No matter how much you dream about packing up your bags and taking yourself on an adventure to a town, city or island you’d love to explore, the reality of organising your first solo trip can be intimidating.
I’m new to the solo travel game (having only started this year) so I’m still grappling with the challenges and anxieties of heading out on my own.
My first trip alone was to Venice (you can catch up on my diaries here!) but I have recently just booked my second adventure when I will be heading to Barcelona for a few days by myself.
As I had a dreamy, (almost) perfect first experience of solo travel in Italy, I thought booking my second trip would be a breeze. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. Right?
Not quite. If anything, I think I was more nervous the second time around because I sort of knew what to expect but what if it’s not as good as the first time? What if I face new challenges? What if I don’t enjoy it?
I sat with these questions overnight and realised if I never book the next solo trip, I’ll never know the answers. Plus the beauty of travelling is the new experiences – so who cares if it’s not the same! I like to take the attitude that everything is a learning curve – so whether good or bad – I’m going to take something away from this adventure.
After working through my different worries, I thought it might be useful to share some of the things I’ve learned and relied upon whilst planning my travels.
Nerves are natural
It’s highly likely you will – and very normal to – feel nervous about heading out on your own.
Sure, I’ve only been on a few trips but I think even the well-travelled will experience nerves about visiting a new place, meeting new people and what the journey will entail. It’s all part of the process.
I’ve found that accepting the nerves and apprehension as a natural response, rather than trying to push them away, actually helps to lessen their impact on you.
Plan the logistics
I like to leave my schedule pretty open so that I can see and do whatever I want, as and when I choose to. You may have a list of things you’d like to see or visit, but I’ve found one of the best things I can do is to plan the more ‘boring’ logistical things out so I know they’re sorted and there’s a plan in place to keep me safe and heading in the right direction.
This could include: planning your bus route, downloading maps, knowing the opening and closing times of things, pre-booking tickets and noting down important checkpoints you need to navigate towards.
All these simple but key steps can help to put your mind at ease, leaving you free to enjoy the actual journey.
Take a virtual tour
Reading blogs and articles or watching videos on YouTube about the place you’re visiting not only helps to build excitement and point out amazing, ‘hidden gem’ places to add to your to-do list, but it also helps to familiarise you with the location.
Creating this sense of familiarity and being aware of recognisable sites can help you to feel better connected to the place before and alleviate the feeling of the ‘unknown’.
It’s also a great was to see all the positive experiences people have already had and pick up handy local tips about the area!
Create a minimal packing list
Depending on how long you’re travelling for, try and pack as little as possible. I took the teeny-tiniest bag I’ve ever had to Venice and I still packed things I didn’t use.
For me, having the bare minimum of things with me during the day and locked away in my hostel storage makes me more relaxed about to possibility of losing or having anything of value stolen.
Taking a minimal attitude to your belongings means you only have the necessities with you and so there’s less to think, and therefore worry, about.
Prioritise your safety and comfort
I don’t mean you have to stay in a luxurious hotel (although that would be nice!) but instead promise yourself that you’ll put your safety and personal comfort first during the trip.
Once you’ve made this commitment, it’s easier to make decisions that you’ll be happy with. For example, I personally feel more comfortable sleeping in a female-only dorm. It may cost a few euros more but it reduces a whole load of anxiety for me – so it’s definitely worth it.
You may decide that you’ll get licensed taxis if you’re out late or in an area and you don’t feel safe, or plan to only go out at night if you’re with someone and not by yourself. Whatever it is, being safe and happy is the goal!
Note down all addresses and numbers
This could be for your flights, hostels, buses, trains, experiences… whatever it is, having a safe copy of this information that you can access offline and share with your friends/family can bring some comfort in knowing that you’re not completely alone and reliant on one thing (such as your phone).
Having a back up like this can help create peace of mind that your loved ones know roughly where you are and that you have your own back up should you be in a situation where you need important information.
Sometimes we can get so stuck on the planning and worrying that everything’s going to go to plan that we forget to actually enjoy the experience!
Let the nerves become excitement about your trip. Allow yourself to look forward to it and have fun planning all the things you want to see and do.
One crucial thing that really helped me was to trust that whatever may happen on the trip, I would make the best decision at the time to keep myself safe.
You have to learn to rely on yourself, your judgements and your intuition when you’re travelling alone so trusting yourself to deal with each moment, cope with any challenges and keep one foot moving in front of the other is the best place to start.
You can do this!
Share your tips
Are you thinking about taking a solo trip or do you have any advice to share on travelling alone? Or any recommendations for Barcelona?
Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear!