Eat, Pray, Love: Tips for the Solo Traveler
"The inner journey of travel is intensified by solitude." American travel writer Paul Theroux's simple words so eloquently explain one of the main benefits of traveling alone: The incredible personal journey you will be taken on.
Traveling with others has numerous benefits of course, but traveling solo is rewarding in a totally different way. It challenges you, forces you to get outside your comfort zone, and enables you to reflect in a way that wouldn’t be possible when traveling in a group. Quite literally, traveling alone enables you to get to know yourself better. Plus, there is evidence that travel reduces stress levels, boosts happiness, and can actually keep you healthier.
Another major, and often overlooked, reward of solo travel is that you get to make all your own choices and do exactly what you want to do. There’s no compromise in solo travel. You get to eat the food you want to eat, see the sights that are on the top of your bucket list and answer to absolutely no one. Don’t get us wrong, we love traveling with friends and family! But sometimes taking a little “me time” is exactly what you need for a happy and healthy soul.
Whether you frequently go on solo adventures or are considering embarking on your first-ever solo trip, here is a guide on how best to do it.
How To Prep for Solo Travel
Two of the most critical aspects of planning any trip, solo or otherwise, are choosing where to go and setting a budget. There are two schools of thought here: decide how much money you have to spend on the trip and then choose a destination to fit within that budget, or, if your heart is set on visiting a specific place, create a realistic budget for that particular trip and begin saving towards it.
For those travelers who have a specific budget and are open to many destinations:
- Well-seasoned travelers will say they never met a destination they didn't like. A new adventure may be closer than you think. Is there a place in your local geographic area or adjacent states and provinces that you can visit without flying? Don't automatically rule out road trips or train travel. In fact, getting there in that case could end up being a large part of the trip itself.
- Let the airfare prices decide for you. Sites like Skyscanner allow you to enter your home airport and set your destination to "Everywhere." Pick a month or look at the longer calender view and see which destinations you can fly to on limited funds. You may be surprised!
- Not all travel destinations are created equal. But then again, neither are all travelers or travel budgets. Since there is no one else's needs or interests to take into consideration when traveling alone, it's all about your individual interests, travel experience, trip length, and budget when choosing where to go. The sky (and the budget) is the limit!
Solo Travel Tips
There is a bit of an art form to traveling alone. Since you don't have a travel buddy you are forced to figure everything out on your own and (gasp!) talk to strangers if you have questions or need help. Yet, these are the parts of solo travel that are the most liberating and teach you the most about yourself and the world.
In order to truly enjoy the experience, you'll need to be armed with some insider knowledge. Here, we've compiled some top solo travel tips from people who have traversed the world on their own time and time again.
Put your phone and guidebook away. When you arrive, walk around and find a bustling cafe to sit and people watch. Be present and simply observe the people walking by, noting how they interact with one another, how they're dressed, and their body language, then use what you've learned in your own interactions with locals.
Scrap your itinerary and say YES. Consider letting your trip unfold mostly unscripted. Wake up whenever you choose, explore your surroundings, and say yes to any invitations you may receive for coffee, a meal, a tour, or anything else.
Be open to new experiences, but be smart — and safe. For all of its benefits, traveling alone also means that you have to watch out for yourself. Keep your guard up and always be aware of your surroundings. Don't be afraid to speak up or remove yourself from an uncomfortable situation. Tell someone back home what your plans are each day, and always carry a local map as a backup in case you find yourself without phone service.
Overall, release your expectations for what you think your solo trip should be. Instead, simply enjoy the solitude of experiencing something new on your own and revel in the happiness of that. Oftentimes trips start one way and end up becoming something totally different. Embrace this change and keep an open mind.
What to Do as a Solo Traveler
While you can — and should — certainly explore your destination without a plan in mind, you may find that once you arrive you want to experience certain things a city has to offer. These activities are ideally suited to travelers who are on their own.
Experiencing several different restaurants and types of local cuisine is an excellent way to get an authentic feel for a place. Companies such as Off the Eaten Track in Victoria and Vancouver, BC, offer guided and self-guided walking tours to show visitors what their cities are really about. Alberta Food Tours is a great resource for finding tours throughout the province whether you’re staying in Edmonton, Canmore, Calgary or other areas.
Not sure how to find a foodie tour on your destination? A quick Google search can help find available tours, or simply check with the locals or front desk at your accommodation!
Meetup.com has groups that meet all over the world and share a common interest. You can find groups for everything from hiking enthusiasts in Washington to people wanting to learn to cook Thai cuisine in Canada, and everything in between.
Another resource to use is Facebook. Log in and start searching for local events, groups to join or activities to do. Oftentimes Facebook is a catalog for smaller, more niche events that even the locals don’t know about.
An Outdoor Adventure
No matter where you travel to, every destination will have a local activity that gets you outside and likely trying something new. For example, Deep Cove Kayak in Vancouver takes groups of individuals out on nighttime kayaking tours. In Seattle you can try something truly unique to the area by taking a hot tub boat on Lake Union--that’s right, you can lounge in a hot tub on the lake.
Where to Stay When Traveling Solo
With 35 locations throughout Canada, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, California, and Hawaii, Coast Hotels has many properties ideally suited to solo travel with rates for every budget. Travelers who book direct can take advantage of frequent deals, and joining the Coast Rewards program offers additional savings and perks. So pick a destination, set your travel budget, and go it alone, keeping an open mind and heart. Travel safe!