for that, I figured I live in London and it felt safer than that
🌸 AlishaValerie. (@AlishaValerie)
You’re so brave beautiful for travelling alone, I would adore to go backpacking alone but sadly due to health reasons, I’m unable to do so. 🌸💜
With love, Alisha Valerie x | http://www.alishavalerie.com
My first solo trip was backpacking through Ireland when I was a senior at colage. I loved it and good for you to make a step foward. Glad you injoyed your solo trip.
I found this post so comforting. I have travelled lot but never on my own and I head to Belfast for 3 days solo next month! I opted to stay in a dorm so hopefully I can make friends whilst there ha!
Lola Mia x
Off a Small Island
Belfast is good one! I’ve been a few times, just brief day trips as my Grandad lives in Derry. I think it’s a good one for a solo trip
I found this comforting I am taking my first solo trip next month! Eeeeek. I opted for a shared dorm so hopefully can tag along with some people! ha!
Lola Mia x
Off a Small Island
Staying in a hostel with a shared dorm is a good idea as you will likely run into a lot of people, probably a few travelling alone! I ended up in an Airbnb as I’d already paid for it when there were two of us going but may do a couple of hostels in Australia. Where are you off to?
I’ve travelled solo for a long time until I met my Hubby. Most of the time I truly loved it, but you are right, some cities are just not for solo travel. Paris for me was a great solo travel, but Cardiff on the other hand was a real drab. Enjoy your Australian adventure!
This is a great article. I have just started entertaining the idea of solo travel! I am a bit nervous about it, but I am going to give it a try. Start small and just go somewhere new, not too far from where I live (driveable) on my own. I want to do some solo camping trips.
Off a Small Island
I was really nervous before my trip, I agree about starting small! Mini breaks or an overnight stay is good to feel more comfortable with it I think !
It is so cool that you went on a solo trip! It shows independence and you get to spend time collecting your thoughts. Biggest perk is that you get to pick whatever you want to do without feeling guilty about others, I always love acting like a local when I travel. That’s when you have the most fun! Glad you had a great time!
Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me
These are great tips! I think traveling alone would be more relaxing. You don’t have to worry about keeping anyone else entertained. Plus you get to do exactly what you want! 🙂
Nice post ….hope your OZ trip will be great.
Haven’t done a solo trip yet, but would love to try! Prague is a great place for travelling solo. However taking pictures alone must be annoying 🙂
My first solo trip was in London. Then, Canada and Hawaii. Oddly, I felt more comfortable in London and Canada on my own than I did in Hawaii. It could be that Hawaii was more of a romantic getaway and I was there solo. lol I still had fun and would it do it again in a heartbeat. Glad you’re enjoying your trips!
Off a Small Island
London is a great one for a solo trip! I explore here constantly on my own so I can see why you felt more comfortable, it’s much easier to blend in like a local!
You are so brave and inspirational! I love travel, but I have never had the courage to do it alone. Thank you for sharing your tips and making it all seem less daunting. It sounds like you had a wonderful experience and that is so exciting you are off to Australia next. I’m sure you will have a brilliant time! Fab post! <3 xx
Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com
Hi! I’m going to be travelling alone for the first time in about December and I’m going to Dubai. I’m really awkward as you mentioned but I’m looking forward to it. My main concern is eating alone and I become conscious of it and I want to try different foods and I worry that I’ll miss out on things because I’m alone and I can’t try everything.
So great you’ve booked your first solo trip! Dubai is a great one to visit solo. Yes I agree the eating alone can be the most daunting, but this would be my advice: bring a book or something for while you wait for your food (I usually do my instagram photos from the day or write in my travel journal), ask to sit by a window or near a view so you have something to look at while you eat if you can, start with breakfast or lunch (loads of people eat lunch and breakfast on their own so it might help you feel more comfortable), casual eateries and Dubai’s hotel restaurants are also good choices – after all remember that lots of people travel to Dubai for business alone or just for solo travel! You’ll be surprised how quickly you get used to it and how nice staff generally are to people travelling solo. If you still feel odd about it, consider finding a food tour, loads of cities offer them and it can be a great way to experience local food in a group setting – I did this in Prague because I wanted to try the beer and everyone was so nice