How to be a Solo Traveller – 7 Tips for Lonesome Wanderers

How to Be a Solo Traveller – Top 7 Tips for Lonesome Wanderers

One thing is for sure, solo travelling has a very liberating and even emancipating effect on today’s adventurer. At the same, it can also make one feel lonely, exhausted, and self-conscious. Overall, going off the beaten path on your own will teach you life lessons, will make you stronger, and will make you want more. If you are about to venture out by yourself, learn from my mistakes, because I guess that’s what I am here for. :-)

1. Know what you are in for

Travelling can be overwhelming. In fact, adjusting to new climates (I am talking -10°C to +40°C), attempting at communicating in completely foreign countries, or nearly being run over by masses of people while figuring out where you are can get the best of some. This is why it is crucial to not over-commit oneself on a first trip overseas. In other words, take it slow. You might be thinking, but that’s what it’s all about – throwing your self in the deep end and making an adventure out of it. Believe me, once you are lost somewhere in the middle of nowhere with no one familiar around and no food in sight, you’ll wish you tested the waters beforehand. Joining a group or taking a trip with your best friends will ease you into the exciting world of travelling without pushing you to your limits.

I definitely knew what I was in for after crashing my bike on a Javanese dirt road
I definitely knew what I was in for after crashing my bike on a Javanese dirt road

2. Get a remote instead of a selfie stick

Some describe selfie sticks asconvenient. Others see them as narcissistic, annoying, and even dangerous. Insofar that they have been completely banned at a variety of must-see places, ranging from the Coachella Festival to the National Gallery in London. It is clearly time to move on and look for smarter alternatives. I am often asked how I manage to get photos taken in remote place whilst travelling alone. Thanks to a very handy remote(it’s only $10!), I was able to take most of my recent photos from China and Vietnam by myself . A similar effect can be achieved with a gorilla pod and your in-camera timer. The outcome will be far superior to that of a selfie stick photo, and will let you create memories worth sharing.

can you spot the remote?
can you spot the remote?

3. Pull your weight

How many kgs can you comfortably carry around? Figure it out, then half it. This is how much you should be taking on your next solo journey. It continues to surprise me how much time I manage to waste going from the airport to the train station to the taxi stand to the ho(s)tel. The amount of time a solo traveller off the beaten path spends lifting up or carrying around his/her luggage is actually astounding. Have a bag or suitcase light enough and tough enough to be dragged from the top of a truck to the front of a leaky boat and beyond. Less is more, light is fast, and if you are wondering what to pack, have a read of this.

survival is key for any piece of luggage © Caroline Schröder

4. Get amongst it

The moments in which you are fully immersed will be those remembered for a lifetime. One of the biggest fears of solo travellers is engaging with others. Taking the first step to say hi to complete strangers will open up endless opportunities (you might just meet a local who will show you the best spots in town) while enabling you to build a worldwide network of friends. Practice makes perfect and I promise you will soon overcome this fear. In fact, job interviews or first dates will be a breeze after spending months introducing yourself to all kinds of people. It is best to let go of any expectations, and just roll with it. Enjoy!

PS. Studying a few phrases in the local language will help greatly in this department.

spending some time with the local school kids in the Mekong Delta
spending some time with the local school kids in the Mekong Delta

5. Be Prepared

Last Christmas Day, I arrived in very small (even for Chinese standards, that is) town in Central China. It was 5am, I had spent the last 6 hours trying not to fall off my top bunk in a smokey train wagon. Drowsy me stepped outside to be welcomed by a pitch black -19°C. Merry Christmas to me! Sometimes, booking your accommodation in advance could really pay off, especially in remote locations where the likes of internet access or English-speaking locals are simply very far away. Keep your travel arrangements flexible while pre-booking on days you travel a lot. Also, prepare yourself to be lost in translation and either do some homework beforehand or let your smartphone do the work for you. Lugging around heavy travel guides can be a pain and easily reveals the ‘I am tourist’ flag. Instead, go with the PDF version to pull it up on your portable devices. Finally, extra camera batteries may just get you that perfect shot at the end of a three day hike and an easy way to back up your photos, such as a SIM card reader for iPads, or a wireless transmitting camera, will make your trip hassle free.

... and sometimes patience triumphs any form of preperation
… and sometimes patience triumphs any form of preparation

6. Factor in Fudge

Having some down-time to reflect and contemplate will make your solo adventure truly worth-while in the long run. You may find yourself constantly surrounded by different people speaking different languages in different locations. Travelling is all about embracing change and having time to yourself enables the modern adventurer to become more aware (of oneself and one’s surroundings), which is essential to adapting to change. Whether you spend an afternoon sipping coffee watching life go by on a busy plaza or you go for an early morning hike to watch the sun rise over the mountains, be sure to factor in a few days of fudge to take it all in.

"I live not in dreams but in contemplation of a reality that is perhaps the future."
“I live not in dreams but in contemplation of a reality that is perhaps the future.”

7. Believe in yourself

It’s such an easy thing to say, isn’t it? Believe in yourself. Yet most of us doubt their own ideas more than those of others. If I had to give you only one piece of advice for your upcoming adventures, it would be to remember one of my favourite quotes:

They are able who think they are able.

#neverstopexploring
#neverstopexploring

Have you been on a solo adventure yet? If so, how was it? If not, would you like to?

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  • I’ve done a bit of solo travel around New Zealand but not overseas (yet!), and I love it! I really like being able to do things at my own pace and if I want to spend more time doing something than expected then I can without putting anyone out.

  • I hiked in the Himalayas and went dog sledding in Quebec on my own. I was in sometimes daunting and hospitable environments where I felt very small, vulnerable and, at times, scared. But what made these adventures special was how empowered I felt to walk amongst the worlds highest mountains, and sled in some of the coldest temperatures, on my own. I learned that everything I need to be happy, to live fully, and to enjoy my life, is within me. It has made me a better partner having the belief that I can be happy and fulfilled just as much on my own, as when I am with someone.

  • Every New Zealand winter since I retired I travel overseas on my own…through Southeast Asia, China, India, Africa for 5 months at a time. Sometimes friends or my sister join me for a month at a time but mostly I’m on my own. I have learned I can travel well with a carryon and a small over the shoulder bag. Traveling on your own is the very best way to meet people. Traveling with someone is easier in mant ways but I wouldn’t trade my alone travel time for anything. Have courage, try it. You won’t look back.