For most people, traveling with friends is one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences. Especially with a 3-day weekend and spring break in the near future, it’s on everyone’s minds. You’ll get to spend days or weeks with your favorite people and run on a schedule that your group will usually agree on. However, trips with friends have their fallbacks as well. Maybe someone backs out at the last minute, or you can’t all agree on plans or an appropriate budget, leaving you with packed bags and unfulfilled wanderlust. For times like these, allow me to introduce solo traveling.
Often daunting and unappealing on the surface, solo traveling isn’t something most people are dying to do, especially for young adults. But it can be rewarding in myriad ways that differ from traveling with friends. Your day is dictated entirely by your own schedule, your own pace and your own preferences. You don’t need to compromise your meal choices because your friends want something else. And most of all, you can meet people that you wouldn’t have otherwise met and have conversations you wouldn’t otherwise have started. But, of course, it’s natural to be a bit afraid: What if you get lonely? What if something happens to you? What if you get lost? Fear not, here are some tips to help you get started and ease your worries:
1) Book your lodging early, and book it at hostels. It’s natural that solo traveling can lead to loneliness, but if you’re staying in a hostel, you can take solace in the fact that there will be many other solo travelers. So seize the opportunity and strike up conversation. This is a perfect opportunity to create a small network while abroad. Since almost everyone shares a common love for food, ask them to grab a bite or to go out for a drink, maybe even venture together to that cool touristy spot you’ve been eyeing. You’ll be surprised with how interesting and friendly people can be around the world, and hostels provide you with a place to meet other travelers like yourself. As far as choosing a place to stay, I prefer booking through Hostelworld.com. It shows the best rankings and the most convenient locations. Pro-tip: avoid Booking.com. They’re known to inflate their prices and show unrealistic pictures.
2) Pack lightly. It may be difficult to downsize to a smaller piece of luggage, but trust me, you will thank me later. The last thing you want is to have way more than you can carry, which will make getting to your destination inordinately more difficult, especially if you’re traveling to multiple cities during your trip. Your three-day weekend or upcoming spring break trip is not the time to bring that shirt you bought a year ago that you’ve never worn, just because you might wear it but you know you probably won’t. Bring a pair of comfortable shoes and a pair of nice ones. Overall, be realistic.
3) Start your day early. Even in smaller cities, there are a ton of things to do and an infinite number of people to meet. Wake up early, eat breakfast and make a (loose) plan for the day. Make sure you have your bag packed, your phone charged and anything else you need. You’ll feel like you’re wasting your day if you sleep in until noon.
4) Embrace the fact that you’re alone. Let yourself spend hours in a park taking pictures if you want to. Sometimes it’s not all about how much ground you covered, but about the little moments you’ll remember and talk about well after the trip is over. Stroll leisurely, take your time and strike up a conversation with a local, or someone who looks like they may be traveling alone, too.
5) Don’t forget your portable charger. This one is pretty self-explanatory. You don’t want to be somewhere at night, desperately needing your phone, just to find out that it’s dead.
Now that you’re a little more comfortable with the thought of traveling alone, the only question left is, where do you want to go? With Spring break right around the corner and multiple long weekends, the options are truly endless!
For longer breaks, I recommend major European cities such as, Madrid, Berlin, and Amsterdam. With the help of trains, traveling between cities becomes quick and easy. For shorter 3-day vacations, California itself has a ton of cool spots– Big Sur, Sonoma Valley, Santa Barbara, and major cities like San Francisco, as well as a ton of natural parks. So, save up a bit of money, do a little too much planning and get traveling!