Taking time away to enjoy new experiences in new environments does not necessarily have to be with friends or family. Although traveling solo may appear daunting, it provides the perfect opportunity for self-reflection, adventure and growth for personal confidence and independence. Since the greatest relationship you have is with yourself, it is important to prioritize your happiness and desires without outside influences. Before impulsively booking a trip, we have helpful tips from experienced travelers that can save you the stress and anxiety from traveling alone for the first time.
Arianna Avalle, an assistant instructor and Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin, is an experienced solo traveler and explains how she navigates the world on her own.
“There are misconceptions that traveling solo is a dangerous, lonely experience,” Avalle says.
If one simply takes the necessary precautions and is open to meeting others, they’ll likely have a great adventure, she says.
As a social butterfly herself, Avalle shares how helpful befriending locals became in her experience. The quality time spent by herself ironically pushed her further from her comfort zone, because she had to be confident with pursuing conversations with foreign strangers. Places like museums, pubs and even public transportation were where she found the greatest connections to other travelers, she says.
However, Avalle says it is very important to take precautions while exploring and meeting new acquaintances. Sharing travel plans with family and friends, having a phone plan with international connectivity and bringing some sort of self-defense item with you such as pepper spray can not only make you feel safe, but also protect you in a time of need, she says.
Additionally, Avalle suggests not to wander alone at night if you don’t know the area very well.
One great way to help mitigate these issues is to do thorough research about the area you are traveling to in order to figure out which areas are safe versus areas to avoid. It is important to push yourself out of your comfort zone and practice flexibility, but not at the cost of risking your wellbeing.
As a native Italian herself, Avalle says Europeans are more acquainted with traveling between different countries, so avoiding risk and being mindful usually comes more naturally than for most Americans.
She is originally from a small town on the northwest side of Italy, where France is only a two-hour car ride away. Often, she would spend her summers traveling there to study and practice her French. Since most countries in Europe are within adherable distances, the fear of exploring new lands is not much of a reality they face.
Another experienced solo traveler and Austin resident who touched on her experiences is Loulu Lima. Lima is a travel advisor who helps assist inexperienced travelers with anything and everything, such as hotel accommodations, transportation, payments and promoting common tour packages. Essentially, she helps create a personalized and curated itinerary specifically to her customers’ liking. When discussing differences between European and American travel, she explains, “Travel is a necessity in those cultures and Americans consider it a luxury.”
One of the best ways to immerse oneself in a culture is by attending local classes geared toward tourists, Lima adds.
Many destinations in Europe offer classes in cooking, dancing or painting — this can be another great way to meet fellow travelers while also learning about the lifestyle and customs within the community.
Lima, who began traveling solo when she lived in Switzerland, says she now works to help and encourage others to do the same.
“Try it. It will surprise you,” Lima says, addressing those who are still reluctant to endeavor on a travel journey alone. “If you are not used to being alone, traveling solo teaches you about how great you are.”
Lima says each trip she has experienced had a transformational impact, giving her more confidence in different aspects of her life she never could have imagined.
As much as one can mentally and physically prepare for a solo trip, the opportunity of being faced with unplanned challenges in a foreign environment is inevitable. Thus, traveling alone provides immense practice for flexibility and patience while forcing oneself outside of their comfort zone. Making the best out of any inconvenience will only help to make any challenge a funny memory to reminisce on later.
Due to the limited capacity protocols the U.S. still endures, solo travel might be a great activity to embark upon this summer, even if it’s just to a neighboring city or state and can help one get in touch with their inner self while connecting to new culture, environment and people.
“Life is short,” Avalle says. “Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and explore the world from a different point of view!”