I did it. I took the leap and went half way around the world by myself. It’s not that taking a solo trip was particularly scary for me, but it was definitely out of my comfort zone.
Everybody was curious as to who would accompany me on this huge trip. Many were shocked when I said I was going alone. The more people I talked to, the nervous I got. Just about everybody I talked to warned me of the dangers that lie overseas.
But made it through. I lived to this point, and I am here to share what I learned during my first solo trip.
7 Things I Learned During My First Solo Trip
I am not going to sit here and pretend that I had an Eat, Pray, Love sort of experience. But I definitely learned a lot during this trip.
I’m also not claiming to be any sort of solo travel pro. Really, I’m here to share quite the opposite.
My trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand taught me a little bit about myself and a lot about travel in general. Here’s what I learned.
1 – It Gets Lonely
The first two days of my trip were spent at a conference, so I assumed I’d meet people to hang out during the remainder of my trip. I was wrong.
As somebody who spends a ton of time alone (mostly because I work from home), this was a bit difficult. I am typically super social, but I have a hard time approaching people and making the first move.
Being 12 hours ahead of my friends and family at home meant there were a lot of times that I didn’t have anybody to talk to if I was desperate for some conversation.
Something that was great for beating the loneliness — and the occasional boredom that came with it — was doing Airbnb experiences. These are small tours and experiences lead by locals.
The groups were very small (most are capped at 10 people, but mine each had 5) so it was easy to get to know the other people. I spent time with people from around the world who had all different backgrounds and reasons for traveling.
One woman made a comment about how much she enjoys traveling alone because her job demands a lot of attention and interaction with others. This opened my eyes to the different perspectives of different travellers.
Learn more about getting discounts on Airbnb experiences.
2 – But Being Alone is Nice
Traveling alone really gives you the power to travel exactly how you want to.
I had a ton of quiet time to rest, work and do whatever I wanted. Despite the moments of boredom and loneliness, spending time alone was pretty refreshing.
I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. There was no coming to a compromise on where to eat or what to do. If I wanted to go to sleep at 9:00 PM, I didn’t have to worry about if somebody else wanted to go out.
There was nobody else to answer to or compromise with.
3 – Plan More Carefully
So, I pretty much booked this trip on a whim. Here’s how it went: I saw a post about the SEO conference, bought a ticket and booked flights all in a span of about 20 minutes.
While I am glad I booked the trip, I should’ve worked out the logistics a little better. I did not consider the dates I was traveling, and I missed a huge festival in Chiang Mai by about 24 hours.
I didn’t consider how rough the jet lag would be. My plane arrived the evening before my conference, and I slept through over half the work shops.
Next time, I will plan my layovers better because the 12 hour time change and full day of travel made adjusting really rough and I wasted so many days sleeping.
Since I was traveling alone absolutely all of the planning was up to me. I know now that I need to pay attention to even the smallest of details.
4 – Be Ready to Face Your Fears
For many, boarding the plan to head around the world is really scary, so even making the trip is facing a huge fear.
Booking my first solo trip was a feat in itself. It wasn’t that I was particularly scared of going, but it was a giant area of unknown.
I definitely had some small fears going into this trip and most of them surrounded food. I know it sounds silly, but I am not a brave eater. Ordering food from a restaurant was seriously the scariest thing to me.
It took an unreasonable amount of convincing and pep talks to get myself into stores and restaurants. But I did it. I was mostly nervous about the language barrier.
Approaching others was also way out of my comfort zone. This was a fear that I didn’t completely overcome on this trip. But I know next time I travel alone I’ll need to make a greater effort with this.
Something else that held me back at first was an overwhelming fear of accidentally offending somebody. Chiang Mai has a very unique culture, and I didn’t want to accidentally do something rude.
Getting to know locals who were open to my million questions was really helpful. I was able to ask them about common behaviors that I observed but didn’t understand (like people bowing to me).
If I learned anything from my solo trip, it was that I have to put myself out there, go beyond the confines of my comfort zone and face some fears.
5 – The World is Not Out to Get You
So many people — mostly people who have never really traveled — warned me of the dangers that I’d face overseas. I was told I’d be raped, kidnapped and killed. This is not to say that there are dangerous places on the other side of the world, but there are also lots of dangerous places here in the United States.
I actually felt safer in Chiang Mai than in NYC during the layover on my way home.
The only time I felt really scared was when I arrived early to a meeting point for a sunrise hike. I was on the outskirts of town at 5:35 AM and I couldn’t find where I was supposed to be.
I talked to 4 people and they didn’t understand what I was asking them. They did not come across as threatening. But they knew that I was lost in the middle of the night so it would’ve been easy for them to rob me or take advantage of me.
6 – But Be Safe
Even though I didn’t come across any danger, I know that it is there. I just don’t let the possibility of danger (which is absolutely everywhere) scare me from traveling.
You just cannot let your guard down.
Blending in rather than drawing attention to yourself is important. Don’t flash your money or valuables. Wear plain clothes.
Something that one of my professors said when I studied abroad was to not act like an American. In Asia, it was a bit difficult to hide my ethnicity because I am clearly caucasian, but in Europe it’s much easier.
She told us not to speak English too loudly. What it came down to was not being obnoxious or flashy.
Just pay attention to your surroundings and follow your intuition. And don’t be too trusting!
7 – Solo Travel is Not for Everybody
While I enjoyed my solo trip, I can see why others wouldn’t. You have to be confident and adaptable.
There is some extra effort that comes with traveling alone. All of the planning responsibility falls on you.
Also, if you hate being alone, you may not enjoy solo travel. It could also serve as a great experience for self-reflection as it gives you quite time to work out why you don’t like being alone.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with preferring to travel with pals.
The Takeaway from My First Solo Trip
If you’re on the fence of traveling alone, I’d say go for it. People will tell you all of the reasons you shouldn’t, but it’s really what you make of it.
If you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone, you’ll be fine.
During the first few days, I swore I’d never travel alone again. I was still super jetlagged pretty nervous about the whole food thing at this point, so I hadn’t gotten out to explore.
I enjoyed the freedom that came with solo travel. The down time to think and reflect were also very enjoyable.
I’m not really sure how long of a solo trip I could handle. But something that an older traveler I met stuck with me.
She commented on how traveling has changed as she’s aged and “gotten better” at traveling.
I love traveling now and I’m confident that I’ll get better at it with experience. I’m eager to plan another solo trip, but I’m definitely not opposed to traveling with others.
Traveling with my friends when we studied abroad was a blast, so I’d definitely like to travel with groups of friends again.
Since most of my friends are either in school or have jobs that are location dependent, I see lots of solo trips in my future.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to take your first solo trip?