Guides, Solo Travel
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Solo Travel: 24 Things I Wish I Knew Before Traveling

A smile goes a long way ©

Solo female travel is different from other types of travel, especially when it’s your first time. You need guts (a shit ton of it!) because there’s this constant voice in the back of your mind screaming ‘I’m alone!’ Not a tempting companion.

You’ve to be alert 24/7 for your peace of mind.

You need to stay in touch with your friends and family (so you know someone has your back, even if they’re thousands of miles away).

Your plan will change more often than expected, and you’re not sure if you’re prepared for that.

You’ve to be vulnerable and still feel okay with it.

I knew my first solo trip won’t be easy. But I didn’t expect it’ll be a disaster… and an invaluable experience.

For my first trip, I traveled to Japan. Mainly because I was already fascinated by its culture and cuisine. Being one of the safest countries on the planet was a bonus that made the concept of ‘traveling alone’ easier for me (and my family) to accept.

Osaka, Japan ©

Osaka, Japan ©

But I fell sick to a bad degree. I over-packed. My feet and knees hurt after only 3 days. I was constantly exhausted.

Yet traveling with such problems gave me the chance to experience happiness in the comfort of anxiety and loneliness, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

Because I grew up. I learned to be content with who I am, and find a sense of strength in adversity.

Of course, there are certain things I wish I’d realized before going on my solo trip. Maybe I would’ve enjoyed more or stayed out longer to see the night lights. But you see, I still wouldn’t change a thing.

This trip will always be a part of me and how I approach living my life.

What’s the point of this post? Hopefully, you’ll find the article useful for that next trip or similar to your own experience and we can start a healthy conversation.

Without further ado, here are the 24 things I wish I knew:

  • Less is more when it comes to packing. Use this tip as a rule of thumb if you don’t want to literally throw away your belongings to make the luggage lighter (my check-in bag weighed 18kgs!).

  • Learning the local language is not only crucial to saving money, but it gets you out of difficult situations as well.
  • Remember: Comfort overrides style. People won’t care what you wear or look like. Heck, even you won’t give a damn after 5 days.
  • You have to walk A LOT, and you can’t escape it. The quicker you accept this, the better.
  • As a solo female traveler, you’ll get hit on. Even by 60-year-old grandpas. You may have to make peace with that, but you don’t have to tolerate it. Refrain from sharing information other than necessary, decline offers politely and get the hell out of there if you’re uncomfortable.
  • It’s okay to miss out on a few stops of your itinerary, whether you’re sick or doing fine. Resting is just as important when you travel alone.
  • Plan your first trip well, even if you can’t keep up.
  • You will get lost. It’s the rite of passage you’ve to cross as a first-time solo traveler.
Osaka, Japan ©

Osaka, Japan ©

  • You’ll feel overwhelmed by your journey and leave some of your belongings behind or forget to take them completely. And that’s okay!
  • Meeting locals (better yet, staying with them) and other travelers is so refreshing. I recommend using Couchsurfing! It’s a fabulous platform to get acquainted with the destination, communities and culture.
  • You’ll become patient, whether you want to or not.
  • Traveling by yourself isn’t glamorous. It’s confusing and exhausting. Take a deep breath every once in a while.
  • People are more than happy and eager to help you. Just ask and you shall receive.
  • Keep a good-quality power bank on-person when you’re out and about.
  • Every minute spent traveling will charm you as you get familiar with a new community and landscape.
  • The best way to explore a destination is by eating food in local joints. You enter a surreal dimension altogether.
Shinjuku, Tokyo

Shinjuku, Tokyo

  • Don’t misinterpret situations or people around you without analyzing your surroundings.
  • Over-thinking things won’t get you anywhere. Take things as they come and approach them to the best of your ability.
  • A mobile network or data connection will become the distinction between comforting and frustrating travel.
  • You’re bound to go on an emotional rollercoaster. Know that it’s a common predicament so you can be comfortable in your own skin in a foreign land. Embrace with open arms!
  • Don’t expect the photos to come out like ‘Beautiful Destinations’. You’ll be juggling between your smartphone, digital camera, backpack, and exhaustion. They will suck, including the selfies. (Unless you’re a photography or selfie ninja.)
Kyoto, Japan ©

Kyoto, Japan ©

  • You’ll enjoy your trip more by being mindful of the local traditions and customs and grateful to the hosts, strangers who go out of their way to help and guide you.
  • Always have comfort food with you. You can never go wrong with that.

Last, but not the least!

  • Give yourself the permission to be happy, confident and proud. You’re traveling alone for crying out loud. That’s brave and hands-down badass.

. . . .

Traveling alone for the first time is hard and scary. You’re at the mercy of your own thoughts and actions. But that’s what makes it so incredible. Since you don’t have any other choice but to grow the hell up and learn to be in the moment.

I believe we (or at least a part of us) travel to appreciate the contrast, between lifestyles, perspectives and landscapes. And solo traveling is the more-than-perfect choice to get better at figuring out the purpose of our life.

Here’s hoping for your first successful solo travel! ∞

4 Comments

  1. Ah, great post! This brings back such good memories of my first solo trip to Japan too! 🙂

    Like

    • I absolutely agree, Jaleh! Traveling on your own is probably the best decision you could make to really get yourself out of the comfort zone. 😀

      Like

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