Solo Travel: Your Questions Answered

how to travel solo, solo travel tips

Why I do it, how I do it and why you should too!

Since hitting my 20s, I’ve earned a bit of a reputation for hopping on a plane to see a city by myself. No parents, no friends, just me, my camera and a whole lotta wanderlust. Thus far my travels have taken me siteseeing in Paris, learning Spanish in Sevilla and side-street strolling in Stockholm.

A few of you have asked for my advice on Solo Travel so here I am!

Firstly, I’m glad to see so many of you – women especially – are thinking of travelling alone. I really believe it’s something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. My reasonings can be summed up in a simple quote:

“You’re never alone if you like the person you’re with.”

I think this quote is really important. As much as I love being around people, especially my friends and family, I truly think being comfortable in your own company is such a valuable thing to learn. It’s tough; we’re so conditioned to almost rely on the company of people we know, but when you take them out of the equation, it pushes you out of your comfort zone. And we all know that’s where life really begins.

FAQ: SOLO TRAVEL

WHY???

This is the most commonly asked question I get. And I always bat it back with “why not?!”. I always feel like there’s an implication that I’m supposed to be *waiting* for something (read: someBODY) to travel with. Well there’s a world out there to see, and quite simply life’s too short to wait.

I’ve noticed travelling solo gives you a totally new perspective too. Take Paris; the destination of my first solo trip back in 2015. Despite having visited numerous times before, I saw the city in a whole new light when it was just me. You’re so much more aware of what’s going on around you; hypersensitive to the locals, their conversations and behaviour. You have no choice – you’re by yourself.

Don’t you have friends you can go with?

I do, and whilst I love my friends dearly there’s just so much of the world to see and I’m impatient. I’ve also planned my trips around quite niche activities I specifically wanted to tick off (the ABBA museum in Stockholm, enrolling in Spanish lessons…), which my friends wouldn’t necessarily be interested in.

What’s more, organising a trip with friends can be challenging from a logistical point of view; finding a time you can all do, agreeing on a destination, finding something suited to everyone’s budgets and then planning. I realise this sounds incredibly moany but sometimes you really just have to get up and go. Saying this, I’m very excited to be going on my first holiday with friends in a few weeks (any recommendations for Marrakech are welcome!).

Isn’t eating alone weird?

I’ll never forget how nervous I was that first night in Paris to eat dinner by myself. I’d walked back and forth past a restaurant at least 5 times before mustering up the courage to go in and ask for a table for one. I had no idea why it was so daunting, but it just was. Strangely enough, once I finally did summon up the courage, the sky didn’t implode, nor did everyone drop their forks and gape at me in astonishment. I sat at my table, devoured a big bowl of carbonara and wrote in my journal – all in peace.

Now, those fears I had have long since vanished and I take great pleasure in asking for a table for one and sitting and enjoying a meal – and I don’t have to be travelling abroad to do this! I’ll take a book, or more often just people watch.

If the thought of eating alone is what’s putting you off solo travel take comfort in these 2 simple facts:

  1. You’re never alone in the age of technology
  2. If it comes to it, there’s almost always a fast food joint somewhere to fall back on!

Don’t you get bored by yourself?

If you’re bored in a new destination, then quite frankly you’re doing travel wrong. With so much to absorb, how can you be bored?

Each destination has its own story to tell, it’s up to you to choose how you listen.

Wander its streets, marvel at its architecture and note how it both echoes the past and nods to the future. Watch its people intently from a side street café, pay attention to what they drink and how they order it, where they shop, how they dress. It’s in these nuances that you truly get a feel for a new country or city, and I’ve found you take these in all the more when you’re on your own.

From a more practical point of view, I tend to research as many things to see as possible before I go so I know what I’m doing once I arrive.

Do you ever feel scared?

Of course. From the act of committing to your trip to each of those situations that challenge your boundaries, a solo trip can seem daunting.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from travelling solo, it’s that 98% of your fears are totally irrational. Take my restaurant example from earlier.

When I went to Sevilla last year, I stayed with a local family. That feeling of not knowing what to expect was what scared me most about the trip, but I needn’t have worried – yes the family spoke no English and my Spanish was barely beginner, but you get by and that’s what makes the experience so so worth it.

It comes back to that whole idea of pushing yourself out of your comfort zones; now I always have in the back of my mind that I’ve got by in a foreign country with a language barrier, and as a result I’m more willing to push myself in other situations.

How do you stay safe?

The places I’ve travelled to haven’t exactly been risqué – they’ve all been in European cities but whether you’re on your own or travelling accompanied, I’d say the same rules apply. Have your wits about you, watch your belongings, keep a photocopy of your passport on your email, go with your gut and if you feel the slightest sense of unease – remove yourself.

Disaster can strike at any time, but I tend not to stay out too late at night by myself. I’ll also ask the hotel/hosts for advice about where’s safe to visit at certain times etc.

When I went to Sevilla I actually got talking to a Polish girl who was studying there, and she invited me to go out with her that night. Long story short, we ended up meeting with some local Spanish performers she knew and going to a salsa party in a warehouse in the next town (it was such a fun night!). I literally didn’t know any of the people I was with, and there’s many ways that night could have gone but at no point did I feel unsafe, and if I had at any point I would have left immediately.

Who takes your photos?

Ahhh, now I’m really revealing my secrets! As a fashion blogger, full length outfit photos are like gold-dust when it comes to content, and when I’m exploring such stop-in-your-tracks, breathtakingly beautiful locations of course I want to share them with my readers!

If I’m by myself, I’ll find a quiet spot and use self timer on my phone or camera. I’ll usually prop my camera up on my sunglasses case. The first photo in this post was taken this way, as was this one, this one and this one.

Otherwise, I’ll ask strangers! If I spot a couple or group struggling to take a selfie I’ll offer to take a photo for them, which makes it easier to ask them to return the favour (which they always do!). I’ve also made friends along the way that have kindly obliged to facilitate my photoshoots!

Would you ever travel alone? Where would you go? I want to hear all about your dream travel plans, and of course I’d be more than happy to answer your questions too!

Sinéad xo

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