How to Travel Alone for the First Time

by Sojourner

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Knowing how to travel alone for the first time can be intimidating. You wonder what to pack, what to do, and juggle all these expectations of the unknown. It can be scary, but it does not have to be!

I started solo traveling in 2018 after years of group travel through studying and living abroad. My first solo trip was to Mexico, and I fell in love with the freedom and flexibility of solo travel. And now I do cool things solo, like a train trip in Mexico and hiking to eat pizza on a volcano in Guatemala.

If you are ready for the best tips for traveling alone as a woman, continue reading! I got all the advice to decrease that solo travel anxiety.

(FYI: This post may have affiliate links. If you buy something using my link, I get a small percentage for mentioning/recommending it. Lucky for you, it doesn’t change the price for you at all, and it’s a super easy and generous way to say thanks for all the work I put into writing this post!!)

FAQs about solo travel

Is it awkward to travel alone?

Solo travel can be awkward sometimes! Eating alone takes a lot of practice to forget that no one is watching you. Making small talk with strangers can get weird when the conversation fizzles. But overall, solo traveling is more relaxed than it seems. 

Is solo travel boring?

When learning to travel alone for the first time, you must keep yourself busy. Boredom is possible. However, in my experience, it takes a week in a location for the “b-word” to hit my vocabulary. And even then, it could be I’m having a bad day and nothing about where I am visiting. 

Is solo travel lonely?

Contrary to what social media may tell you, solo travel can get lonely. Sometimes, I wished I could share experiences with my mom or friends. When I have long bus rides or flights, talking to someone I already know would be nice. Yet, these moments are fleeting and don’t impact my experience too much.

Four key factors to help you plan your first solo trip

Determine your solo trip style

Planning your solo trip like a pro takes practice! But it starts with knowing how you like to travel and what type of solo experience you want. Are you a solo train traveler? Do you want the hustle and bustle of Mexico City? Or do you want to hike a volcano in Guatemala?  Knowing the kind of trip you want to plan is critical too.

Research the best seasons to visit for your location

Knowing the best months to visit a place is an underrated travel tip. You want to avoid seeing a city or country on your bucket list for it to rain forever. Therefore, it is crucial to research the best months to visit when planning your solo trip.

Shoulder season is an ideal season to travel alone. It is the season between peak season and off-season, and also when you find better flight deals. Traveling in shoulder season means you get better weather than off-season but fewer crowds than peak season. Remember that you pay more money in peak season but have better weather. 

Use other solo traveler’s itineraries for inspiration

Once you decide where to visit on your first solo trip, you must find out what to do. Researching Pinterest, Google, and other forms of social media is a resourceful way to fill your itinerary. You can get ideas on what to do as a solo traveler from more experienced travelers. Their tips can help you avoid boredom, loneliness, and feeling awkward while traveling alone. 

Purchase essential solo traveler accessories

Door alarms, portable chargers, and safety whistles are three of many solo travel safety items to pack. Unfortunately, as much as we should travel the world, it is not always safe. While purchasing some items are good, your best tool is common sense. However, you can find my solo travel essentials in my Amazon Storefront to buy before you go.

Solo travel tips for introverts

Do not feel obligated to be social

Don’t feel like you have to fake it. Permit yourself to avoid the chatty Cathy in the hostel. As a solo traveler, you are not obligated to talk to anyone. Embrace it! 

Book smaller tours

Even though you were traveling solo, you will still be in groups during your tours. However, do not gravitate towards the larger groups. A smaller, more intimate group tour may be beneficial. On websites like Airbnb Experiences, you can see how many people will be on tour. Or, ask the tour provider before you book. 

Pack noise-canceling headphones

As a former introvert, and still, even now, I enjoy my alone time. I invested in Sony’s noise-canceling headphones to be even more in tune with myself. They are great at blocking out noise on planes, trains, and hostels. No one can bother you because you can’t hear them anyway. 

Move at your own pace

Creating your schedule is one of the most beautiful parts of solo travel. Do not feel obligated to do activities on your first solo trip because it’s what you think you should be doing. If you want to sleep in some days,  no one is stopping you. Remember, it’s your trip, your way. 

Build you-time/quiet time in the schedule

Refrain from overbooking yourself when learning to travel alone for the first time. Although you may be anxious on your solo trip, you don’t want to overdo it. Build in time for you to relax and restore while on your first solo trip. 

Consider a train trip

Solo train travel is one of the most underrated solo trips. You can do many train activities alone and have a fantastic time. So if you are an introvert who would instead not engage too many travelers, consider a scenic train ride.

How to gain the confidence to travel alone

Practice at home

Before even taking a solo trip to your home state, I recommend practicing being alone. When traveling alone, you must be your own company—and incorporating solo dates and experiences for yourself in your daily life is practice. Some easy solo date ideas include going to the movies, taking yourself to dinner, and doing a class or tourist attraction in your city solo.

Start with smaller trips

Do not let Instagram fool you with extravagant solo trips abroad. You do not have to fly to Thailand or Bali to “find yourself” either. One of the best ways to travel alone for the first time is by starting small in your own backyard.

Take a solo trip to your home state first to test it out. That way, you can learn if you like solo travel on a small scale. From there, vacation by yourself in your home country, then consider going abroad. There is nothing wrong with building up to a more extensive solo trip. You do not need to go all in on the first try! 

Forget what other people think

One of the most common reasons that I hear why people don’t travel solo is due to the opinions of others. You will never know how to travel alone for the first time if you listen to people who have never traveled solo. Block out the noise and forget what other people think! And even if they have solo traveled and did not like it, your experience will be good too. 

Tips for traveling alone as a Black woman

Release those unnecessary stereotypes

Black women are often stereotyped as angry or needing to care for everyone. Before your first solo trip, release those negative perceptions of who you are (as deemed by society). They weigh us down and make us think the whole world perceives us the same, and that’s not always true.

Don’t pack that extra emotional baggage with you. In my experience meeting other Black solo female travelers, we often discuss how we don’t have the weight of the world on our shoulders as we’re traveling alone. Enjoy the freedom and flexibility of solo travel by releasing those thoughts and assumptions.

Read other Black women’s experiences

Googling other Black women’s solo travel experiences is a great way to research what could happen on your trip. While another Black woman’s experience may not be yours, it is good information to have, just in case. Because at the end of the day, I believe all Black women should try solo travel!

Be prepared to stick out

One thing I had to accept when traveling solo was that I would stick out. It may be because, as Black women, our hair differs from those we are visiting. Or obviously because of our skin color. But for us, blending in is more challenging than wearing certain clothes to not look like a tourist.

But sticking out is not a reason to stay home! If people stare, let them stare! You keep walking and mind your business. Most folks are curious and harmless, though they still keep a slight guard up. 

Join Black solo women travel groups

If you are a Black woman solo traveler who wants to make friends, this tip is for you. Black solo female travel groups are among my favorite tools for meeting people as I travel. It is nice to have a group for us, by us to hang out with each other. Most of these groups I find on Facebook. Some of my favorite groups for Black women travelers are She Travels the Globe, Black Girl Solo Travels, and Picky Girls Travel Solo: A Solo Travel Network for Black Women.

Where to visit for your first solo trip

For the introvert – a train trip

As an avid train traveler who has ridden 10 to 52-hour rides, I’m a sucker for scenic train rides. I recommend doing one at least once. A scenic train is one of the easiest places to learn to travel alone for the first time because you are primarily in one place as the views come to you. 

Train rides are perfect for introverts because you get the best of both worlds. If you book an Amtrak roomette, solo travelers spend their time in seclusion. However, you could also go to the observation car if you wanted to socialize. 

For the foodie – Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City is one of my favorite cities in the world. From street food to fancy restaurants, there is something for everyone to eat in Mexico City. As a black woman solo traveler who has visited Mexico City multiple times, each solo dining experience is distinct, delicious, and memorable.

For the outdoor adventurer – Antigua, Guatemala

Solo traveling in Guatemala is a top-tier experience. Basing yourself in Antigua makes going on all the adventurous hikes up volcanoes easy. Some to consider include Volcano Acatenango and Volcano Pacaya. To relax after your adventure, head to Lake Atitlan, where you can rest and add one more hike to Indian Nose.

Why you should travel alone as a solo female traveler

Before blogs and social media, no one could showcase how to travel alone for the first time. But nowadays, there are many examples of solo female travelers providing their advice. That openness to share helpful tips about new adventures as a solo traveler motivates me to continue to travel alone. 

Nothing compares to solo travel. The freedom of a schedule determined by your interests, meeting new people, and learning to be by yourself is a beautiful challenge. Loneliness and boredom can occur. But at the end of the day, most overcome those feelings. 

Yet, it is not an easy experience, nor does everyone like it. However, if you do, vacationing alone can widen your perspective on the world and your capabilities. Feeling that wanderlust, nerves, and excitement can uncover new aspects of who you are and want to become. I hope you feel motivated too!

Now that you know how to travel alone, here are some more pros and cons to prepare you!

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