Heading out to the wide world alone may sound a bit intimidating, but travelling solo will be one your best travel experiences, once you plan it well. Solo travelling is a great option for a student, as travelling alone you'll be able to keep your budget both low and in control, and you are also the master of your own schedule and activities. Also, as a student, it's easy to dive into the local student culture and life by attending local student events, and gain new friends this way.
The best practices of solo travelling follow pretty much along the lines of the best practices of travelling in general, and common sense is a good travel companion for both solo travelling and travelling with other people. However, there are some aspects to solo travelling worth taking note of before take off.
A few basic things: be prepared to drive and learn to say no effectively, but politely. Driving is the best way to get around alone in many destinations and it's also relatively safe. Yes, in many countries public transportation is effective, cheap and safe, but especially in smaller towns and hamlets, in rural areas or when covering longer distances, a car will prove itself useful. Learning to say no in the local tongue and determined will also come in handy, guaranteed. Trust your instinct: if something seems off, fishy or uncomfortable, try to remove yourself from the situation quickly and safely. Don't show off your tourist: if you need to read a map, don't do it out on the street alone, but rather enter a convenience store or a post office to read your map and find your way. Confidence is key when trying to keep unwelcome acquaintances at a distance: a few words in the local language will make you seem like you know a bit about your destination and the local life, and you know what you are doing.
Where to travel?
A suitable destination for solo travelling is any destination that sparks your interest. Outside the season, solo travelling can be super cheap regardless of your destination. Cities are fantastic destinations for a solo traveller, as they are brimming with activities, events, sights and potential new acquaintances as well! London and Paris are wonderful examples of city destinations with their abundant activity, restaurant, theatre, museum and sights supply. Especially in Europe, it is fairly easy to combine multiple city destinations to a solo interrail, for example. If you are interested in a longer trip, many travel companies organize road trips for groups, where the participants do not know each other beforehand. What better way to get friends on your travels? Of course, it's absolutely possible to hit the road on your own, too, as long as you've prepared a solid playlist for your road trip! For a nature lover, national parks are a great destination, especially if you're interested in outdoor activities, such as hiking, kayaking, rock climbing or mountaineering. Booking your spot in a group for these activities is also a fantastic way to meet new people and other travellers, with whom you can hang out also after the trip is done. Remember to keep your family and friends at home informed about your location and travel plans, and also inform your accommodation or landlord/landlady when and where you're out and about: if something happens, at least someone knows where you were headed and where you've last been.
How to find company during your travels?
Participating in guided tours and activities is a good way to get to know new people and meet other travellers. Participating in tours organized by your hostel will usually hook you up with travellers staying at your hostel, and most likely also other solo travellers. Hostels are overall great places to meet other travellers, and if the communal areas at your hostel are empty, find a nearby hostel or a hostel bar and see, if there's a bit more buzz there. If you are interested in a specific sight or activity, use MeetUp to find other like-minded travellers or local dwellers to go with you, or to find an activity that sparks your interest. Many cities and neighbourhoods also have a Facebook page, from where you can find company, activities and locals to guide you around the town. Also, remember to utilize your own network: has a friend of yours been to this destination before, and do they know someone local who's a great friend and could show you around? Maybe an acquaintance lives where you are travelling, and definitely knows what's worth exploring there? Don't forget to use your network when planning your solo trip!
Loneliness vs. being alone
Solo travelling is wonderful, but there's a difference between being alone and being lonely. If you feel lonely while on the road, sit down for a moment before starting to book flights home. Take care of your basic needs first: when you are hungry and tired, homesickness hits you a hundred times harder in comparison to being fed and well-rested. Travelling and visiting new places is lovely, but also exhausting, so remember to pamper yourself with time off travelling while out there. Binging on Netflix and eating takeout food may seem like a waste of time when you're 10 000 kilometres away from home, but it's probably exactly what you need to tackle the travel angst. A good book is also a great way to enter a new world and escape the physical side of travelling for a moment without leaving your room. Even though you may now feel miserable, remember that you are travelling solo, which in itself is quite an achievement, and you can be proud of yourself. If your homesickness becomes unbearable, you may of course contact your loved ones back at home, but in the long run it might make your homesickness even worse. It's not always possible to deceive loneliness, and sometimes the best option is to just retreat to your own thoughts for a day or two. Solid thinking for a moment may help you find new ways to tackle loneliness and homesickness, and learn to enjoy being on your own again.
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