You’ll know from my previous post, I’ve just returned from a week in the sunny state of California. And although I mentioned it briefly in this post, today I wanted to share my advice on how to travel alone for the first time, if a solo adventure is something you are considering.
At 33, I’d reached an age where I still wasn’t ready to settle down (will I ever?), but I’d found myself with very few people around me who were able to just get up and travel to the other side of the world. Family, responsibilities, significant others, money – lots of things stand in the way but instead of sitting at home waiting for someone to come along to travel with, I decided to enjoy my own company for a bit.
I’m very happy spending time with just me. I’ve lived alone for years and if I’m honest, I’m probably independent to a fault. But when I spotted flights from Manchester to San Francisco – the city at the very top of my must-visit list – I threw caution to the wind and booked a one-week return ticket. For me, myself and I.
Research, Planning & Safety
The number one tip I’d say for anyone travelling alone is to do an insane amount of research. I knew I had five days to fill so I sat for an evening a week or so before I flew, and made a list of everything I wanted to see and do, working out which neighbourhood each place was in. That way, I wasn’t arriving completely blind.
My detailing itinerary became a running joke, but I’m so glad I did that as I was able to fit so much into five days and I was always walking with a mission. If you’re in an unfamiliar area, it can stop you looking like a vulnerable, lost tourist if you at least look like you know where you’re heading.
Youtube was great (this is where I searched “how to use the BART ticket machine”), as well Google Street Maps, where I virtually walked around so I was able to familiarise myself with the area I was staying in before I arrived.
I also read travel reviews on the hotel I stayed in before I booked, especially reviews from women. I was warned on Instagram to stay clear of an area called Tenderloin and once I has researched this area, I knew two streets in particular to avoid. Social media is a godsend for things like this – if you’re looking to visit the West Coast and have a question to ask, then joining this Facebook Group is a must.
When you travel alone, the great thing is, you only have yourself to consult. Want to wake up and spend the day at the beach? The world is your oyster. Or how about the fact that you’d just prefer a doughnut for dinner and crash watching crap TV? You can be as flexible as you choose. That’s the beauty of a solo adventure, it’s yours to do as and when you please.
I’m quite a fussy eater as I have a peanut allergy, which makes me an awkward bean to eat out with. But when I’m by myself, I can eat wherever I choose and not worry about annoying others with my constant “I can’t eat there guys, sorry”.
I also love photography, and I can’t tell you how nice it was to wander around probably one of the most photogenic cities in the world and just snap away to my heart’s content.
Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
On the return flight, I felt a real sense of achievement that I’d travelled to the other side of the world, did everything I wanted, could tick something off my bucket list and more importantly, I was still alive to tell the tale.
It’s really daunting, travelling alone for the very first time. If you’d have known me ten years ago, I couldn’t even talk in front of five people at work without going red. Never mind travelling thousands of miles to explore a brand-new city. OK, so I was hardly trekking through India, not being able to speak a different language, but still – this was a big move for me.
You also become a brilliant problem solver because there’s only you to depend on. I worked out the grid system of both New York and San Fran and within hours I pretty much knew if I jumped on a bus here, I could get there, and it really helped build confidence in myself and my abilities to be a fully-functioning grown-up adult.
Set Your Budget
I was able to stick to a fairly lean budget when I was in San Francisco (£250 for a week including travel cards, trips, tips, 3 x meals daily and clothes shopping) because I was by myself. So if you fancy going away and being a little frugal, or going away and being spend-happy, the flexibility is yours. Plus, you don’t have the added stress of organising flights around anyone else. I happily set off for San Fran at 2.45am – I’m not sure others would be so willing.
Give Yourself Time to Think
When I was sat on the beach, I spent hours just thinking. Thinking about home, reflecting on where I was in life and what I wanted next. You know, those big thoughts you push to the back of your mind because you don’t have the time nor energy to think about them now. Embrace that time and just enjoy your own thoughts. You can escape the constant routine of noise, the internet and people, even if it’s just for a long weekend somewhere.
Deciding to take a solo adventure was the best decision I made, and I’m looking forward to making it a yearly thing to go off, discover somewhere new, practise my photography, meet new people and best of all, enjoy my own company. Where would be on your hitlist for a solo travel adventure?
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