Ellen’s guide to travelling solo

Through a series of happy accidents, I found myself travelling alone through Italy last summer.  Although a daunting prospect, the challenges of travelling fully independently made the trip an incredible experience full of excitement, self-growth and gelato.  Here are a few tips I picked up along the way to help make your experience as a solo traveller memorable for all the right reasons.

Before You Go

Spend some time gathering information about your trip. Get recommendations from friends or online and then make a rough list of what you want to do and see.  It is easy to become overwhelmed in a new place but making a rough schedule can help you pinpoint exactly how you want to shape your trip.

Take pictures of any travel documents (including your passport) and screenshot online boarding passes, the directions to your accommodation, any confirmation emails and your accommodation information.  Put the pictures into a folder in your camera roll to access when needed, thus bypassing the need to be connected to Wi-Fi at all times (and any unexpected data roaming charges).  Create a private account on a cloud-based site like Dropbox or Google Drive and upload these pictures there as well so they can be accessed from any device in case of an emergency.  Also write this information down in a notebook and take it with you, as you don’t want to be caught out if your phone dies unexpectedly.

Add the numbers for your accommodation, a trusted local taxi service and emergency services to your contacts.  You may never use them, but it is always good to have them if needed. 

Also on the safety front, give someone at home a rough itinerary of your travels as well as your accommodation details.  Check in with them once in a while, as they’ll be happy to know that you’re okay and you’ll get to boast about your adventures.

While you don’t have to become a master of the local language before you visit, it is always useful to learn some simple phrases.  Again, screenshot them from Google translate or write them down.  It’s surprising how far ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘where is the bathroom’ will get you.

Try and pack light. Especially if you’ll be doing a lot of walking, a big bag can be a lot of unnecessary stress.  Trust me, in a fight between a girl with a 20kg suitcase and a small flight of Italian steps, the steps will always win.

While Your There

Whether by bus, boat or walking, organised tours can be a great way of allowing you to see all the main sites without the fear of getting lost.  Normally run by locals or residents, these tours are a great way to get an insider’s perspective on the area and meet other tourists who might be in a similar position to you. Look around for flyers or ask at your accommodation reception for their recommendations.

When you’re on your travels, take photos, take photos, take photos.  The buildings, your food, yourself, nice dogs, everything.  You won’t have anyone to reminisce with when you get back so use your camera to remember the little details of your trip that might otherwise be forgotten. Also, Instagram it or it didn’t happen.

Similarly, it can be nice to take some time out of each day to document your trip in other ways.  This can be by writing in a journal, scrapbooking with receipts and tickets, or, if you’re artistically inclined, by drawing or painting.  It’s a great way of passing time while you’re eating, relaxing or back in your accommodation.

Most importantly, take advantage of being able to do exactly what you want, when you want. When travelling by yourself, you have the absolute freedom to choose your own schedule.  You can pick exactly where you want to eat and what you want to see at the pace you want to see it.  Want to have a lie in until three in the afternoon?  Go for it!  Spend five hours in just one room of one museum exhibition?  You do you!  Go to a foreign country but reject all local cuisine and only eat at McDonald’s?  I mean if that’s what you want, sure! 

The world is your oyster, so relish in that opportunity.

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