What triggered my first solo trip – Tips for a first time solo traveler
"I had always fancied the idea of going to a random place and exploring it on my own. And when I finally did it, I learned to overcome my own inhibitions that not only concerned travel but so many other things too."
Before moving to a new place, I always make a lot of plans related to my daily schedule, lifestyle, and so many other things out of which most of them remain unaccomplished. So in Nov'18 before I moved to the US, I had big plans in my head of leading a healthier lifestyle, involving myself more in the art and creative stuff, meeting people from different nationalities and making new friends, and traveling more - definitely a few more that I don't remember now.
So I went to the US around the time when everyone starts planning for the holidays. While some reunite with their families back home, the rest plan for a vacation with their families, friends, a group of strangers, or even alone.
Initiation of the plan
Within a few days in the country, I had already started exploring MeetUp groups that interested me. There was this one travel group that had a plan to visit New York during New Year's. I was aroused by the idea of going to New York and watch one of the Broadway shows. I found the idea of traveling with a group better than traveling alone because of the reasons like - a planned itinerary, no effort needed to meet new people as I'd have lots of them as part of the travel group. The only downside to all of this was some initial payment to be a part of the group and this really blew me off.
I checked a lot of other Travel MeetUp groups that I could join, but there weren't any that would fit in my budget at the last moment. That's when I decided that even if I don't find a group to join, I'm definitely going to celebrate New Year's in a new city.
I finally did it
I stumbled upon a few places, starting from the nearest cities- Portland, Salem, Eugene (in Oregon) to farther ones like Orlando, Salt Lake City, San Francisco. After around three days of pretty good research, I finalized San Francisco. I booked my tickets immediately after deciding the place to avoid any second thoughts affecting the whole plan.
Tips for your first solo travel
It was final - I'll be celebrating New Years in a new city with a group of people I'd be meeting the first time. Since it was my first solo trip, I did a lot of research and here are a few things that you can keep in mind so that you are also prepared well for your first solo trip.
Go for a movie, dinner, or shopping alone and see if you are comfortable being just on your own
Is it safe?
Read about the city and experiences of other travel bloggers. Keep in mind any precautions that you need to take care of when you are in the city.
Book a hostel
Hostels are a great place to meet new people and make plans with. You can stay in a hotel towards the end of your trip to relax or once when you get used to traveling alone.
Pre-book any tours
You can join a city-tour group for your initial few trips. Viator is one such site, there are many more that you can check and book a tour from. It is another way of meeting new people and exploring a new place with.
Keep it relaxed
Don't fall into the trap of hurrying around to visit every point of interest. Take a little time off to relax, and just absorb in the energy of a new city and it's culture and lifestyle.
Join a MeetUp group
Yet another way to meet locals and other travelers. I went out with a group of 100 random people on the New Year's Eve and all through a MeetUp group. Undoubtedly I met quite a lot of interesting people.
Benefits of traveling alone
Traveling alone can be very liberating sometimes. It changes you gradually and your outlook towards life. Here is how traveling impacts you.
Teaches you to rely on yourself
It pushes you out of your comfort zone, and you learn so many things about yourself that you never thought even existed.
I remember missing my tour bus back to the city from Muir woods on the very first day of my first solo trip. There was no scope of crying and being sad about the situation. I had to work something out really fast, given that there was no phone connectivity in that area and the sun had almost set.
That's when I got out of my comfort zone of not asking strangers for help and did my first hitch-hiking with a family back to the city.
The flexibility of planning out
With only one person to take care of, that is of your own self, the whole hassle of planning out the itinerary becomes easy. You can plan your trip according to your interests, take rest-stops whenever you want, eat whatever you prefer and maybe not eat at all, whatever suits your schedule without worrying about affecting someone else's plans.
Meet new people
It is highly unlikely that if you are traveling with someone, that you'll stop by to have a conversation with a total stranger. If you are alone, you'll probably make an effort to initiate a conversation with someone from your hostel, tour group, random person you meet at a cafe, and so on. This, in turn, helps you to open up and make friends with strangers and learn about a new culture, lifestyle, and so much more.
Pay more attention to your surroundings
This has happened with me quite often that when I'm with a group, I'm like a non-stop talking birdie and I keep walking without looking around. But when I am traveling alone, I am more aware of my surroundings and pay attention to smaller details around me.
Traveling alone has helped me get over my fears and discomforts, and I have made a lot of great friends along the way.