Solo travel has the power to transform: Think of the memoirs “Eat Pray Love” or “Wild.” But you don’t have to circumnavigate the globe or hike 1,100 miles to see why some people choose to go it alone. The freedom to explore at your own pace, open to connecting with people you meet along the way, can feel as intoxicating as a tropical breeze. But solo travel can be daunting, too, especially when problems arise. And of course, solo travelers need to keep certain safety considerations in mind.
So, are you ready to plan your adventure for one? Here’s how to get the most out of it.
Start off easy
“Keep your first trip simple,” said Carolyn Ray, who runs Journey Woman, a website for solo travelers, and has visited more than 40 countries on her own. Overcome your trepidation by picking a destination in your own country or at least where people speak your language, she advises. Also, choose accommodations with communal spaces where you can meet others and that are close to the sites you want to see.
Wield the power of one
At even the hottest restaurants, solo diners without reservations can sometimes squeeze in at the bar. And singles can often snag discounted seats at shows and performances by looking for just one ticket close to showtime, says Kat Fleischman, 36, an American public relations professional who has been taking international solo trips since she was 18. She also advises travelers to inquire about single-occupancy discounts at hotels. Travelers on their own can also hop into faster-moving singles lines at amusement parks, filling in spots left empty by groups. Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain, near Los Angeles, and Disney World, in Orlando, Fla., all have a handful of rides with singles lines.
Join group activities
Websites like Meetup and Fun JetSetter can help break the ice with others who share your interests. An internet search can reveal an array of options: Book dinners with locals and other travelers on the website Eatwith. Find fellow nature lovers through local groups like Alaska Outdoors, in Anchorage, which organizes hikes. Find new places to enjoy your favorite activities through sites like Pickleball NSW in New South Wales, Australia. Facebook groups devoted to people living abroad, like Spain’s Expats of Málaga group, can offer local advice and people to meet.
Some hostels and guesthouses also organize outings. You might find yourself going to a kayaking lesson, a singalong, a drag show or a dance club. The hotel chain Selina, for example, offers co-working spaces along with group outings in more than 100 locations in countries such as Peru, Israel and Thailand.
Talk to the locals
If you are eating alone, sit at the bar, where you are more likely to strike up a conversation with those around you. One trick: “Sit with an English-language book to attract other English speakers,” Ms. Ray said. Some dating apps have “friend” settings that solo travelers can use — take the usual precautions, of course, by meeting in a public place and telling others where you’re going and with whom.
Don’t overshare, and use a financial ‘safe word’
Be cautious about sharing personal information, accepting invitations or leaving your belongings with someone you just met. And consider packing a rubber doorstop to add an extra layer of security to your hotel room or Airbnb, and a loud key chain alarm, Ms. Ray said.
If you’re lost, Ms. Fleischman advises, instead of standing on the street to consult your phone, step into a cafe or a store. And rather than looking at your route on your phone as you’re walking, use your earbuds to get directions from mapping apps.
Come up with a term that only you and a chosen few people back home know, so that if you are genuinely in trouble and need money, they’ll know it’s not a criminal impersonating you. Leave an electronic copy of important documents like your passport, health or travel insurance, and itinerary with those people, too. You may also want to share your location with them using a cellphone app.
Leave space for spontaneity
“Stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing the unusual can lead to some of the most memorable experiences during your solo travels,” Ms. Ray said. Make plans that you can choose to change.
Keep a journal
Solo travel is an opportunity to “foster and cultivate your own sense of empowerment,” said Ms. Ray, and it will help to understand what you’ve learned if you keep a record — written, audio or video — of your goals, setbacks and triumphs.
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