It used to be that traveling alone was not only thought of as dangerous, but also strange. In the past, if you were that guy taking camera selfies in front of the Colosseum, you were probably regarded as a friendless weirdo. Today, as many as 24% of travelers are taking solo vacations and since 2013, solo travel has more than doubled. It’s not uncommon to see a lone backpacker or a group of solo travelers discussing potential day trips in hostel common areas. With selfie sticks, Google maps, and Wi-Fi, traveling alone is not only easy, but safe and enjoyable. There are even hotels, like the famed capsule hotels in Japan, that cater to the solo traveler by providing sleeping rooms for one at an affordable price.
If you’re considering a solo trip, don’t hesitate. Traveling alone means you can do whatever you want, when you want. You don’t have to abide by someone else’s schedule or visit a museum if you’re not a museum sort of guy. Why wait? Download some books on your kindle, get a SIM card, book a ticket, and take the world by storm.
1. Pick your destination carefully
The world is your oyster, but if this is your first time traveling alone or your first time traveling outside the U.S., you may want to ease into the experience. You can do this by choosing a country that’s safe, full of happy people, and popular among solo travelers. New Zealand tops the list and can be perfect if you really want to jump time zones and get away from it all, while enjoying the ease of traveling in an English-speaking country. Norway, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Vietnam, and Austria also top the list and provide options for those with their heart set on Europe, Central America, or Asia. If the idea of showing up in a country alone is still a bit much, book a cruise or choose an awesome resort where you can lay by the pool, take excursions with other hotels guests, and reach local status at the spa.
2. Choose single-friendly lodging
You may be 100% on board with the whole traveling alone thing, but if you start feeling lonely or just want to have a conversation with someone in your own language, there are some housing situations that will put you in touch with actual humans. If you’re on a tight budget and could really use some human interaction give Couchsurfing a try. You’ll connect with someone who has a bed, couch, or floor space to spare, and while the lodging isn’t luxurious, you’ll be instantly connected with English-speaking locals and expats who want to show you around their city. If the idea of sleeping on a stranger’s couch is too much, book a hostel, guesthouse, or resort that caters to solo vacationers. Some lodging has shared living area space with a kitchen and Wi-Fi where people naturally congregate.
3. Play it safe
When you travel alone it’s a good policy to trust everyone and no one. This means being open to meeting new people and talking to strangers, but not asking those same people to watch your passport while you run to the bathroom. It’s good to be open minded, but never let your guard down. Keep your alcohol intake moderate, separate your credit cards and cash so if you get robbed or lose something you have back up, and always make copies of your passport. A little extra planning on your part will ensure you return home with all your possessions and nothing more than great stories and wild adventures.
4. Stay in touch
With communication tools like Skype, Viber, and Whatsapp it’s easier than ever to stay in touch while traveling. Before you go, give a friend or family member your complete travel itinerary so someone has a general idea of where you are at all times. While you’re traveling, just keep in touch as you move from one place to the next. Getting ready to hit up a bar and throw back a few cold ones? Let someone know you’re headed out and then shoot them a message when you make it home at night. Communication on the road doesn’t have to be a hassle. A simple text or Facebook message goes a long way in keeping you safe and connected to those you love.
5. Don’t hold back
Just because you’re traveling solo doesn’t mean you have to eat solely at grab-and-go restaurants and stay inside after dark. If you’ve been craving a sit-down meal at a nearby French bistro, go for it. Bring along your Lonely Planet travel guide or use the time to brush up on your language skills while you dig in. Eating alone is only as awkward as you make it. If you’re in a big city, the evenings may end up being the best time to explore. The temperature is cool and depending on where you are, the streets will probably be full of people enjoying the city lights with gelato in hand.