Traveling alone can be an incredibly rewarding experience. You are free to follow your own whims, do exactly what you want to do, and build your confidence, all while seeing the world. That said, there’s definitely an intimidation factor before hitting the road on your own for the first time. And while a number of considerations and some helpful pre-planning can help ensure that you’re dialed and prepared to have a nice time, at some point you just have to commit and go for it wholeheartedly.
Whether you’ve always wanted to go to Big Bend National Park and have never had anyone to go with, or you’ve been dreaming of backpacking across Europe on your own, the following tips can help you embark on that solo trip you’ve been thinking about, with all the helpful gear to have along for the ride.
Do Your Homework
Homework and having fun might seem like an impossible pairing, but a little bit of research and planning ahead of time can save you a lot of stress upon arrival at your destination. Research each location that you’re traveling and start to organize the basics: where you’ll stay (or what neighborhood); safe or fun neighborhoods; how the public transit works; how to get to town from the airport; where you can exchange money; and a handful of helpful phrases if you’re heading somewhere you don’t speak the language. This type of preparation is especially key for the anxious traveler; it’s also a great way to avoid the hassle of having to track down Wi-Fi so you can figure out logistics when you arrive. You won’t have another person with you to help tackle the planning, so being able to hit the ground running means you have more time to explore and less time wasted staring at your phone or hunting down information. Pro tip: Put all of this information in an offline Google Doc or write it down in a notebook, so you always have access to everything you need (like the address of the hotel to put on a customs form or give to a taxi driver).
Don’t overpack. You’ll have to single-handedly deal with all of your luggage and bags, so it’s nice to have just one lightweight bag and a small personal item that you can navigate crowded public transit or cobblestone roads or endless staircases. Go with either an ultralight rolling suitcase or a backpack duffel for ease, so you can always keep at least one hand free. A money belt will give you peace of mind, which is important because you only have yourself to rely on. Other key necessities: a portable power charger (a dead cellphone is no help to you), a first-aid kit (deal with your own small emergencies), a headlamp (you never know when you’ll need to navigate a dark hotel/hostel or street), a safety whistle (in case of emergency), and sleep gear so you’re rested and energized to make the most of your day. Bringing quick-dry and merino wool clothes will help increase the longevity of your wardrobe and keep you smelling better for longer.