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Going on your first solo trip is not an easy task. Travelling alone can be scary - like going to the kitchen to fetch water at midnight kind of scary - and worse. When I set out to travel alone, I was super excited at first. I had chosen a temple/ beach town just 4 hours away from my home for my first solo trip. As I sat in the bus, all alone, the fear and panic set in. I thought of myself as a big idiot who could be sitting on a couch at home cuddling my dog. But instead, I chose to go to a small town, all by myself. I started questioning what I would do on a beach all alone. I didn't want to be a sad lone traveler. In fact, I had half a mind to get down and take a bus back home. But I didn't and I had the most enriching experience. That's why I want to tell you how you can take your first solo trip.
Since my first solo trip in March 2018, I've travelled to all sorts of places by myself. I've seen the Taj Mahal at sunrise from a boat, I went to remote locations in Himachal that had no cell connectivity, I've done a bike trip across Spiti with someone I met on the road and I fulfilled my dream of spending 3 weeks in Bali by myself. If I can overcome my fear of going out alone, so can you and here's how.
Where to Travel Alone
When you set out travelling by yourself for the first time, pick a destination close to you. If you go far away to a location where nobody speaks your language, it can be daunting. For your first solo trip, find a place close enough to your home but a place that offers a different culture, food or landscape.
Also, if you pick places where there's a ton of art and history, you can tour these sights by yourself. Again, if it's a beach destination, you can meet tons of fellow travelers over beer at a beach shack. So choosing the right location is key when you're traveling alone.
Where to Stay on Your First Solo Trip
When I'm planning a solo vacation, I prefer hostels over hotels. Hostels offer inexpensive accommodation, often quirky decor and fun vibes. Above all, they are a great place to meet interesting people and make friends.
If you're traveling within India, I strongly recommend Zostel, which is a chain of the coolest hostels across India. Like seriously, everyone from the people at the reception, the ones who run the cafe and the guides are all really cool and friendly. They even have numbers of vehicle rentals, taxis etc handy in case you need a ride. If you're a solo female, take up a bed in the female dorm, which is a totally safe option.
How to Make Friends on a Solo Trip
If you're staying in a hostel, the best way to make friends is to strike a conversation with your roommates. Ask them where they are from and what they plan on doing during their stay. Chances are that you'll find a travel buddy just by asking this simple question.
Another great way to meet people while traveling (which worked for me) is to talk to the people seated near you at a cafe. I know this sounds intrusive and shameless, but hey, that's me. When I went to Gokarna on my first solo trip, I went to the Namaste Cafe right after freshening up. As I was waiting for my meal to arrive, I overheard the conversation of three girls sitting next to me. Blabber-mouth me couldn't be quiet for too long so I jumped in on their conversation. That was the beginning of a great trip with those three incredible girls that I had just met! In Chitkul, I played uno with solo travellers and ended up doing a Spiti bike trip with one of them.
How to Stay Safe When Traveling Alone
Safety is paramount, irrespective of whether or not you're traveling alone. Follow these basic safety guidelines to avoid/ get out of any uncomfortable situation:
- Give your travel itinerary including bus schedule, taxi numbers, hostel details etc to a family member or a close friend.
- Take pictures, scanned copies of your travel documents and mail it to yourself.
- Keep your cash and cards in a wallet or purse which you always carry with you or store in a locker. Also keep cash distributed so that if you lose your wallet, you'll have a little cash to get by.
- Never carry valuables in your luggage and get a small lock for it, if you're apprehensive about losing clothing items.
- Carry the phone number and address of the hostel with you whenever you venture out.
All in all, be on your guard and trust your instincts. If you do this, you will have a great time when you're traveling by yourself!
They tell you that solo travel changes you and they're right. It pushes you to embrace one of the biggest fears of mankind - being without a partner. The beauty of this form of travel is that even though you're by yourself, you're never really alone. So go on you, take your first solo trip and discover a lot more about yourself.