How to Rock Your First Solo Trip Overseas

Heading Out Alone? Here's How to Have the Best Trip Possible

The day before I was due to set out to travel the world alone, I almost cancelled my entire trip. 

I'd been planning, saving, and researching for years for my round-the-world trip. I'd booked my flights and hostels, I'd bought travel insurance, got my immunizations, and now my departure date was finally here. 

But I didn't want to go. 

At the time, I had never traveled alone before, and I was terrified that I wouldn't be very good at it. I was afraid they I'd get lost, or get sick, or even that I wouldn't make any friends. 

When I stepped on the plane on the very first day of my trip, I had no idea whether I was making the best or worst decision of my life. 

Fortunately, it was by far the best. 

My first ever solo trip was life-changing. I gained confidence and social skills, improved my self-esteem, learned that I was more capable than I'd ever believed, and even conquered an anxiety disorder! There's no doubt about it: I had the best kind of solo travel...MORE experience I could have hoped for. 

Here's how you can do exactly the same

  • 01 of 06

    Go to the Destinations That Interest You the Most

    Pigeon Square in Sarajevo, Bosnia
    ••• Pigeon Square in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Cultura RM Exclusive/Quim Roser/Getty Images

    When you start planning out your first solo travel trip, it can be tempting to start out by researching destinations that are good for first-time travelers. You'll most likely come across an article mentioning Southeast Asia at some point, as it's one of the most popular spots for new travelers. But you know what? Just because lots of people head to Southeast Asia doesn't mean that you should, too.

    Rather than going where you think you should go, think about where you've always dreamed of visiting. For me, that was Eastern Europe, so one of my very first destinations on my solo trip was Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Unconventional? Yes, but I loved every second I spent there. 

    Maybe Southeast Asia has always been calling your name, in which case you should definitely go -- it's one of my favourite regions of the world. But if you feel the urge to go somewhere else, don't be afraid to book your flight there. You'll most likely enjoy your travels far more...MORE if you're visiting the places that most interest you. 

  • 02 of 06

    Stay in a Dorm Room Every Now and Then

    A typical dorm room
    ••• A typical dorm room in a hostel. This one is Coffee Shack Hostel in South Africa. Micah Wright/First Light/Getty Images

    Hostels don't have the greatest of reputations, but when I travel, I'll opt to stay in one over a hotel 80% of the time -- and that's not because of the price!

    Hostels are fantastic for solo travelers because they make it so easy for you to make friends. Rock up to a dorm room in any hostel around the world, sit on your bed, and I guarantee that within an hour, you'll have made plenty of friends from around the world.

    Even if you think hostels sound disgusting or you value your sleep, give dorms a go. As long as you check the ratings before you arrive and stay in the highest-rated hostel, you'll likely have an amazing stay!  

  • 03 of 06

    Join Tours in the Places You Visit

    Solo Travel in Thailand
    ••• On a longtail boat in Thailand. Jordan Siemens/Taxi/Getty Images

    I'm a huge fan of taking tours as a solo traveler, because they help me to gain a better understanding of the place I'm in while allowing me to make friends at the same time. 

    Tours don't have to be expensive, either. In practically every city around the world, you'll find a free walking tour leaving every day, where you can turn up, spend a couple of hours walking around, and then tipping whatever you think the tour was worth. If you're budget-conscious, this is a great way to meet people while saving some cash.

    Ask at your hostel for any recommendations for tour companies, too. You may find that the hostel runs their own tours or that they can recommend affordable and awesome companies you could go with instead. Checking out a nearby attraction as part of a group is nearly always more fun than going there alone. 

  • 04 of 06

    Don't Overpack

    Girl at airport with backpack
    ••• Hero Images/Hero Images/Getty Images

    One of the biggest mistakes first-time travelers make is to overpack.

    I know, it's tricky to know exactly how much stuff you'll need on your travels, and you'd rather have too much than too little, so I definitely took too much with me. 

    And after four months on the road? I sat in my hostel in Bangkok and threw out half of what I was carrying. Most of that stuff I hadn't even used once at this point. 

    So, how can you make sure you don't make the same mistake as I did?

    The easiest way is to buy a small backpack and to devour packing lists written by long-term travelers. I recommend the Osprey Farpoint 55l or 40l packs, both of which I've now been traveling with for three and a half years. 

    And what I will say as well, is that it's actually better to travel with too little than too much, because you'll be able to find anything you've left behind in the places you'll be traveling through! Trust me: after five years of travel, I've yet to be able to...MORE find what I need when I need it anywhere in the world. 

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Build Flexibility Into Your Plans

    Friends in Oregon
    ••• Kacey Klonsky/Creative RF/Getty Images

    One of the easiest ways to ensure you have a successful solo trip is to build flexibility into your travel plans. As tempting as it is to have the safety net of a fully-booked trip, once you're on the road, you'll find it far more enjoyable to have greater flexibility.

    What happens if you show up in a place and meet some amazing people, but the very next day, you're due to fly somewhere else? Or what happens if the same thing happens, but they're moving on the following day while you're staying in that hostel for the next five? 

    Meeting friends is the best part of solo travel, and that's because you can change your plans and travel with some new people for a while.

    I highly recommend only booking your travels a week in advance to leave room for you to change your plans every so often.  

  • 06 of 06

    Attempt to Fit In As You Travel

    Backpackers in Thailand
    ••• Ilya Terentyev/E+/Getty Images

    How can you tell if someone's a tourist in Southeast Asia? They're wearing a baggy pair of hippie pants, a beer-branded singlet, and an armful of friendship bracelets.

    You can spot most tourists a mile off in popular tourist destinations around the world, and that means so can the scammers. If you look as if you've just turned up on the first trip of your life, the locals will see a person they can take advantage of. You'll be more likely to be scammed, more likely to be taken advantage of, and less likely to be able to bargain for a fair price for anything.

    This doesn't mean that you need to jump headfirst into cultural appropriation and come up looking like you're trying to pass as a local -- unless, of course, you're of Southeast Asian descent -- but what it does mean is taking a look at what the expats wear in the country and attempting to fit in with them. You'll most likely find they get by wearing the same clothes that you do when you're back...MORE home.

    In places where you can pass for the locals, aim to look more like they do. In places where you can't, attempt to pass for an expat. 

    Above all, holding your head high, marching with purpose, and looking as though you know exactly where you're going will help give the impression that you're not a vulnerable tourist.