People who have never travelled alone before almost describe the experience as religious and cathartic. It can seem daunting for someone who has never done it before and it might make you reluctant and apprehensive but trust me, it will make you a better person and it will be a challenge to yourself.
To take in new surroundings, new cultures and meet new people by yourself might not be very appealing in the start but trust me there has never been an opportunity to grow and discover so much about yourself. You have barely scratched the surface. So if you have finally decided to take the plunge and go ahead on your solo travel plans, I want to say congratulations! You are in for an adventure! Here are some tips on how to make the most of your first solo travel.
Know your strengths
Are you a sociable person who needs to be in the thick of the action? Or are you the quiet type who prefers to take everything in from the sidelines? Knowing your strengths will help you plan your trip better so you can get the most enjoyment from it. However, I do encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and do things which you have never done before. Why do what you have always done before when you have the perfect opportunity to get out of your shell?
Plan your arrival
Your first solo trip is going to be an adventure; however, you should not overwhelm yourself. Go easy on yourself and book your transport and accommodation in advance, especially if you are arriving late at night. You need it especially when you are tired from a long flight. Planning your arrival early also allows you to make the most of your time.
Keep your documents handy
It is very easy to be swept away by all the excitement and adventure that you forget about the essentials, such as documents. This is a major no-no when travelling, especially when you are alone. Always have a copy of your passport and visa of the country where you are headed, even when you are sightseeing. You will never know when officials might ask you to show them the documents. It pays to be prepared.
Explore as much as you can
The last thing you want to do if you are travelling for the first time is to stay cooped up in your hotel room or hostel or spend so much time on your phone or calling back the people at home on Skype. That is a great disservice to travel! Certainly you did not pay a lot of money just to do the things which you can do at home. The world is your oyster so explore it. Get a map of the place. List the places you want to go to if you want to be organized or you can also just throw plans away and wing it. Either way, do explore! Take a walk, hike, rent a bike, take the public transportation and just lose yourself in the moment. Breathe it all in and enjoy your journey.
Try to say yes to things, at least to things that are not only responsible but also legal. It can be scary or something you have never done before but please I beg you to say yes. Go to a local wedding if somebody invites you, try the local delicacies, go to a party, go river rafting or paragliding. Live life! Forget about “maybe” or “some other time” or “in the future”. Live your life now! Saying yes can make a huge difference in your first solo trip.
Ditch the camera and soak in the moment
With today’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, more and more people are spending time with their phones and cameras instead of experiencing things firsthand. Yes, it is perfectly fine to want to take photos, I take photos on my trips too, however, do not let it take over your entire trip. Look and I mean really look at things, people, food, temples, beaches, sunsets and sunrises. There are priceless moments which you will never, ever be able to capture using the camera. Do not spend your time constantly trying to get the perfect shot. That is just a sad way to spend your vacation. Every time I travel I see way too many tourists taking pictures that they fail to enjoy that moment of travel when everything is just perfect.
Don’t get trapped by souvenirs
When you are in an exotic land you will be tempted to purchase souvenirs, not only for yourself but maybe for friends and family back home too. A lot of travelers make the mistake of buying too many souvenirs, more than their family and friends need. Very often these souvenirs are exorbitantly priced and mass produced and most of the time they hardly reflect the true culture of the place. Buy pieces which are truly unique and contribute to local crafts and communities, not the big companies. One more thing which you should also keep in mind is that it is a lot better to spend your money on experiences and not on things.
Appreciate the kindness of people
In a world where all we hear is bad news, we sometimes forget to appreciate the kindness of people, even strangers. When we went to Malacca, Malaysia we got on the wrong bus and instead of being taken to the town central, we were dropped off somewhere far where there was little to no local transportation. We went to one of the nearby stores and asked the people there to help us and they gave us a lift to the town central. I was honestly surprised by their kindness because at first I thought we were gonna be dismissed. Sometimes it really does take travel to make you realize that this is still a beautiful world and that there are still many kind people around. However, this does not mean that you should not ensure that the public transportation you take will bring you to the right place. Plan, research, be careful and trust your instincts.