Traveling solo is one of the most empowering things you can ever set out to do, but can also be one of the scariest if you don’t have a plan or strategy for your journey. But with that said, there’s a tremendous value in embracing spontaneity and experiencing new places with an open mind.
There are generally two types of solo travelers that set out on their own to see what the world has to offer: those who set a strict itinerary and those who like to “wing it.” Fortunately, you don’t have to be 100% one way or the other, and the best experiences are often found in a happy middle ground. By mapping out a rough plan but allowing some flexibility in your days, you open yourself up to a world of possibilities.
Here are some strategies to help you plan your solo trip without over-planning and becoming a slave to your own rigorous schedule!
You’ll obviously need to decide on your first destination and take care of your passport and visa requirements if you’re buying a plane ticket. However, you can leave your plans a bit open-ended once you arrive. Chances are that you have a general idea of the places that interest you and where they’re located on a map. Oftentimes, this is enough of a starting point to guide you towards the adventures you seek. For a little guidance and inspiration, flip through our 50 Must See Destinations deck and let your imagination run wild!
After booking your initial flight, you can choose to reserve rental cars, train tickets, and bus passes while on the road. The thing about transportation planning is that it’s often not refundable, which makes you feel stuck in the schedule you’ve set, even if you haven’t gotten to see everything you want to in a certain place. Don’t’ tie yourself down to too many dates so that you can adapt to new opportunities and unexpected mishaps on the road.
It’s a smart idea to book your first hotel, hostel, or campground stay of your trip just so you know where you’ll end up on your first few days. Figuring out accommodations is much easier if you travel during the off-season, so consider that when deciding when to visit places. Couchsurfing and Air BnB are other popular options for spontaneous solo travelers who want an authentic stay and a local’s perspective.
Activities can often be the last thing on your list to plan and an area to embrace the spontaneity of travel. When you arrive in a new place, talk to locals and ask about events going on around town that are welcoming to visitors. Some activities require advance bookings though, so think about what you really want to get out of a destination and plan ahead for those things as needed.
Planning for the Culture
Although a strict schedule isn’t always necessary, it is a smart idea to learn about the culture in the places you want to visit. Not only will this help you respect and appreciate other cultures as you move from place to place, but it’ll also keep you safe and avoid unwanted conflicts. Sometimes the best way to learn about a new culture is simply to aimlessly wander the streets in a new place and observe the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes around you.
A great way to ease your way into a less-planned travel lifestyle, especially if you’re planning to be on the road for an extended period of time, is to slowly reduce the number of things you plan out with each destination you visit. When you stop worrying about the details and let yourself live in the moment wherever you are, you might be surprised how much you learn about yourself and your surroundings!
Editor’s Note: This is the first of the multi-part blog series, “Traveling the World Solo in One Year”. Stay tuned for more exciting solo travel topics in the weeks ahead!
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