Your Turn: Tips for the Solo Traveler

Your Turn: Tips for the Solo Traveler

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by Laura-Beth King

I’m 27, single and I love to travel. God has blessed me with many incredible travel experiences over the years; however, until last fall, I had always gone with family or friends. To be honest, I actually said at one point, “I will never travel alone!” Well, since most of my friends are either nurses or teachers, and being a nurse myself, corresponding vacation times have proven challenging to say the least.

Last summer, the thought occurred to me, If I keep waiting for a travel buddy, I’ll never leave town! After much thought and prayer, I decided to take the leap and go on a grand adventure by myself. When I brought up the subject with my parents, their initial reaction was, “We don’t want you travelling alone.” However, when I shared my carefully thought-out plans with them, their reply soon became, “We wish we were going with you!” From Sept. 30 to Oct. 6, 2013, I traveled to Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye, Scotland by myself, and it was one of my favorite and most memorable trips. For anyone who is considering travelling solo, go for it! Here are some tips for a safe trip.

Make a Plan

As soon as I decided on Edinburgh and Skye, I looked into all the possible things to do, and based on the amount of time I was planning on spending at each location, I selected a few “must do’s” and a few “would like to do’s.” I chose hotels and B&Bs that were either close to the activities I wanted to do or had easy access to transportation. I booked my “must do” activities in advance, and I looked up bus schedules and opening/closing times of the “would like to do” activities. I kept my schedule flexible in case I decided to change my plans if something more exciting came up.

Make Arrangements

Where possible, book B&Bs and things to do ahead of time. Communicate with your hosts and the people running your activities so you have contacts when you arrive. If you’re a little apprehensive about traveling alone, it can help ease your anxiety since you know someone is expecting your arrival.

Use Common Sense

I took karate in high school and self-defense in university. I also grew up with three brothers and learned a little about wrestling over the years. Even with that knowledge and experience, I preferred not having to use those skills while I was away. While travelling solo, you need to travel smart, especially in a foreign country where the saying, “Don’t go anywhere alone,” doesn’t apply the same way. Use your smarts.

Where possible, do activities within view and earshot of other people, or go on guided tours. If you can help it, don’t go out anywhere into the wee hours of the night, and of course, don’t venture down any dark alleyways. I was in my hotel room or B&B every night between 7 and 8 p.m., and honestly, I did so much hiking or walking during the day that I was exhausted (in a good, healthy way!) and was ready to head in for the night.

Stay Connected

One purpose of my trip was to physically get away and be on my own for a week. I did, however, leave the address and contact number for every hotel and B&B at which I was planning to stay, with my parents. I also left them my rough itinerary so they could keep track of where I was during my travels. I brought my computer and my cellphone along so I could use the free Wi-Fi my accommodations provided. And, though I didn’t plan on it, I did end up emailing home almost every night — mostly so I could share my excitement over the amazing things I got to do each day, but also to let my family know I was safe so they didn’t worry.

Déjà vu?

Consider revisiting a place to which you’ve already been. I had travelled through Scotland with a friend while on a Contiki tour a couple of years ago. Because of the research we did for that trip as well as the places we visited while on the tour, I was familiar with certain areas and I was comfortable using the bus system.

Pray

Remember, it’s the Lord who has given you the desire and the means to travel. It’s important to seek His guidance, wisdom and discernment in planning your trip, in keeping you safe while you’re away, and in leading you to the right contacts who can help make your experience even better. My B&B hosts made all the difference in my trip, and I know it was because God used them. Having an invaluable knowledge of the area, they gave me excellent recommendations on where to go, things to do, places to eat, and one host even picked me up and drove me to a couple of my destinations. What a blessing!

One more tidbit: Pick a day song! I chose Hillsong Young & Free’s song "Alive" (the studio version) as mine, and I played it every morning as I went on my way. It’s fun, upbeat and filled with truth that God used to remind me of His love every day as I traveled.

Happy travelling!

 Laura-Beth King is a perioperative registered nurse at a hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

If you would like to contribute a post to the Boundless blog's "Your Turn" Friday feature, see "Writers Wanted" for more details.

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  • --I love this post!! When I was 26 and single I traveled around Europe by myself for one month, and it was AMAZING. Staying in hostels really helps when you're traveling solo; you get to meet all kinds of interesting people. Also, when you're traveling alone, I think a trip becomes more of a spiritual journey, because you're basically relying on God all the time, especially when you don't speak the language.

    Yes yes yes!!

  • --"I also grew up with three brothers and learned a little about wrestling over the years." haha That's my favorite line.

    I'm so happy for you that God blessed you with this awesome trip and can't wait to go on an adventure someday with you, my friend!

  • --I appreciate this post very much. I'm constantly torn over my thoughts about travel: the friends I'd like to travel with are not in the same position I am financially or with vacation-time. And the friends who are in a position to travel with me, I don't care to spend a few days or a week solid with them! But I am so social that it seems like anathema to travel somewhere by myself. One tip to add from another friend of mine is to do organized/tour trips, so then you're not alone, plus you're getting to meet lots of interesting people from other countries. Not sure yet when I will bite the bullet and just try a trip by myself...

  • --This is such an uplifting wonderful, hopeful post! Thank you for sharing! I too love to travel and have been wanting to try traveling alone again (I did so once when I was younger and hated it, but now that I'm older I might enjoy it). I think its a good way to get away from everything and focus on just resting in the Lord too.

  • If there is nothing good on your motel TV, remember that the Gideons may have placed a Bible in the nightstand drawer.

  • --Hey I did the same thing 2 years ago!!! :)

    I went to a few towns in Germany and Austria just by myself.

    My friends and family were afraid but I was never afraid though it was my first time traveling, I knew I would be taken care of.

    I just booked the hostels in advance. Hostels in Europe are very clean!

    I am a teacher... yeah no friends have the same holidays so that was my reason of trying it by myself too. I met a couple of interesting people on the trip. It was a beautiful experience. When I remember it sometimes, I would hear a song singing in my head-- and my theme song is an oldie "A Summer Place"... hehe

    I have a question for Laura-- What is a B&B host?

    I didn't have any help except asking the people at the front desk of the hostel, is that what you're talking about?

  • --Great advice on traveling solo. Last year God gave me the opportunity to visit 11 different European countries on my own. It was my first time ever doing something as adventurous and exciting as this. This year I am hoping to do a solo backpacking trip in Asia, and I know that there will be a lot of challenges with regards to language barriers, but with God's help, I will survive and have a great time. I guess it also helps that I am single right now too haha! Otherwise it would probably be more difficult to do something like this again.

  • --I took a 3-day trip to Nikko, a little mountain town a few hours north of Tokyo, by myself one time. It was the best trip I've ever been on.

    The things that made traveling solo so fun:

    1. I was more open to changes in plans and doing things spontaneously. I felt free to wander, and take my time or hurry as I wanted.

    2. Any mistakes inconvenience/embarrass only yourself. Missed trains, mistaken buses, etc. happen every time I travel. But with only me to worry about, minor setbacks didn't bother me much.

    3. I took more and nicer photos. Probably because there was no one to immediately share things with.

    4. I noticed and enjoyed more small details and little things about the places I visited. With another person, you are always focusing on them a bit. By myself, I was completely focused on my surroundings.

    5. I was more open to meeting and talking with new people. I met some nice folks at the hostel I stayed at.

    6. Time to be introspective and really think and pray about things. 3 days of mostly myself for company (it was a small resort town, I went in the middle of winter so it was pretty empty) I was so, so spiritually strengthened and refreshed after that trip.

    I was nervous about going by myself at first, but now I think solo travel is more enjoyable than with someone else :]

  • --I go on solo trips at least once a year.  For me I choose a remote wilderness destination.

    I always let a friend know where I am going and what time frame I should be returning.  I take proper equipment (That inludes maps and a compass).  I study the map before going and I review satellite phots of the region as well.  

    I find it very refreshing to go sometimes as much as two weeks without seeing or having to speak to another human.

    Whether you are going to the wilderness or to a populated area always stufy the region before and let someone know where you are going and when you will return.

  • --A few years ago, I went to Austria to visit a friend who was over there for a Masters' program. I had planned to spend two weeks with her, but through a series of circumstances, I ended up in my own hotel, and mostly on my own for the bulk of the trip (we would meet up in the evenings most days, and she went on a weekend trip to Budapest with me). Had I known in advance that I would be essentially on my own, I may not have gone at all, but in retrospect I'm so glad I did!  It was a great foray into traveling alone. I got to enjoy the sights and activities I was interested in, and chat with locals and other travelers in a way that may not have been possible had I been with my friend the whole time. One weekend I went by myself to Prague - which terrified my mother - and had the best time! That trip also taught me a lot about trust and faith, both in God's protection and provision, and in my own capabilities and resourcefulness. It's amazing how a late train and missed connection in the middle of nowhere can teach you so much. :)

    That trip taught me that I could travel by myself and enjoy it - which is good, since I love to travel, but don't always have a built-in travel buddy. Two years after that trip I boarded a plane and headed to the beach for a week by myself. Again, my mother didn't quite understand why, but I really needed some rest, relaxation and perspective.

    This past summer I went on vacation with my family - it was a great trip and we had a good time together, but I'll be honest - I wish I'd had more time alone! :)

    If you want to travel, do it. Don't wait until you can "afford it" - you won't. Just decide to go and start saving your pennies and looking for deals. And if there's no one to go with you, go anyway. You'll always meet people to chat with - and if the idea makes you really nervous, try an organized tour. I perfer to plan my own trips (that's half the fun!), but having some built-in people to talk to would be nice, too.

  • --I highly recommend both travelling solo as well as with friends. You get to experience places and people (God's fearfully and wonderfullly created beings!) in completely different ways.

  • --Sounds like some of you have had some pretty awesome travel experiences as well, thanks for sharing! I definitely agree that traveling by yourself can be a wonderful opportunity to grow spiritually. Mingmei3m - a B&B host is the person running a Bed & Breakfast (like a cottage, but they live there or on the property as well) and yes you're correct, talking to them is just like talking to someone who runs a hostel :)

  • --If I'd waited for travel companions, I wouldn't have seen the nearly 40 countries I've been to.  Travelling alone is one of the most thrilling and challenging experiences in life, especially when things go wrong.  Especially if you're a solo woman.  (I say this because of the harrassment I've endured when travelling in the Middle East.)  God has been with me and kept me safe through many dangerous situations and you're never truly travelling alone because God is with you.

    Do it.  Don't wait.  Just go.

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