In recent months, thanks to a few TikTok videos, I have had a huge influx of so many awesome women (and some guys) asking me questions about traveling solo, wanting to learn how they can travel alone.
I want to encourage everyone to travel alone, and give out as much information as possible. So, I decided to take my 10 most asked questions about solo travel and answer them here!
If I miss any question, comment below and I will answer them.
Here we go!
1.Do you feel safe?
Yes. That is the short answer.
I actually feel more safe traveling than I do in most places in the United States.
The long answer is that most countries that I’ve visited are extremely safe. I take normal precautions that I would in any city in my home country: Don’t go into bad neighborhoods, don’t walk home alone at 3 am drunk, don’t take a ride from a stranger, etc.
I’ve never even been pickpocketed in another country-and I’ve been to some cities notorious for pickpockets.
Have I had a few men say inappropriate things to me? Sure, but that happens in my home country too.
Have I had a few scams pulled over on me? Yes. I once paid 5 euro for a bracelet that I didn’t even want-the same thing for a flower. I’ve been encouraged to sign petitions and give my email address. When a stranger helped me with a train machine-he took a 2 euro coin from the change dispenser before I could blink.
I had all of those experiences but none of them were life-threatening, and I learned from them. I don’t allow anyone on the street to approach me or give me anything for ‘free.’ When people come and offer me help with a ticket machine, I wave them away.
I’ve learned to be extra wary of people in popular tourist spots and in areas of public transportation. This is where most scams and robberies happen.
I have made some mistakes while traveling and wrote about them in this blog post. Each mistake was a learning experience.
I encourage everyone to do research before they travel solo, and take normal precautions that you would in any city.
In addition, invest in a bag like pacsafe, or a slash proof purse with a clip (not just a zipper). You don’t ever want to wear a plain purse or normal backpack. Don’t put your wallet in your pockets. These are little things you can do to keep yourself from being pickpocketed.
When I travel solo, I also always carry a whistle on me to alert someone I may need help. I used to have a knife but now I don’t bother. A whistle is more than enough to alert someone if you need help.
2. How did you save enough money?
You’re not going to like the answer to this.
I go more in depth in this article about how I saved $5k to backpack Europe.
Without jumping to another post, the answer is: I made sacrifices.
The first thing I did was establish how much money I wanted to save, and determine what I was currently spending my money on. This can easily be done in about one month by just tracking your expenses, and doing some research on the trip you want to take.
The hard part is determining your sacrifices.
So for me, I got a part time job. I worked about 2 shifts a week. Sometimes I only had 2 days off every month. It was exhausting.
I also gave up A LOT; I didn’t buy clothes for almost a whole year. And I stopped going out drinking, stopped going out to eat. I didn’t allow myself any extras like pedicures or getting my hair done. In addition, I stopped going to Starbucks and instead started going to 711 for coffee in the morning.
I opened a separate bank account for travel and put a certain amount of money in that bank account every week. I pretended that money didn’t exist. When I got a nail in my tire, instead of taking money out of my travel fund, I put it on a credit card and worked a few more shifts to pay off the unexpected expense.
Was it always fun? No. It sucked most of the time.
But I saved up $5k and took an amazing trip to Europe.
When I ran out of money about 6 weeks in-I got a job as an au pair in Rome. There are other ways that you can work from abroad, like teaching English online, doing data entry, or some other online gig. I’ve always valued a steady paycheck, which is why I choose not to work online and travel full time. But, for some people it is an option.
My life has gotten easier-I now work part time for an airline (still have a full time job). With that job comes perks-like really cheap flights. So I can afford to get a massage once a month, buy a few more clothes, and join a $50/month yoga studio.
But, I still make my own coffee. And when I realized I couldn’t keep dying my hair blonde, I went back to my natural color and am letting those greys come through!
I still make sacrifices, but I don’t make as many as I did when I was 24.
That is how I save up money to travel.
3.How did you get over your shyness/timidness/anxiety?
It was really hard. My solo trip at 24 was not my first time traveling. I had been on two group trips with my old LAX coach from high school. So, I already loved traveling.
I tried to find people to travel with-but no one had time, money, or desire. So, I knew I had to go alone.
I was terrified. I have never been an outgoing person, in fact I used to be painfully shy, something that I have grown out of with time, in large part to traveling.
When I went to Vienna alone I don’t think I talked to one person in my hostel. I felt like an outsider, like I didn’t belong. But I did listen a lot to the conversations people had.
And then, I started mimicking those conversations with others. Where have you been? How long are you traveling for? What was your favorite country? Where are you going next? Anything interesting to do in this place? How long are you staying for?
It became pretty easy to talk about travel to other people. And other people are outgoing and will come up and make conversation.
I also got practice at speaking to total strangers, in a different language, for survival.
Now, I didn’t have a smartphone in 2014 ( I did but it didn’t work abroad) and I didn’t get a SIM card or anything. I could get the internet when I sat down at a cafe, but besides that I was blind.
So, I had to ask complete strangers for directions, how to use public transport, where was the bathroom, everything.
At first, it was horrible. I would barely speak to strangers in the US, but I HAD to while traveling. I had no other way to get by.
5 years later and I have no issue in whatever country I’m in coming up to a complete stranger and asking for help. I can’t really point to what changed, or when I changed, but I did.
If you’re struggling with building confidence, I would suggest starting small. Go to a movie by yourself, take yourself out to eat, do a fun activity by yourself. Get out of your comfort zone, talk to strangers. Take a day trip to a new city. You’ll gradually gain confidence.
Another option is to select a group tour-I did group tours in New Zealand, Ireland, and Scotland. Part of the time I was in all 3 countries I was on a tour bus with strangers. You meet a ton of people, and you’re not alone. Group tours are limiting in some ways, but they can be an awesome first step to traveling solo.
4. How did you meet people abroad?
Easily. It is actually easier to meet people when you travel alone versus when you travel with a friend or partner. You’re more likely to attract solo travelers, locals seem to help you out more, and you’re more open to hanging out with people because you don’t have anyone else.
I met a lot of people at the hostels I stayed at. Mostly I stayed in dorms, both co-ed and female. I highly recommend staying in female only dorms (if you are a female). Female dorms are great places to meet friends (plus they are cleaner, and smell better. It’s usually only a couple dollars more for an all-female dorm room). You can even hang out in the common room, or make dinner or breakfast together. Some hostels have group events like guided tours, pub crawls, game nights, etc. Search for hostels like this if you want to meet people!
Tours are another great way to meet people. In Europe there are a lot of free city tours- I would often go and find one or two people traveling solo. We would meet up and grab lunch after the tour and go and see some stuff in the city at night.
Another great way to connect to people is through couchsurfing or meet up groups. Often locals will love to show you around their city and show you their culture. Offer to cook them dinner or take them out to eat or teach them something about your culture in return.
Magical experiences that I always tout are another great way to meet people. When I did an excursion in Thailand, I met a ton of cool people on the same excursion, and we ended up hanging out after the tour.
And you always have the group tours-like EF Tours, or Haka, or Shamrocker. These will guarantee you meet awesome friends because you are traveling together for days on end!
5. How do you explain to friends/family what you are doing?
I’m lucky that I have a really supportive family who encourages me to travel.
That being said, it doesn’t mean they’re not nervous for me, or worry about me.
When I’m abroad I take great pains to facetime my mom and text her during the day, and let her know how I’m doing. I’ll send her photos and video at the end of the day, and tell her what I did. I think this makes me being away from home easier.
Before my first solo trip I had to show my family articles about women traveling solo, send them youtube videos, etc. I also talked their ears off about it. My family knew what I wanted to do.
Before I left I sent them my itinerary: where I was staying, my modes of transportation, my activities that I was already signed up for. They knew where I was everyday, and I stayed in constant communication with them.
I chose hostels that had free internet so I could check in morning and night. I tried to ease their worries but giving them a ton of information.
If your family or friends don’t understand your love of travel, or encourage you not to go, start building up your trips. Take a day trip to a city with a friend, then take one alone. Or, take a weekend trip away with a friend, then a weekend trip alone. Take a group tour first alone, so your family knows you have people around you.
Eventually they will come around.
6.How do you plan for your trip?
I do a ton of research, hours and hours (literally) of research. I recently put together a travel planning interactive workbook. This guided notebook basically takes you through my trip planning process. I write down a lot of guided questions, but basically YOU do the research and tailor your trip to you! If you want a copy, fill out the form below!
Once I decide what country I want to visit I start looking at cities to visit, things to do, cool neighborhoods, safety information, transportation information, visa requirements, etc.
I don’t overplan. I know how many days I’ll be in a city, I’ll understand the transportation options, I’ll know what hotel I will be in, and I’ll have a few activities in the back of my mind. I’ve learned not to try and plan too much.
Travel bloggers and tour group sites are great places to get general itineraries for a given country. They often highlight popular destinations and not-to-be-missed attractions. I also look to pinterest and instagram for inspiration.
7.Do you ever get lonely?
Yea, of course I do. It’s normal and it’s natural,and it never ruins my trip.
I miss my friends and family, but I’m also super busy and having a blast and learning about myself and overcoming my fears.
And I usually meet a lot of people-so I never stay lonely for long.
Another important distinction is that it is very different to be lonely and alone. I love being alone. I love my own company. Love being able to do whatever I want. Sitting in silence and just watching a city gives me a lot of pleasure, learning to just be and not talk or do anything, but just sit.
You learn to love yourself and rely on yourself. Your confidence builds.
Yea, you may have a bad day or get tired, but that’s just life. Travel is no different. When I feel lonely I allow myself to feel that, maybe chat with a family member from home, and then I get out and do something by myself.
And I always have a good time.
8. How do you communicate with people who don’t speak your language?
Well, if you speak English, you’re really lucky. Because a lot of people around the world speak English-especially the younger generation. And if you go to major tourist attractions (Paris, etc) a lot of people in the tourist industry can speak at least a little bit of English.
Taking public transportation is a bit harder-but I just use my smartphone (with internet now, I upgraded) for directions and match the sign to the directions, it’s really not hard. If I’m in an uber I show the driver the address in his or her language. Restaurants typically have an English menu, tours are always offered in English, it’s actually not that bad.
Google translate is also really awesome if you need to ask someone a question. The app will actually read it out for you, and you can have someone type a reply. Google translate also reads signs and menus, so you are set there as well!
I also always try to learn a few basic phrases before I go anywhere: hello, goodbye, thank you, do you speak English? Where is ____?
Don’t just assume people speak your language. Say hello in the country’s language, then ask if they speak English, and then you can ask your question.
But don’t worry. Even in countries like Japan and Peru where there are few English speakers, I never had a hard time getting around or making myself understood.
9.How do you get photos of yourself?
I take a lot of selfies, and I have a selfie-stick. I’m not ashamed to use the selfie stick, but I don’t over rely on it-I take a photo of myself and then move on.
I also try to prop my camera up on ledges or rocks or even trash cans to get in a shot. This works if it is less crowded, especially in the early morning when there are usually less tourists.
I used to own a tripod, but unless you’re traveling somewhere really remote, it just gets in the way. I would recommend a self-stick that doubles as a small tripod-that way when the opportunity presents itself you can use it. You can get a small one big enough to fit in a purse or handbag.
But, I usually just ask people. I tend to ask other solo female travelers, or people with nice camera equipment. If I see a couple taking a selfie, (or someone using a selfie stick) I’ll offer to take their photo and then ask if they will take mine. I feel less awkward when there is a trade.
10. What about using a cell phone?
Most places you will visit will have a plethora of restaurants, cafes, and bars, with wifi. Any smartphone will connect to wifi. So if you get lost, you can always go to a place that has wifi, order a drink, and get your bearings.
If you have an iphone you can FaceTime and Ichat when you’re connected to the internet. Or, if you have an android, you can use facebook messenger, whatsapp, or skype to connect with friends and family and text/video chat.
If you want to make phone calls and have data roaming when you are not sitting down at a cafe, it really depends on your provider.
I have T-Mobile, which I LOVE. They offer free internet in tons of different countries. It does cost extra money to text and make phone calls-so I only do that in case of an emergency. They do have an additional service where you can get faster internet/unlimited calls and texts, but honestly I have never felt the need.
If you do not have T-Mobile, you need to check with your carrier to determine what their costs are for international data. A quick phone call or stop into a store can help you out.
You are also able to buy a sim card for your phone when you arrive at your destination IF the phone is unlocked. Most phones today are unlocked, but again, a trip to your carrier’s store will alert you to everything you need to know.
SIM cards are common at airports when you arrive if you need to purchase one. The price varies but they are usually not too much money.
Final Thoughts: I don’t think I could ever do what you do, where do I even start?
Start with the desire. Build up your desire to see a country, or a town, want it so bad that you’ll do anything to go there.
Then, start saving money and start doing your research.
Next, start building up confidence with little solo outings.
Tell your family and friends about your desire, surround yourself with encouraging women.
Read travel blogs and listen to advice from other women who have gone to the same place that you will be going to.
Before you know it, you’ll be traveling solo!
Have any more questions about solo travel? Let me know in the comments below!
Other posts you will enjoy:
- A Love Letter to Solo Female Travel and Women
- You Don’t Have to Quit Your Job to Travel the World
- My Love/Hate Relationship with Hiking and Covid-19
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