I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of a beginner at solo travel. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve traveled quite a bit, but I haven’t done a ton of solo travel. I always end up taking trips with friends, family, or my boyfriend Rob.
But last February I took a road trip by myself, to sort of recenter myself. And I figured out some good things not only about myself, but about solo travel as well.
So if you are thinking of getting out and taking a solo trip definitely get out and do it. Your first trip doesn’t have to be somewhere overseas and totally foreign. Although, if you are that adventurous totally go for it. A road trip through your home state is totally an awesome way to ease yourself into solo travel. It’s also one of my favorite kinds of trips, especially for solo travel.
Here are my tips for solo travel beginners.
Pick Your Destination
So thats kind of the big thing right? Where are you going? Like I said before, depending on your travel experience and comfort level a first trip could be overseas to somewhere completely new, or it could be some place closer to home. It really doesn’t matter, just as long as it’s somewhere you want to go and feel comfortable with.
My road trip up the coast of California started in San Diego and ending up in South Lake Tahoe, with stops in Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. I chose these places because they were cities that I knew I would enjoy, and I also knew people in. While solo travel sort of implies that you’ll be by yourself, you never really are. More often than not you end up meeting people, or in my case I made a point to see people I already knew.
My favorite California Destinations
Having reservations for your accommodations at least the first night just makes life so much easier. If you don’t have a reservation you’re practically guaranteed to get in late at night, in the rain, and every hostel and hotel will be booked. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you get what I mean.
On my road trip I had stayed with friends and family in San Diego and Santa Barbara, but in Santa Cruz I had planned to camp. I didn’t make reservations at a campground, I just planned to get to one and get a first come first serve spot. I figured it wouldn’t be too crowded or hard to find a spot since it was February. The problem was, with all the rain that we got that winter, every campground in the Santa Cruz area was closed due to flooding. So I ended up having to find a last minute hotel, which is never cheap.
Have A Plan, But Know You Don’t Have To Stick To It
When you travel, whether solo or not, having a plan is always good. It’s a good place to start and a way to get you out the door. But what’s more important is know that you don’t have to stick to that plan. When you travel on your own you get to go by your own clock and schedule, so even if you had a plan to do one thing, but you hear about something else happening you can easily switch gears.
When I road trip by myself, I will stop at any and every road side attraction and pretty view. I love having the freedom to get sidetracked from my original plan. The drive from San Diego to Santa Barbara usually takes about four hours, but I kept pulling over to check things out. I’ve made that same drive so many times in my life (I grew up in San Diego and have a lot of family in Santa Barbara), but this time making the drive by myself without any time restrictions I got to stop and see things that I’ve driven right past my whole life.
Why getting lost to find yourself can be awesome
Be Flexible and Think On Your Feet
No trip is ever without complications or wrinkles so it’s important to be able to handle any problems or inconveniences on your own. I’ve definitely had moments where something happens and my plans have to change, and I get upset and hung up on what I had wanted to happen. It’s neither productive nor healthy, so I’ve learned to be more fluid and flexible with my plans, and it makes life so much easier. Also having cell and data service can make any kind of hiccup in your plans easier to deal with. Not such a big deal when you aren’t too far from home. But if you are abroad, make sure to either have an international cell plan or a local SIM card just in case you need to make that last minute hotel booking while on the go.
When I found out I wouldn’t be able to camp in Santa Cruz I was so grateful to have the Hotels.com app on my phone. I was able to find a hotel for the night, and make the reservation before driving over. I was able to change my plans quickly and efficiently, and was even able to catch the sunset from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
Be Confident and Aware
One of the biggest things that holds people back from traveling on their own is not feeling safe. And when you are by yourself in a new place it’s easy to feel sketched out. The way to combat that feeling is by acting confident. Even if you don’t necessarily feel confidant, fake it, a lot of time just by acting a certain way, you’ll start to feel it. When you look and feel confident you are less likely to be targeted for scams and other unwanted attention. Also being aware of your surrounding is huge, if you know what’s going on around you, you’ll feel safer. If I feel sketched out by anyone around I always make eye contact with them. It signals that I see them, I’ve seen their face, and I’m aware.
It was dark by the time I was walking back to my car after watching the sunset from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, and I encountered a sketchy looking dude. He came walking up to me and asked for some change, I politely told him no, and kept an eye on him as he meandered away. Be smart and keep your wits about you.
The most important thing on any trip is to have fun. Enjoy not being tied down to anyone else’s schedule and doing what you want when you want.
My favorite part of a solo road trip is the fact that I can pull off the road to go explore and take photos any time I want. I stopped along the beaches in San Diego, and Malibu. Cruised around downtown Santa Barbara and hung out at Refugio State beach. Stopped at Manresa State beach just south of Santa Cruz, and ran around the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and hiked at Wilder Ranch State Park just north of Santa Cruz. Some of these stops were planned and some were not. I love that freedom to choose what to do and where to explore. You can learn a lot about yourself when you let yourself do exactly what you want to do.
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