So you have your shiny new backpack, itinerary planned, flights booked and with stars in your eyes, you’re ready to go on your first solo trip abroad. The one that’s supposed to change your perception of life and make you fall in love with the world like never before. Wait a minute, all of that actually depends on how proactive you’re going to be about solo travel. Here are ten tips to make the most out of your first solo backpacking trip.
1. Plan Your Arrival
On your first solo trip go easy on yourself and book your accommodation and transport in advance if you’re arriving late into the night. Try to get your accommodation to pick you up. I promise you that you’ll love yourself for it when you’re hazy from the long flight and cannot be bothered to queue up in line, take a rickety bus ride or look for a hostel.
2. Explore As Much As You Can
Don’t stay cooped up in your hostel, hotel or guest house. Don’t waste too much time on the Internet or on Skype. You’re travelling solo for the first time in your life and the world is your oyster. So go on, get a map and explore the place; walk, hike, wander, take buses and trains, get a little lost but breathe it all in and get the most out of your journey.
3. Say Yes To (Almost) Everything
Try to say “Yes”, to everything that is legal and seems reasonable, even if it’s new, scary or something you can’t imagine yourself doing, whether it’s an invitation to join someone for lunch, attend a local wedding, go to a party with people you don’t know very well, face your fear of heights, try strange looking local food (deep fried crickets, anyone?!) or paddle out to a river on a raft with someone you just met at your hostel. Saying “Yes” instead of “I’m not sure” or “Maybe another time”, can make a huge difference to how fruitful and life changing your first solo trip is going to be.
4. Smile More Often Than You Usually Do
You may think this one’s going to make you look crazy but stop being so self-conscious already. The cliché that a smile speaks all languages is absolutely true. It’s a great ice breaker and helps you relax, open up, meet new people and talk to locals. It’s also a sign of confidence and a warm personality. Smile at your hosts, fellow travelers in common areas, hostel staff, waiters, bartenders, store keepers and the friendly villagers you meet on your journey. The opportunities for unique experiences that these smiles can bring are endless.
5. Be Thankful For The Kindness of Strangers
At some point in your travels you’re probably going to experience kindness, warmth and friendliness from strangers or new friends, often when you don’t expect it. Your hostel owner may offer to pick you up at the airport for free or take you on a walking tour of the city on your first morning, or a friendly local family may invite you home for lunch one day. Recognize when this happens, be grateful and don’t be lazy about expressing your gratitude. In our daily lives, we end up taking the niceness of people for granted. When this happens in a foreign country, where you’re travelling solo and may not even speak the local language, you should consider yourself fortunate and really let the other person know how thankful you are. Do something good for them in return; get a small gift or thank you note or teach them a useful skill such as English. This not only makes people happy but also reflects positively on your own culture.