Want to Travel Solo But Not Sure Where to Start?

Traveling solo has been an incredibly enriching experience for me. And in this article I am going to share some tips on how others that are even remotely interested, can prepare themselves mentally and emotionally, tactically and financially.


I was a late bloomer. Unlike most my of peers, when we 18 and fresh grads out of high school, who were ready to fly far far away from the nest (home), I was the opposite. I just wasn’t ready to part the comfort and security of home. So I went to university nearby – about 12 miles away to be exact. But still decided to live on campus, despite the proximity – which was a great decision from a growth and experiential standpoint and was the first stepping stone to prep me for my solo travels.

Note: This was not conscientious. It’s not like I had this goal of traveling abroad solo and took these steps to prepare myself. This was all discovery and just regular life happening that led me down this path.

{Mental Prep: Face Your Fears}

My parents were warm and loving and saw the need for me to be out on my own and learn the skills that come with taking care of yourself. So they told me to go live in the campus dorms. Now that I was ready and excited for.

As expected, freshman year at university was socially, mentally, emotionally and physically formative. I learned how to value and manage my time, prioritize, build character, decide who I wanted and didn’t want to be friends with and had my values tested. Everyday was something new and different to experience. And until then I had no idea, how much I loved being exposed to and trying new things.

College was awesome. I did well in school, got involved with several clubs and organizations and then I applied for the U.C.D.C program.

{Get a Taste Test}

The UC’s schools have a program whereby students get summer internships in Washington D.C. I was in my 3rd year of undergrad and knew I wanted to pursue a career in marketing and found a great internship doing marketing for a Westin hotel in Dupont Circle. And it was a paid internship to boot! (I was the only one in my cohort who landed a paid internship, holla!).

That summer after work and on weekends I soaked in anything and everything I could about Washington D.C.. I visited every monument, went on every tour offered and got to experience the beauty of our nation’s capitol. And if a friend or two was available to join me they were welcome, otherwise I did not hesitate to go on my own. Now that was new for me. A few years prior I wouldn’t have had the guts to go alone.

{Baby Steps That Led to Solo Travel}

My point in sharing all of this background is that for me I needed to take baby steps have the confidence to go on my first solo trip abroad. And once I did go abroad I even paced myself there too. I went to Australia – a modern, Westernized, English-speaking country.

While in Aus, I was exposed to more new things, backpackers from all over the world and heard others’ travel experiences. And then my appetite to visit seemingly unattainable destinations grew and grew and grew.

It’s kinda like dating. At some point as the relationship progresses you move in together – and get to know each other on a much more intimate level. Then you get a pet which kinda/sorta(?) simulates having a kid together. And all of this trial and error and practice prepares the couple for marriage (potentially).


Summary of my process to get ready to travel solo:

  • Moving into the dorms at university
  • Summer internship on the other side of the country, these two prepared me for

 1 year in Australia, then

  • Aus got me ready to branch out further
  • To Indonesia, Thailand, and even travel around India by myself

And after that Europe, Southern Africa, Brasil and the list goes on…

Every person is different. 15+ years later some of my friends still don’t relate and think it’s weird that I love to travel solo. Others that used to think that way have changed their viewpoint. One thing I never did was let others’ opinions sway me from what I knew was right for me.


{Questions People Ask Me About Traveling Solo}

You’re gonna go by yourself? Yup!


Wouldn’t you rather go with a friend? Actually I want to experience this on my own and it’s while it would be fun, it’s hard to coordinate schedules and I’m not going to stop myself from traveling just because someone else’s schedules misaligns with mine.


Were/Are you scared? Hell yeah! I have fears of going into unknown territory, especially as a woman and the added layers that adds. But I look at it as an opportunity to face and overcome my fears. My mantra was/is “You’ll Never Know Unless You Try”.


What’s your favorite place you’ve been? That’s an almost impossible question to answer. Every place is so different and I’ve had an amazing time in all of them. The only place I’ve been back to (besides India) is Australia. I think us holds a special place in my heart because I love that country, and it’s also where I discovered my love for travel.


Where do you wanna go? SO many places! The way I answer this question is so different now though compared to when I first started traveling 15+ years ago. Now I have very specific experiences I want to try vs. blurting out entire countries. For example I want to:

  • see the lava flow on the Big Island, Hawaii
  • stay at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and swim in the infinity pool
  • go gorilla trekking at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
  • see where Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet at Cape Aghulas, South Africa
  • spend a few days in the Amazon rainforest
  • hike at Banff during summer
  • visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
  • see the tree climbing lions at Lake Manyara, Tanzania
  • stay overnight at Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
  • look for Sri Lanka at Kanyakumari, India
  • go on tiger safari at Bandhavgarh National Park, India
  • visit castles in Eastern Europe
  • so so much more!

Every time I return from a trip I’m reminded of all the places I have yet to visit.

{Other Things That Help Me Prepare for Solo Travel}

The other things that have and continue to prepare me for travel are asking questions and observing others. I observe safety and precautionary measures other backpackers take, especially solo female backpackers.

When I arrive at my destination, asking questions about safer routes and when not to be out on the street. Staying aware of my surroundings and getting my bearings.

I read and soak in info. I find this to be the biggest barrier for a lot of people to travel. You have to do your homework and put in the time to prepare for trips – read blogs, guidebooks and online forums. In my opinion, you’ll get SO much more lout of it.

No matter how much of a throw caution to the wind type of person you are, some preparation is necessary.

Me, I’m a planner, and I like reading up and knowing details. I have never regretted the time I’ve invested. I’ve found it beneficial to maximize time at my destination, save money, stay safer and in general. And personally when I’m prepared, I’m more confident and therefore more excited vs. nervous about being abroad solo. When I first started traveling I didn’t do a lot of research and regretted it later because once I got there, I learned about things I wanted to see but didn’t have time for.


{Tactical Preparation}

The tactical preparation is fun because this is where you star getting all your gear. But before you start ask yourself:

Can I live out of a backpack? Can I stay in budget accommodations? Can I stay in dorm rooms with strangers and potentially the other gender?

I wasn’t sure whether I had what it took to traipse around cities and train stations in a backpack and moreover live out of a backpack. So I got one and tried it out before departing. I loaded my new pack up with the items I thought I’d need and walked around my neighborhood everyday for a few days. Turns out I had what it took and I enjoyed it! You Never Know Unless You Try!


Getting my cell phone plan in order: I didn’t know whether I had data abroad and how calls and texts worked. So I found out.


Reading up on gear: backpacking and staying in hostels is totally different than traveling with a suitcase and staying in hotels. There’s definitely great backpacker gear, aside from your pack, to first know about before you buy. Luckily there’s a ton of info online about this and the best way to think about what gear you need is to walk through a day:

  • Travel toiletries
  • Microfiber travel towel
  • Travel hairdryer
  • Bathroom slippers
  • Travel laundry detergent pods
  • Clothes that are easy to pack and appropriate for the climate and culture at your destination
  • Electronics: phone, tablet, chargers
  • Shoes: bathroom at the dorm, walking, hiking, water activities
  • Adventure gear: snorkeling, hiking, camping

There’s so much great content online about traveling light but still being cute, fabrics that are day/night friendly and moisture wicking. Over the years I’ve definitely invested in a couple good quality trousers that I can wear during the day, for hiking, or at night to go out. And other gear such as a rain jacket, rain cover, good case to carry my DSLR, and more.

Getting the right pack for your height and weight is VERY important. I went to REI and they fitted me with packs that I could test and try at the store. I didn’t buy on my first visit. I tried out a few packs and liked one in particular. Then I went back a week later and tried them all again to determine whether I still liked that one I selected. And it as a go.

Side Note: I’m a fan of Osprey packs as they make women-specific packs and even for petite women like me. Additionally, they have a lifetime guarantee on all of their packs which signals how much they stand by their product. I needed a replacement piece for my pack and they were really nice when I contacted them and sent me the piece really fast.

{Financial Preparation}

This is often the hardest part of getting ready to get out and travel. Traveling can be expensive but again with research you can keep costs down by:

{Before You Travel}

  • traveling at off-peak times
  • buying your airplane tickets on Tuesday or Wednesday
  • saving money;  replace eating out with cooking. In the SF Bay area dinner for two can easily cost $40. I can buy a week’s worth of groceries for that much from the Asian store. And be thoughtful about where you can cut down expenses. Do you really need a gym membership? You can go for jogs, or do Insanity right in your living room. I recently dropped $100 on a friend’s baby shower. By the time I got her a gift + paid for lunch + gas to get there. Think about where you can reduce non-essential events. Put that designer handbag that you never use for sale on Poshmark, ThredUp or other sites.
  • pick up extra or weekend work on Task Rabbit or similar sites
  • If you’re into photography (more than using your iphone) rent or borrow a camera and a lens or two. You’ll save a lot of money compared to buying.

{Saving Money At Your Destination}

  • stay at budget accommodations
  • eat inexpensive (but good) food. I’m not a fan of fast food as it can be very unhealthy but I  often buy food at supermarkets instead of restaurants and save a lot of money, especially on non-perishable items
  • don’t overeat on holiday. In New Zealand we would drive long distances between each destination and some of my fellow backpackers bought snacks and coffees at every pit stop. I didn’t deprive myself but I definitely made my budget stretch more by refraining.
  • find organized tours that give you the most value
  • I never recommend hitch-hiking, especially for women, so spend time looking into the various transportation options available at our destination. Most major cities around the world (except LA) have great public transportation and are very walkable.
  • don’t buy a lot of stuff at your destination if you’re going to an expensive place

{Summary}

This article is all about preparing yourself mentally, financially and tactically to start traveling solo! It’s rewarding and enriching and the only way to experience it is to go out and start pounding pavement.

I know it can seem daunting and I shared my journey of how I came to be ready to take the plunge. Your journey will be different and my goal was to share some ideas and thoughts of things you can do for yourself.


{About PassportPages}

I created the PassportPages travel blog, to provide nuanced, detailed travel advice, tips, and hacks for traveling all over the world — from a unique and different perspective than the other popular travel blogs. There aren’t as many travel blogs geared towards:

  • nuanced, detailed travel tips and advice
  • vegetarians/vegan travelers
  • ethnic Americans, Canadians, and others
  • women, especially petite women


{About Samta}

When I’m not traveling and/or adventuring (and even when I am), I operate my tech startup, ShaadiShop. ShaadiShop is a marketplace for Indian-friendly wedding venues in California.

During undergrad I decided to study abroad which triggered my travel passion. I lived in Adelaide, Australia for a year and after that, for the next 10 years I spent 1-2 months each year, traveling to various destinations around the globe, on my own while I managed my direct marketing company.

I think traveling solo, prepared me to become an entrepreneur – journeying into new experiences, figuring it out as I went, self-reliance, facing your fears head on, trying new things, and so much more!

Then I decided to get a Masters in Business Administration in southern California, and I met my husband. Now we travel around the globe together and often. I love backpacks, vegetarian and vegan cooking and of course planning our next trip. I’m also kinda addicted to blueberries. =p

Check in on the blog or better yet follow PassportPages to get travel info from around the world. And definitely post your questions and comments. I love hearing from our readers! Cheers!

logo-passportpages-samta-travel-blog
Samta, Founder, PassportPages

 

 

 

 

 

 

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