A lot of my traveling is done on my own whether it be international or domestic. People always ask me how do I it and I tell them it’s easy. Here are a few steps that you can take to be comfortable with traveling by yourself.
If you are traveling in a country where the primary language is not fluent to you, take a few weeks or a month to familiarize yourself with the basics, like hello, direction, ordering food or room accommodation. Think about the conversations you have everyday.
If you are using a program or dictionary to learn a foreign language and you can’t find someone to practice with, practice with yourself. Talk to yourself, everyone does it anyway. Whether it’s mentally thinking the words or verbally saying them.
To get comfortable with the idea of traveling alone, start out by going to see a movie by yourself. This will help you start to lose the feeling of insecurity. Don’t worry about what people are saying about you. Once you’ve seen a few movies, the next step is going to dinner by yourself a few times and enjoying your own company. This will add a whole new level of self-identity and self-worth to your life. If you can handle that, go to a bar, club, or lounge. Ask people to dance, talk to strangers, see how that makes you feel. At this point you should be very secure with yourself.
The first two or three nights of my trips I always stay in hostels. They are cheap and usually as good as some hotels. If it’s your first time using a hostel, make sure you book one that’s highly rated. The benefit of staying at a hostel is you will meet lots of people traveling alone or with a group. If you notice them speaking the same language as you, just chat with them. The fact that you both are travelers gives you something in common. Hostels are a great way to make friends. I’ve had some of my greatest travel experiences with people who I’ve met staying at hostels.
Get a GSM phone that’s unlocked and buy a sim-card so you can have a local number. This is great because it makes you more accessible and you can contact people who you meet without worrying about overseas charges.
Don’t walk around with large sums of money. It’s always good to carry just enough money to do what it is you came to do. Have an international debit or credit card that doesn’t have foreign exchange fee’s. There are plenty of them. Always keep a separate bank account with small dollar amounts just in case.
Go to tourist markets and observe what’s going on. Look at the interactions between the foreigners and locals. Don’t buy anything. Get an idea of the environment. Let your senses take over and enjoy where you are. Take mental notes of the prices. Learn to bargain and learn to walk away from a deal.
Talk to strangers but use common sense. Talk to people who you notice speaks the same language as you.
Bring a camera, notepad, computer, extra batteries, and external hard drive to save all your pictures. A great app and software to download is Dropbox because you can save your files and share them with anyone who uses it anywhere in the world. If your computer crashes and you’ve already saved your files on Dropbox, you will be able to reach them.
Once you are done with the tourists locations, visit non tourist places to get a feel for the real culture. Get a feel for the people who live there and who are not in the resort areas. See what day-to-day life is. This is all part of investing yourself in the culture. You will see that it makes you a better traveler because you are strengthening skills you already have.
Invest yourself in the culture. Don’t eat or go to places that you would normally go to at home. Locals love it when you make an effort to try their food and speak the language. Remember you are on vacation but more importantly a cultural experience to find out more about yourself. So eat what the locals eat. A fellow traveler by name of Shaahidah also said that traveling alone also gives you a sense of inner peace and good time to meditate.
Be grateful that you have the opportunity to travel. Some people never get that chance. Your experiences are your own, no one will ever appreciate them as much as you. Once you’ve down enough traveling and investing yourself in the culture, traveling will become addicting and you won’t even care that you are traveling alone. At this point, you will have met some incredible people who made your experience worthwhile.