Have you ever gone on a journey alone? The thought of solo-travelling might seem scary at first, at least if you haven’t tried it before. Most people will travel with their friends, partner or family, but packing a suitcase and going on an adventure alone would never cross their mind. I have already travelled alone twice, although the first journey was fairly short. My second journey was along the West Coast of California and the three weeks I spent travelling were definitely the best of my life. When I’m looking back at these adventures I can assure you that I wouldn’t trade these experiences & memories for anything in this world. Solo-travelling might seem like a challenge, but it is a challenge that is fully worth it and let me explain you why. First of all, let’s state the obvious: When you’re travelling by yourself, you got the ultimate freedom and you can do exactly what you want. When travelling in a group you obviously have to adapt and you have to work out a plan together. But when it’s just you there really are no boundaries.
Speaking of boundaries - solo-travelling allows you to get to know yourself and your limits like nothing else. Travelling is always a journey to self-discovery and when you’re travelling alone this journey is intensified and you will experience your strengths like never before. You will rediscover and reinvent yourself on the basis of all the new experiences and you will discover new passions and realise what makes you happy - and what doesn’t. Which is equally as important. Another thing that goes hand in hand with solo-travelling is stepping out of your comfort zone, you will suddenly find yourself doing things you have never done before and you have never thought you could do. It was in San Diego where I learnt to let go and stopped controlling every minute of the day. There I learnt to truly follow my gut, be spontaneous and just go with the flow. I normally love planning ahead and although it has its advantages it also creates unnecessary boundaries and often stops you from truly enjoying the day and living in the moment - at least that’s my experience. In San Diego I stopped planning and just cherished each day. On my first day I was asked if I wanted to come explore the Old Town and even though I had originally planned to spend the day at the beach I said yes and I had an amazing day that I’ll never forget. And the weird thing is that when I’m looking back it seems like I spent 2 weeks in San Diego, not just a couple of days. True appreciation makes a minute seem like an eternity.
Travelling alone isn’t just a lesson of spontaneity though, it is also a lesson of independence. You learn to rely on nothing but yourself and your instincts. You learn to trust yourself with decisions and you experience that it’s best to follow that feeling in your gut. Oh and let me tell you another thing: if you’re hopping from hostel to hostel you aren’t really travelling alone. Although the choice is in your hands. When I stayed at a hostel in Los Angeles I mostly did things alone as I didn’t plan on spending much time in the city and as LA offers a lot so if you want to see ‘it all’ an itinerary is needed. When I arrived at the hostel at the beach of San Diego I spent way more time with the group and I did my best to get to know the other travellers. I still remember how I sat at the breakfast table, feeling slightly awkward and over the next 30 minutes I got to know every one else at the table and it clicked immediately between us all. From this point on we never did anything alone - we would go the harbour together, go for a hike at the coast (coming from a person who usually doesn’t do hikes), we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant, discovered ‘La Jolla’ and the highlight was definitely an evening at the beach that was organised by the hostel. We were sitting around the bonfire roasting Marshmallows and I don’t think I have ever laughed so much. So yes, I know it’s scary to put yourself out there and to enter a group of people you hardly know but let me tell you it’s worth it - you will make amazing friends and in my experience, travellers often have a lot in common.
Getting to know people from all over the world is an amazing and really inspiring experiences. You will suddenly add 10 new places to your bucket list and will get to know many new cultures. This is probably my favourite thing about hostels, the cultural mix and the opportunity to make friends from all around the world. Ultimately your view of the world will change and I find that people who have travelled far are often very tolerant and open-minded. When I stayed in San Diego I got to know people from the UK, Sweden, Australia, the US etc and and it was really interesting to share our experiences and our cultures. But let’s talk about another lesson solo-travelling will teach you: you will learn how to be alone. Without being lonely. And this skill is precious, it will help you massively in your daily life. By travelling alone you will learn that it’s okay to have fun by yourself and that it’s indeed possible to have a great day alone. To put it into simple words: You learn how to be comfortable with yourself. And I believe that this is the key to happiness. So if this has convinced you to try solo-travelling let me give you a few tips that I learnt on my two trips:
Book hostels that offer comfort and activities. You don’t want to stay in a place that is freezing at night or where the showers are dirty so make sure to read reviews carefully. Finding hostels that offer activities is a great plus as this will allow you to explore the city and to bond with other travellers.
Book tours and go to meet ups. Like I said the tours offered by hostels are amazing and they are often free as well. If there aren’t any tours available look for meet-ups in your city, you can use the coach surfing site for that.
Have a loose itinerary & be spontaneous.
Spend time at the hostel. That is where you can socialise with other travellers and make new friends.
Never go travelling without a credit card and a bit of cash. At least not in America where you have to pay all hostels by credit card. And cash is always useful, in the rare case your card isn’t accepted. (Which is very rare in a country where people pay their 2 Dollars Starbucks drink by credit card.)
Avoid dodgy areas and follow your gut. If you’re looking for a Greyhound Bus Station or a hostel make sure that the area is safe. I’d rather pay 10 bucks more and feel secure. There are many ways to save money but your safety shouldn’t have to suffer.