The (Not-So) Lonely Traveler

· Discovering the benefits of traveling alone ·

Stockholm, the first city I ever traveled to alone. I never once felt unsafe in the friendly, beautiful Scandinavian city.

While one of the best things about traveling is sharing your experiences with others, traveling alone can also be very rewarding. There’s no stress over whether or not everyone will get what they want out of the trip and you have no one to consider but yourself.

Solo travel may seem scary at first, but once you’ve done it once or twice, you may come to decide you prefer it over traveling with others. There is something exciting, encouraging and engaging about exploring somewhere new on your own. The entire itinerary is yours. That itinerary can change on your own whim, no discussions or mutual decisions to come to. You can eat where and when you want, only spend money on things you want to spend money on and spend as much or as little time at sights as you please. Sometimes it’s a wonder people travel in groups at all!

Not only do you get to make all the decisions, there is also more opportunity for a more enriching experience. You’re more likely to make friends at a hostel than if you already have friends. You’ll be more aware of your surroundings and be able to connect with the country you’re visiting in a different way.

Of course, the decision whether or not to travel alone is intensely personal. There are many factors to consider as you decide whether or not to travel alone, but don’t let fear be one of them. Here are our top tips for traveling alone.

Choose somewhere safe for solo travelers

Stockholm: a safe, friendly, beautiful city to travel alone – even in the rain!

Especially on your first trip alone, try to choose a country or city known for being friendly and safe. Travel + Leisure has a great list of places for female travellers to head to alone. Consider what language they speak, the size of the city, their reputation on safety, and their attitude towards outsiders. My first trip somewhere alone was to Stockholm, Sweden. The Scandinavian countries – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland – are fairly safe bets as their laws and culture foster a safe environment. Trending destination Iceland is also known for being friendly to solo travellers while maller cities like Amsterdam and Dublin make for accessible and welcoming destinations. All of these cities are full of people who speak English, are welcoming to visitors, and have generally safe reputations. They’re amazing places to immerse yourself and make friends, too.

Do some planning beforehand

Best do at least some planning to guide your trip. Image via Dribble

While there’s nothing better than wandering a new place, discovering sights as you go along, as a solo traveller it is beneficial to have a bit of a plan before heading out. This helps you avoid aimless wandering and ensures that you get the most of your time.

That being said, don’t be afraid to let the city and its inhabitants change those plans. Meeting new people and following their recommendations can provide you with a unique experience that no one else can have. Embrace a little spontaneity, but start with a basis of a plan – it’s safer that way.

Find accommodation within walking distance of the centre of town

These £8 shoes saw London, Dublin, Rome, Stockholm, Boston and Seattle before they gave up on me.

No matter what kind of accommodation you go for – hostel, hotel, Airbnb – try to not skimp on location. This will help you avoid needing taxis or sometimes even navigating public transport. It will save you time and ensure that anything you may need is close by. Shuttles in from the airport or train stations are hopefully nearby, and it adds that bit of ease to your travels.

Go for a hostel dorm – but bring a lock

Sunrise from a hostel in London where two girls from Germany befriended me and asked me to join them at the pub that night.

Eschew privacy and luxury for a bit and choose a hostel dorm instead of a hotel or Airbnb. While your digs may not be as glamourous or private as you may typically like, you’ll have a better chance of meeting other travellers. I’ve made countless friends staying in my hostel dorm and have been invited out with them at night, giving me something to do instead of staying in my hostel once it got dark. Most people in hostels are friendly and respectful – but do bring a lock to safely store your prized possessions.

Find something to do at night

Don’t let fear keep you in and stop you from seeing the sights as they light up for the night. Find something you feel safe and comfortable doing, but don’t hole yourself up!

Even if you don’t make friends who invite you to tag along at night, try to find something you feel comfortable doing at night alone so you don’t miss out on the different look to a city at night. In Rome? Grab a gelato and wander the streets, seeing the sights in a new light. Want to experience the nightlife? Look for a pub crawl where you’ll be in a group setting rather than heading to a bar alone (I highly recommend the Camden Pub Crawl in London – solo or not!). Rick Steves suggests finding a nighttime tour – perhaps a river cruise in Paris or the eerie Jack the Ripper tour in London.

Check out a concert, play, or even movie. I went to the movie Ted in Stockholm and it turned out to be a culturally enriching experience (probably the only time that’s ever been said about that film). Firstly, I experienced a different style of movie theatre in which we waited until they called our theatre to enter rather than heading straight there. But mostly, it was because, as I watched the American movie with Swedish subtitles, I realized that movies like that are American exports and for some people, it’s all they know of America. Which was a pretty embarrassing realization to say the least.

Traveling alone helps you be more present! Amsterdam is a safe and beautiful city to visit alone.

No matter what you decide to do, I guarantee you won’t regret traveling alone. As long as you’re aware and avoid risky situations, you should be safe and happy traveling alone. But be careful – once you travel alone, you may never want to travel in a group again!


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