Traveling Alone for the First Time: Avoid these easy mistakes

Traveling alone for the first time can feel quite daunting, even for us cats. The uncertainty of what lies ahead both piques our inherent curiosity and frightens our delicate souls. In fact, it took me quite some time before I was ready to forge ahead into the great unknown. However, once I set my paws on unfamiliar ground, I was hooked. Read on for tips and advice on traveling alone for the first time.

Strike a balance between planned and unplanned time

If you try to plan out every minute of your trip, you will likely end up feeling stressed and overwhelmed. It is important to be flexible when traveling solo. Some of the most magical moments in my travel experiences have been unplanned. As scary as it is, you have to leave space in your itinerary for the true magic to happen.

Traveling alone for the first time - sunset in NYC
A last-minute ride on the Staton Island Ferry

With that said, however, some solo travelers take the idea of going where the wind may blow a little too seriously. For any solo trip (especially the first one) you should always have a plan for accommodations when you arrive.

This should also take into account transportation and payment. When you arrive at your first destination, things can feel very overwhelming. Don’t be that tourist that paid a $100 cab fare for a trip that costs $5 on a bus. It is important to find a balance between planning and spontaneity.

Don’t worry about what other people think

When you are truly on your own, it doesn’t matter what other people think. You can make the biggest fool of yourself and no one you know will be there to judge you. Social repercussions aside, getting caught up in what other people think will also prevent you from getting the help that you need. When you are solo, your reliance on others is heightened and you have to be willing to ask for help to get what you want. So, go ahead, act like you don’t know a thing! It’s the fastest way to learn.

Limit social media

A major risk of solo travel is missing the wonder in front of you because you are too busy checking your phone. Being alone for extended periods of time can be lonely, but it is also a great opportunity for personal growth. If you find yourself feeling lonely, try to engage with the world around you instead of retreating into your social media feeds. Talk to strangers, explore new neighborhoods, and be open to new experiences. The best stories are made when you surrender to the world around you.

Be open to new friends

Traveling alone for the first time - strolling through Havana
A stroll through Havana, Cuba

Solo travel doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be alone! One of the greatest advantages of solo traveling is the enhanced ability to make new friends. If you’re looking for company, try joining a tour or visiting a hostel.

Hostels are great places to meet other travelers and can offer a sense of community that may be lacking when traveling solo. One of my favorite ways to meet new people is by joining Facebook groups affiliated with my next destination. You can learn about lesser-known activities while also making new friends.

Get off the beaten path

When you’re on your own, it can be tempting to stick to the well-trodden tourist spots. However, these are the worst places to see alone. Aside from dealing with large crowds, you’ll also miss the opportunity to connect with locals and significantly lower the possibility that something amazing and unexpected will happen. It may seem counter-intuitive, but if you want to not feel alone, you need to get out of the crowd!

Some great ways to get out of the tourist traps are to engage with other travelers online. I always check out the discussion forums on travel boards like Lonely Planet and travel groups on social media.

When traveling alone for the first time, it’s okay to dine alone too…

Dessert at a fine dining restaurant in Budapest, Hungary
Dessert for one in Budapest, Hungary

One of the most common fears of solo travelers is dining alone, but the truth of the matter is there is no better opportunity to face this fear than during your first solo travel experience.

While it can be uncomfortable at first, eating alone can actually be a great experience. It’s an opportunity to sit with your thoughts, people watch or even strike up a conversation with the person sitting at the next table. If you think about it, dining alone in a foreign destination presents the perfect opportunity for true anonymity. Now is your chance to be anyone you want!

Share your travel plans

Even if you are aiming for total solitude, you should still share your travel plans with a friend or family member. Send them any planned activities as well as copies of your travel documentation. During my travels, I always text my best friend before and after any solo hiking excursions, as well as any other potentially risky activities. Having a tie back home only takes little effort and pays a huge reward in the unlikely case of an emergency.

Finally, when traveling alone for the first time, it’s okay to take it slow!

In today’s age of social media influencers, it’s easy to feel pressured to jump into the deep end of solo travel. However, it’s okay to start slow. Maybe your first solo trip is only a few hours away. Maybe you stick to preplanned tours and only dine alone just once. The important thing is that you push yourself just enough to find both excitement and joy in your first solo travel experience.

So, there you have it! The top tips for avoiding some of the most common mistakes made by first-time solo travelers. With a little planning and a lot of flexibility, you’re sure to have a great trip. Just remember to have fun and be safe!

Read Next: The surprising benefit of traveling alone – why being selfish, sad and lonely is a good thing

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