Traveling can be scary enough if you're a homebody. But traveling solo is a whole other level of adventure. Who will you talk to? Who will help you if you get in trouble? Will you be able to cope with the loneliness?
Fortunately, as most of these travelers will attest, if you keep an open mind and heart, you'll find that most people you meet are surprisingly friendly and helpful.
Read on to find solo travelers who shared their best stories online.
20. Sock It To Me
When I was traveling through Laos, I quickly found that Southeast Asian plumbing is not built like Western-style plumbing. That means no flushing toilet paper. Which in turns means no toilet paper.
When you’re on your own this can be confronting; if it hasn’t become obvious by now, I used my own socks to wipe myself.
I lost a lot of good socks in Laos.
If you’ll only take one solo travel tip today, make it this: bring lots of socks to Southeast Asia.
Actually, I just realized you could just take toilet paper instead. Do that. Save all the socks.
19. "It Was Kind Of A Rush"
Decided to take a trip to Swiss Alps, all alone, without telling anyone (including my parents and best friends). Spent 15 days in smallest of villages at the foothills of Alps. Got off at random stations where all I could see was a bench to wait for the train. Went to cheese factories in villages, climbed the highest peak in Europe (Jungfraujoch), made friends on flights.
My experience was amazing. I went in October, so it was the beginning of winter -- just the perfect amount of snow. Wasn't bothered about the fact that I was alone, in fact it was kind of a rush for me. Loved it totally. I wonder when I will get the chance to do it next! But for sure its going to happen again and I hope it's Japan or Russia next time.
If you want such experiences, travel alone.
18. Solo In Japan
In December of 2014, I packed my bags, deactivated my Facebook and went to Japan. My parents knew where I was going, but I kept my communication with my friends and family to the minimum. Just emailed them saying I was alive and enjoying myself.
I landed in Tokyo first. Tokyo was just like NYC or New Delhi or any other big city. Everyone spoke english and understood what I said - there was absolutely no fun in that.
Then I took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto (ancient capital of Japan). Right after reaching Kyoto, I see all signs in Japanese and nothing written in English. I knew this was gonna be fun. Spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what buttons to press to get the right train ticket. Boarded the wrong train 4 times, got off at random train stations, tried communicating with locals with hand gestures and sign language while they kept smiling and staring at my turban.
Stayed in a capsule hostel and met some amazing people at the most random places. Met a Geisha and a Maiko. Learned how to make authentic Uji-Matcha (powdered green tea). Ate some amazing street food while sitting and waiting for no body. No one to answer to, no one to judge, just doing whatever I felt like doing. People watching, listening to music, striking a conversation with someone who understood English. Met some amazing people including the co-founder of a big Silicon Valley company at a small 5-person bar in Golden Gai; met an Italian pilot, a comedian, an architect from Sydney.
People in Japan are not used to seeing a brown guy with turban wear a Kimono while having green tea in the mountains of Arashiyama. People were more welcoming than I thought. They would come randomly and ask if they could take a picture with me. They would point at my turban and ask more about it, why I wore one, where I was from, what was my life's story.
People are nicer than you think. You just gotta go travel on your own, and try to talk to them. Start a conversation with the locals -- tell them about your culture, your traditions, learn about theirs. Ask them questions; the more you open up, the more it will help you in life to overcome the fear of asking for anything from anyone. I have traveled alone and with friends, and trust me, some of the most amazing experiences you’ll ever have will be while traveling alone.
17. Welcome To The Fan Club
I was travelling solo through Germany a few years ago and I had a ticket for a football match, Union Berlin v Ingolstadt (going to foreign matches is my decadent expensive hobby).
Two days before the game, I was in a town called Babelsberg just south of Berlin. While I was at a bar, I got talking to some locals and eventually I told them I was going to the Union Berlin game two days later. This didn't go down well; it turns out Babelsberg's team and Union have quite the rivalry. One of the locals said I should come to the Babelsberg game instead. When I told him I already had a ticket for the Union game, this guy pulled a wad of about a dozen tickets from his pocket and gave me one. Turned out he was the "capo" - leader - of the Babelsberg Ultras (ultras are groups of fans who arrange big displays, flags, flares, etc). Anyway, I accepted the ticket.
At closing time, I realized I had no idea where the local stadium was, so this guy and his friends bought a load of drinks from the bar and told me to come with them. We walked to the stadium (about 15 minutes) and upon arrival he produced a set of keys, unlocked the gate and in we went.
He showed me around the grounds while his mates disappeared for a while. When his friends reappeared, they brought me a scarf, a poster, and a giant glass bowl with the club badge engraved on it. We polished off our drinks and went our seperate ways.
I woke up the next morning with a shocking hangover and this giant bowl I couldn't even fit in my bag sitting on the floor of my hostel room. I had to re-trace my steps to the stadium and hand it over to a bemused-looking receptionist. A day later I pitched up for the game, met the guys from that night, and spent the rest of the day watching football with these crazy fans and enjoying free drinks.
Most people out there are insanely nice.
16. To Serve And Protect
I was in Amsterdam about to head to Paris by bus. It just so happens that these twin brothers from Brazil who were in my hostel room with me were on the same bus as me. (The best part of traveling alone is all the new friends you make.) We were all under the impression that the bus was leaving from Central Station; unfortunately when we arrived there we found out it was Amstel Station.
We were panicking. I was buried in a map, and somehow the twin brothers found a Police Officer to ask for directions. I approached them, and said something, I don't remember what, but the officer exclaimed, "Ah! Someone who speaks english!" I asked the fastest way to get to Amstel, he told me I would not make it in time for the bus. So, he said he would drive us!
We all piled into the back of his truck, me and him chatted for the ride. I think he liked me. We got to the bus with plenty of time to spare. I asked him for his address to write him a thank you letter, but he told me he could get in trouble for the favor he did for us. I still wish I could say thank you to him!
15. Lonely Planet
I got on a late night flight and had the steward tell me I was really lucky that the plane had to be in Atlanta for the next day because I was the only passenger. It was great! I spent the entire flight sprawled across an entire row chatting with the steward while the two of us consumed an entire trip's allotment of coke and pretzels.
14. This Will Make You Want To Go
What's it like to travel solo?
It's like meeting a Greek farmer on an island, and he invites you back to his house overlooking the sea to meet his wife, and they invite you to stay with them - for a month! And you don't speak any Greek and they don't speak any English. And it is wonderful as you draw pictures to each other!
It's like bringing a gift of underwear and baseballs to the Dominican Republic, because they are in short supply of both. Then when you give them the baseball the smile on their face lets you know that no words were needed, and you sit and watch them play baseball for a few hours with the ball you gave them, knowing that you made a difference.
What's it like to travel solo? Being in China at a cafe and two women come up to you because they want to practice their English, and you wind up being friends and they take you on a tour with them and you are the only foreigner on the trip but you feel like a local.
Or maybe its walking along an old river by a Chinese village and you stop and see a lake in the middle of the village, like a town square. And all the men are fishing at it while the women sit behind them and talk among themselves. You go and sit next to an old man and, without saying one word, you both share in the calm and joy of fishing on a lazy afternoon, and you smile at each other, the knowing smile shared each time he hooks a fish on the end of his line.
Being alone lets you meet this guy in Mumbai many years ago, and he marvels at the walkman you have, especially the tape of classical music which you sometimes play. Upon leaving you give it to him and a month later you receive a letter from him, telling you that he plays the tape at dinner with his family and that he has never received a gift before which he and his family appreciate so much - and he just wanted to let me know.
How about meeting someone on the streets of Naples, Italy and he invites you back to his house for spaghetti? It turns out he is a teacher and some of his students always come over and eat, and now you are surrounded by 5-6 people your age who invite you to their school to talk about life in America? And it turns out that you really get along with one of the students, and 25 years later you are still friends. He has a house in the South of Italy and invites you to stay. The house is on a mountain and has the most beautiful view of the ocean.
And that, dear friend, is just a small part of what it's like to travel alone. Enjoy!
13. Suddenly Solo
I recently quit my unsatisfying job, bought a backpack and a one-way ticket to Europe -- Amsterdam, to be exact.
I made plans with one of my friends who lives in Serbia to meet me in Amsterdam and travel together for a month.
We both met in Amsterdam at a hostel and quickly got off to a great start. We were constantly meeting new people, and making new connections, seeing new places, tasting new food, making new memories, and having great conversations along the way.
I was completely blown away by the type of people I was meeting. Everyone was so genuine, open, and laid back. I can't even begin to explain how refreshing it was, and on a side note -- I believe the reason everyone was so open, kind, genuine, and just overly awesome is because almost every single person was exactly where they wanted to be. They didn't wake up each morning fretting going to their 9 to 5 job. They woke up each morning, and did exactly what they wanted to do that day, and go wherever they wanted to go. It was amazing!
Traveling with my friend was incredible, but he was quite low on money while we were in Prague and ended up booking a flight home.
After that, I was on my own, and it was by far my favorite part of the trip. I was almost forced to get out and meet people (which isn't hard at all). People approached me and talked to me often. And for instance, I ended up meeting a person in my hostel room the first night on my own from Portland Oregon; he had just landed in Prague that night.
We chatted for 15 minutes about traveling, favorite cities, and where we were from. It's very easy to hold a conversation while traveling with practically anyone. Everyone's stories are unique and interesting as you meet people from all over the world who are out traveling and exploring, and making some incredibly awesome memories.
Anyway, after chatting with my new friend for 15 minutes he invited me to dinner with him and a few of his relatives that were meeting him. We met up and chatted, had drinks, and talked about plans. We all agreed to go to our hostel's pub crawl that night which was huge, and a LOT of fun. Great group of people! We were up until 7 AM the next morning. I ended up hanging out with this group of people the next day too.
This was quite common each time I went out to party and/or hangout with new group of friends (especially in Prague).
My favorite part of my backpacking trip was traveling on my own. You have complete freedom. Meeting people is a breeze (it almost happens all on it's own). You can do exactly what you want to do whenever you want to do it. Go to whatever city you want to go to without checking in or asking and making sure it's something that "everyone" wants to do. There's no friction or stress, and you'll meet groups of people with plans that are more than happy to include you in them.
You'll always have something to do as a solo traveler!
I highly recommend taking a solo trip. You'll learn a lot about yourself, you'll embrace the uncomfortable, and you'll meet and connect with amazing people from all parts of the world. You'll also create some incredible memories that you'll never forget. You will not regret it!
Traveling has given me a new zest for life, an understanding that whenever life gets dull, or boring -- I always have it to fall back on, and I'm only just getting started.
12. Pay It Forward
I was traveling alone on a research trip in South Korea during the winter. It was raining hard one day and I didn't have an umbrella with me. An old lady invited me into her restaurant to wait out the rain. I barely spoke any Korean, but she fed me beef stew anyway and wouldn't accept my money.
11. The Road Less Traveled
I went to Arashiyama which is a little bit outside of Kyoto, Japan. There are lots of mountains and beautiful scenery there. This was in early August so it was quite hot and there were lots of tourists.
Anyways, I was walking along this long river, snaking down past the mountains when I saw a smaller, non-paved road leading up a mountain side. I walked down this road less traveled by for a good hour or two. I saw no people in all that time, and I started to consider heading back. Then, on the side of the mountain I saw what looked like a small temple, with a tiny hut beside it.
I walked toward, it and at the entrance I saw a monk, just sweeping the path in front of the temple. He greeted me, but he soon realized I didn't speak much Japanese. So in basic English he introduced himself. We ended up sitting down on the tatami mats in the small hut, talking for hours. He told me his life's story, how and why he became a monk etc. We had deep discussions about life, the meaning behind it all.
Traveling solo is awesome. And taking the road less traveled by is more awesome still.
10. Lost And Found In The Desert
I arrived in Merzouga, Morocco at the border of the Black Desert and the Sahara, at 6:00am. After about forty minutes of waiting, the guy I was meeting arrived in a pick-up truck older than I am while still clearly hammered from the night before. Fortunately, seeing as we were in the middle of a desert, his erratic swerving of the car just ended up with us off-roading through the black wastelands.
The place I stayed at had been constructed right at the base of the sand dunes of the Sahara, where one could place one foot in the one desert, and his other foot in another desert. After having the entire place to myself for most of the day, my guide and I began preparing to trek into the Sahara at sunset.
After getting baked with some locals, I found myself sitting on top of a camel crossing endless sand dunes with a night sky so absurdly beautiful and devoid of light pollution that I still feel breathless thinking about it. Two hours of walking later, we camped out under the milky way, sharing stories about our future aspirations as we and stared at the sky.
The next morning, I climbed the highest sand dune I could find and watched as the sun's rays cascaded over the endless horizon of sand. Of all my travels, this experience was one of the most profound.
9. Alone Together
I went to this white sand beach in Costa Rica and got to drink some piña colada by the beach and talked with some of the locals for a while -- soccer, Spanish food, Puerto Rico vs Costa Rica -- anything and everything. Most people used the water for snorkeling and scuba diving because there was a reef or something. Either way, I didn't actually go into the water.
At one point I wandered off a little ways and found some amazing tide pools with thousands of mussels, fish, and hermit crabs crawling around it. I just kind of climbed around these rocks and picked them up and laid about until I watched the sun set and it seemed even more bright because it was reflecting off of the water and white sand, but it was gorgeous.
There's nothing quite like traveling alone.
8. Sweet Home Alabama
I was headed home to Alabama from working in Switzerland for a summer, my first time being abroad. I had studied with a program in Spain, traveled with some friends across the European Union and then worked with one other guy in Lausanne. He had already left and I was all alone for the first time in a completely foreign country. I had done a lot of introspective thinking along the trip (thanks to a recent breakup), and, since my laptop was no longer functional, I decided to pick up Brave New World in a bookstore and read it along the train ride home.
Being the procrastinator that I was, I waited until the day before to get my train ticket back to Madrid. Little did I know, the train was completely booked except for a first-class solo cabin. Two words: business expense.
So after the first leg of the trip, the train stopped in Zurich, and I spent a perfect blue-sky day reading on the lake. I stopped in to a bar and met a nice Brit who happened to know my dad from the oil and gas business and happily got me hammered "for old time's sake." I left the bar and found a music festival going on, which was great - from my experience Europeans happen to love southern accents.
Nothing compared, however, to when I approached a tent and heard a band covering Sweet Home Alabama. Words really can't describe how awesome it felt to hear that song, having been so far away from everyone I knew for so long.
I eventually made it back to the train for my first-class dinner, and set my alarm early so I wouldn't oversleep (full of life in my college years, did not want to miss anything). Definitely paid off - I woke up as the train was passing through the south of France, and got to see the sun rise on the Mediterranean. One of the most beautiful moments of my life.
7. Comedy = Tragedy + Time
Here are some of my highs and lows from solo travel:
Got beat up by a gangster in rural Mexico who was so tough he didn't bother to put his junk back in his pants after the pee he was taking when the altercation started.
I got amoebic dysentery in the jungles of Palenque, Mexico -- and then I had to travel 14 hours by bus/taxi/canoe to cross the Guatemalan border basically the day my symptoms subsided... tummy rumbling the whole way.
Got held "captive" by a group of Guatemalan rebels who were trying to retake the north of the country while I was trying to get out of it.
I got hired on as a dive master while taking some casual scuba courses on the Island of Utila and ended up staying there for a few months.
Similarly, I was hired on as a bartender in a tiny bar in downtown Zijuatanejo, Mexico (yes, that Zijuatanejo from Shawshank) and found out that I worked for a known "importer/exporter". One day, while I was working alone, the scariest looking man I've ever seen comes in, tells me he works for my boss and is on the way to "do something for him", drinks a bunch and then, instead of paying, circles his total and signs his name. Deciding whether to confront him about it, or wait to try to explain a short till to my boss was one of the most difficult decisions I've ever made.
I got in to an armwrestling match with a Palestinian mine worker in his father's felafel stand in Jerusalem, made friends, drank tea, and then left for a month or two. When I came back to town I went to find him and he was closing up shop early because his father had just died. He invited me to the funeral. I was so touched, because I had known them for one night. The hospitality of the Palestinian people was incredible.
I was waiting for a bus in northern Mexico. Eventually a man drives by and coasts to a stop to tell us there are no more buses scheduled that day. We thank him, but tell him we will wait and see. He drives off, but then comes back later with a bottle and three glasses and sits with us saying, "If you must wait for the bus, I must wait for the bus." We sit, drinking for another 30 minutes or so and finally we decide that he's right, so he invites us back to his farm where his wife has dinner waiting for us. We eat an amazing meal, spend the night, and in the morning he takes us back to the bus stop.
Oh - and a true worst - absolutely hung over to beat the devil and caught a cab from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem - about 2 hours across the desert, in a car that started to overheat about a third of the way there. The driver's solution? Turn the heat on full blast. It was 110 outside. And then the wind started blowing sand, so we had to roll up the windows. With the heat on. With 6 people in a car. I wanted to die. Not enough time has passed to make that one funny yet...
Get out there and travel. See what happens. It's fun.
6. Stop To Smell The Roses
I was driving my way across the southern coast of England. I spent the night in Folkestone, and at breakfast a Dutch motocross team had taken up all the tables. But I saw a slender Japanese woman sitting alone, so I asked to join her for breakfast. We hit it off immediately. I offered to have her join me on my drive west along the coast and she agreed. For the next five days we traveled together and slept together (but no, not in that way).
She was a 22-year-old bundle of Japanese rock n' roll rebellion. She had a big round face, a toothy smile, super-soft black hair, and she was almost too skinny. Her father was a rich businessman who surely would have killed us both if he knew what was going on. She just wanted to use his money to travel and have a good time, so she did.
We had a great time together. Her rebellion extended to me, which I found charming. I gave her the map and asked her to navigate me to a certain castle. She had me go left-right-left-right until we arrived at a botanical garden. I was like, "Where is it?" And she was all, "Castle boring. LOOK! FLOWERS!"
That was cute.
We parted ways in Bournemouth. She caught a bus to Heathrow, on to Egypt. I went to a raucous pub to watch England lose the 2004 Euro Cup quarterfinals to Portugal.
It's amazing the people you'll meet if you're open to it.
5. A Summer In Tuscany
I went alone to work in Tuscany one summer -- landed in Pisa, made my way through to Florence then on to Montevarchi where I was working with horses and kids who wanted to learn English. I was so excited yet incredibly nervous.
The lady I worked for was an elderly Oxford girl who had lived most her life in this farmhouse high up on the side of the valley and had very little touch with the 'modern' world. (While she had a TV, she had no idea what an iPod or hair straighteners were, and this was 2010.) There was no time for a proper induction as there were already some kids there on a camp course so I was more or less just thrown into it.
The third day, we started a 2-day hack (excursion on horseback). I'd never done this trail before, so I had no idea where we were going or what to expect. On our way out, there was one point where we were cantering up this steep incline when suddenly it became this fantastic ridge with a sweeping view of one orchard-filled valley bathed in sunlight on one side and another on the other side with one of the old castles in the distance. It's the first time I can remember seeing something truly awesome.
We then arrived at a dilapidated house and barn where we housed the horses for the night and then slept under the stars ourselves. That trip was fantastic. I met so many inspirational people. I went on midnight hikes, ran away from a wild boar, saw my first comet as it lit up the sky, learned another language, learned so much about interacting and dealing with other people and cultures, and I saw for the first time that there really was another way to live.
Truly, I wouldn't be the person I am today if I had been afraid to go to Italy by myself when I was 16.
4. Ha Ha Ha...
I was waiting to board the Minsk-Riga Sleeper train. I stopped to take a photo of the train. Suddenly a young soldier approached and says something in Russian. I told him I didn't speak much Russian; does he speak English? He then says, "You arrested."
I asked why and he said you can't photograph the trains. Rattled, I offered to delete them and he said no and that I must go to the police station with him and pay a fine, thus missing my train and overstaying my visa.
I started to panic a bit, but then the guy started laughing and said he was joking.
3. "There's A Temporary Suspension Of Identity"
I was sitting at the Guam airport waiting for my flight to Japan. I had 2 hours to kill before boarding. There were around 5 other people who were also early at the boarding gate.
I placed my backpack on my lap and sat back.
Across from me, there was a Western guy backpacker who was also alone. We glanced at each other, smiled, and started talking.
Two hours have gone by and it was time for boarding.
In those two hours, despite being hyper-vigilant about my things and my surroundings, I felt at peace. I knew that in this foreign space, I could let go of who I was at work and open my mind to new connections.
That short narrative gives a glimpse of how it feels to travel alone.
When you travel alone, you are in a foreign space where whatever was important back home, such as your social status, no longer holds relevance.
There's a temporary suspension of identity.
You are in a blank state and it is powerful because you get to connect with people from different backgrounds and learn more about yourself at the same time.
Yes, you can't trust everyone you meet.
But the more you travel alone the more you learn how to strike a balance between being vigilant and being open to new people.
Exploring the world alone is a powerful learning experience that I believe everyone should try at least once.
If you’re open to it, traveling alone will give you independence, the skill of being street smart, and humility.
2. You'll Never Drink Alone In Dublin
I sat by a silent, powerful Easter Island Moai on my own as a light rain fell. And I’ve never felt more alive.
I watched the sun set over the horizon in Santiago, Chile, 2000 feet above sea level, with soft rays of light slipping behind white tipped mountains.
I drank pint after pint in a Dublin pub without knowing anyone. Yet somehow, by the end of the night, I was surrounded by new best friends.
For me, traveling alone made me feel more comfortable with who I am.
1. A Real Tour
This was in Asuncion, Paraguay. I was taking photos of the barrio behind the Presidential Palace, and there was a guy down below playing ball with his kid. I started talking with him and ended up spending the whole day with him and his family, being shown all around the barrio and meeting the grandparents, aunts, etc. He and his wife and three kids lived in a one-roomed shack, very basic conditions.
He even went with me to the bus station later to look out for me as 'it wasn't safe'. I mailed them a care package of blankets and toys when I got home, but never heard back from them.