This article talks about planning your first solo trip and suggests best destinations to start with.
By Archana Singh
With more and more people venturing out of their cocoons to see the world there is a sudden surge in the number of solo travellers. Social media too has played an important role in spreading the word. Thanks to the thousands of solo travel blogs and media stories splashed across, we see people from different walks of life and even small towns exploring the world. I myself belong to this small tribe. Whenever I post a new blogpost I always get responses to the likes of
- How do you find the courage to travel solo”
- How did you start solo traveling?
- How do you fund your trips?
- How do you convince your family?
- Is it safe to travel abroad all by yourself?
- Don’t you get bored while traveling solo?
- What are the solo travellers’ friendly destinations?
- I want to travel solo but can’t summon the courage. Are there any solo travellers groups I can join?
- What is it like to travel solo?
Well to cut the long story short SOLO TRAVEL IS FREEDOM.
Solo travel rids you of all your fears, prejudices and makes you responsible for all your actions. You get a solid dose of confidence and empowerment, which reflects in everything you do thereafter. This post is to help you take that first step towards solo travel.
MENTAL CONVICTION – Why I want to travel solo?
Before you get on the road or convince your folks about your solo travel, you have to prepare yourself. Read the personal experiences of solo travellers. Talk to them. See documentaries. But most importantly talk to yourself. Honestly reflect on why you want to travel solo. If your answer is to join the bandwagon then you are doing it wrong. The reason cannot come from anyone else but you. Once you have a strong reason you won’t have to work hard towards convincing others. The first thing that solo travel does to you is that it helps you take critical decisions, a virtue that will help you in every aspect of life.
PLANNING THE PLAN – Where I want to go on my maiden solo trip?
Once you have made up your mind, it’s time to decide on the destination. Don’t get carried away by exoticness of the place. Don’t get too adventurous on your solo trip. Start with baby steps. First decide the kind of experience you want to have basis your comfort zone– adventure, sightseeing, nature, city tour, cultural tour, wildlife, heritage or any other interest you have. Once you have zeroed upon your interest then look for the safest options rather than unique. Doing the touristy stuff on your first solo trip isn’t bad at all. Probably taking a weekend trip in conditions not alien to you is a better idea. Do in-depth search and tentatively make all your travel, stay and activity bookings. Start saving money for your trip much in advance so that you don’t have to depend on anyone. Meticulously plan your trip around holidays or a long weekend.
GARNER SUPPORT – How to convince your parents?
Once you have made up your mind, it becomes very easy to convince others. Your family and friends oppose your solo travel plans because they are worried about your safety and wellbeing. But once they see the conviction that you can take care of yourself they won’t stop you. Be thoroughly prepared with your travel plan. Don’t leave any room for doubt. Brace yourself to answer all kinds of questions – how many days, why this place, why solo, where will you stay, safety of the place, how will you travel, have people taken solo trips there before, how will you manage your expenses, how will you stay in touch, what activities will you do, what are the emergency numbers etc. Show conviction, have confidence, and promise to stay in touch throughout your trip. I am sure you’ll pass their verbal exam with flying colours.
EXECUTE THE PLAN – How to enjoy while staying alert?
The success or failure of your first solo trip will determine the fate of your solo travel journey for the rest of the life. Be extra cautious. Always have plan B ready. Follow the practical travel tips for solo travellers. Stay in hotels at prominent locations instead of homestays or cheap accommodations tucked away far. Choose a place which is highly recommended by travellers (look for reviews on trip-advisor), in the heart of the city, well connected by public transport, has all basic facilities and whose customer care is prompt in response. And mostly importantly, choose a place that has good Wi-Fi connection. Once you have decided on the place, make your itinerary. Share and take feedback from people who have travelled that place before. Always be ready with plan B. Download the necessary travel guides. Make notes and save important information in your mobile. Pre-book everything to avoid last minute hassles. Pack light and avoid taking your flashy gadgets on your first trip. A mobile camera is good enough to accompany you on your first trip. Stay in touch with your folks throughout. Make sure you call them every day and keep others aware about your location through social media. But don’t reveal too much to strangers. Be slow in trusting people and making new friends. Check about the local information from chaiwallas, hotel staff, and taxi drivers without revealing much about yourself and your plans.
INSPIRE OTHERS – How to share your experience with others?
Once you have successfully finished your solo trip, be an inspiration to others. Nothing motivates like hearing real life experiences of people who would have been in the same boat. Content is more important than presentation. You can share it either through your blog, on travel groups, on your TL, Twitter, Instagram or any other medium you prefer. Say it through pictures. Let people see it to believe it.
So go ahead and own the world. There’s nothing like Solo Travel. Because when you solo travel you observe things, which you might not see when traveling with a group.
Final take out from this article: Always remember, your first solo trip is meant to get comfortable with the idea of solo travel rather than exploration.
Here are my top 5 International and national solo travel destinations. The destinations mentioned below have been handpicked on the basis of personal experience, safety, food, cost, ease of travel, stay options, attractions, language and people you get to interact with. So Get Set Go!
TOP 5 INTERNATIONAL SOLO TRAVEL DESTINATIONS:
Voted as the best country to travel, Singapore is not only a multicultural city, always celebrating something but is also the safest island in the world. Beautiful like a dream and well managed like an orchestra, Singapore is poetry in motion. An ideal place to start your Solo Travel journey. From endless urban attractions to grand heritage buildings to chaotic hawker street centres, to serenity of green spaces to hip nightlife to glitzy high street malls to infinity pools to offbeat islands; Singapore has everything you would expect from a world-class city. Boasting of having one of the strictest laws, crime rate is almost zero here. Thanks to MRT, moving around is a piece of cakewalk. And the most defining pleasure of Singapore is its food. You’ll be spoilt for choice.
Highly commercial but very safe and comfortable for solo travellers, London has attractions of all kinds – Wimbledon, Lords, Wembley stadium for sports aficionados, British Library and Shakespeare Globe Centre for literature fanatics, London Eye, Buckingham Place, Big Ben, London Bridge and many other buildings for heritage admirers, Southall for authentic Indian food lovers, Harrods and Oxford Street for fashionistas, Design Museum and art galleries for art devotees among others. You name it and London has it. Also known as the birthplace of the Metro or London Tube as they call it, Public transport here is impeccable. Climate is slightly grey and cold but the warmth of people will melt your heart. Huge Indian diaspora presence makes you feel at home. Global cuisine restaurants and cafes are everywhere. Only thing that makes it slightly unattractive is the cost on your wallet.
If Singapore stands for efficiency, London for heritage, Sydney is the epitome of youthful exuberance. Perhaps, because half the population is not Australian and the average age of the citizens ranges between 20 and 40 years old. Sydney captivates you with its great variety of beaches, world famous monuments and building, eco-friendly parks, enchanting landscapes and a never ending variety of restaurants and cafes to suit every pocket. From spending a day at Manly beach to Sydney Harbour Bridge climbing to partying till wee hours at Ivy to having a romantic dinner date at darling harbour; Sydney will ensure you have an action packed day with an equally alluring nightlife. On your night out, if you get too sloshed then there are special ‘Plan B Buses’ to drop you home safely and cheaply. Weather, language, travel, food are non-issues. Lastly, if you have not witnessed the world’s greatest New Year Party at Sydney Harbour then you have missed a lot in your life.
The city of tall skyscrapers and the indoor ski range is probably the first place a solo traveller should go to. The language is familiar (more than 50% of the population is Indian), the food is familiar- you get idli-vada-sambar to Sanjeev Kapoor’s cooked Paneer Butter masala and it is very safe. The people out there are very helpful as most of them are migrants and there is a lot to do in the city/state. You can head out to Yas Marina that hosts the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, try the Torro Rosso-the fastest roller coaster in the world, get a glimpse of the world from the observation deck on the Burj Khalifa and enjoy dune bashing. All in all, a good starting point to get accustomed to solo travels and then move to some challenging ones.
This place would have never made it to my list had I not lived here. The most underrated city in South East Asia. The Makati part of the city is like any First World city. Intramurous is your gateway to the Spanish era. The glitzy Gloriatas, Greenbelts, Mall of Asia would confuse you if you were in USA or in Philippines. Unlike its South East Asian counterparts, everybody speaks English. Filipinos are the most humble and courteous people in the world. Music and basketball runs in the veins of Filipinos. The old part of Manila is chaotic like any other developing country city but the beauty of the place lies once you hit the highway. The close proximity to beaches and having over 7000 islands make it a must visit place. The only negatives about the city is its traffic and no direct flight from India.
TOP 5 INDIAN SOLO TRAVEL DESTINATIONS:
My solo travel journey in India began with Ladakh, so it holds a special place in my heart. If I were to pick a destination to get lost I would always choose Ladakh. It’s never-ending mountain desert, rugged terrain, heavenly lakes, colourful festivals, serene monasteries and wide variety of flora and fauna; was specially crafted by God when he must be in a very good mood. Probably it was a place hand-crafted by God for himself. And the people what do I say about them. They have a heart of gold.
After a horrible experience in Tamil Nadu I was pretty scared to explore Karnataka. But the experiences I had in Bangalore, Mysore, Gokarna, Hampi, Badami, Chikmagular, Coorg and other places were mind blowing. Karnataka has a memorable mix of nature, history, beach and spiritual destinations. I felt genuinely welcomed. People didn’t try to take advantage, were helpful and admired my solo travel spirit than looking with condescendence.
This is one of my favourite and most explored state. Though lately it has become bit touristy but still has charm like your first crush. Himachal is synonymous with scenic beauty, serene landscape and adventure sports besides preferred for spirituality too. I did my hitchhiking trip here. Strangers would invite you over lunch and share apples just like that. It is the best place to start your love affair with mountains. Plenty of options to choose from – Kullu valley, Parvati valley, Teerthan Valley, Sangla Valley, Dalhousie–Khajjiar- Chamba belt, Dharamshala –Mcleodganj, Palampur among others. Well connected with roads and no accommodation issue, this place is hit amongst solo travellers from India and abroad.
A treasure trove for history buffs, Rajasthan is on list of every foreign and Indian travellers. And, rightly so. The close proximity to the capital and is a go to destination for history, architecture, heritage, culture, tradition, art and food lovers. There is no place as culturally and historically rich as Rajasthan is. Whether you are taking a desert safari in Jaiselmer or doing a Chudail in Kuldhara or brunching at Neemrana or attending the world’s largest cattle fair at Pushkar, Rajasthan will colour you in its vibrant colours.
5) North East
Contrary to the image seven sisters are the safest places for solo travellers. The matriarchal society means women are treated with utmost respect here. The unspoilt majestic beauty of the Himalayas makes it a breathtakingly beautiful place to travel to. The treks and home stays give you an authentic taste of the India often ignored. From the mysterious Mawsmai Caves to Double Decker Living Root Bridge, an UNESCO World Heritage Site to the vast expanse of greenery, forests and mountains; North East will mesmerise you beyond imagination.
Hope this post inspires you to take that leap of faith and move on with your Solo Travel. Happy solo travels!
Archana Singh is currently associated with Starcom MediaVest Group, Philippines, as Connections Director on Coca-Cola. She has previously served as the Business Director of the McCann Worldgroup. She is passionate about solo travel.