Tips for eating alone, making friends, staving off “the lonelies” and having the best solo trip EVER.
Are you planning your first solo trip, or just considering it? First of all, do it!
Second of all, I’ve compiled a list of my tips to ease some worries you may have. (Don’t worry, I had them too!) As Flytographer’s European shoot concierge, I had the chance to travel solo to 18 cities across 10 different countries last year. So after 41 flights, countless trains, overnight ferries and Uber rides, I’ve learned a thing or two about solo travel. Spoiler alert: I had the time of my life! And you will, too.
Things I wish I knew before I travelled solo:
Eating alone gets less weird.
I promise. While it was super intimidating at first to eat out by myself (considering I never did it at home), I now I have absolutely no qualms about saying, “Table for one, please!”
Top tips for eating alone:
- Sit at the bar! If you’re looking to make friends, the bar is a great place to connect with other solo-dining folks—and you can generally chat with the bartender.
- Bring a book. Reading over dinner with a good glass of wine is so wonderfully indulgent and gives you something to “do” if you’re feeling a bit awkward about your lone wolf status.
- Write. Something about solo travel gives your brain space to wander and explore. Take time to journal, recap and reflect on your day. Or go big and pen the next blockbuster novel! (I believe in you.)
Staying in a hostel can be a great option if you're travelling solo to more expensive cities like Positano.
Stay in hostels.
I promise they aren’t gross or weird (OK, some of them are, but just look for the nice ones with good reviews!). The best friendships I’ve made while travelling solo have been while staying in hostels. If you’re a light sleeper, definitely bring earplugs and an eye mask.
If you’re unsure about the full hostel experience, many also offer private rooms for much cheaper than a hotel or Airbnb; this is a great way to get the collaborative experience, on your own terms.
Bonus: Hostels are budget-friendly options for pricier cities. Popular European cities can be expensive, especially if you’re travelling solo and have no one to share the cost of a fancy Airbnb with! When I was in Positano I loved staying at Hostel Brikkette because I met other cool solo travellers. This place has an AMAZING view of Positano, yummy Western breakfasts (full fry-up, yaaas!) clean rooms and it’s a quick 15-minute walk to the beach.
Making friends is easier than you think.
Lots of people travel solo and want to make friends too, but are scared. The first time a “stranger’ in my hostel room asked to join me while I biked around Amsterdam, I was so nervous. Like, first-date nervous. What if it was weird and awkward?! What if they didn’t like me?! Turns out, it was the best part of my trip. Don’t be scared to ask that hostel mate of yours if they want to join you on your activity of the day! They probably do, but are just too afraid to ask.
When it's your trip, you can roam the Scottish Highlands to your heart's content.
Going it alone has FANTASTIC perks.
It’s all about you! No, really. You get to do whatever you want! While I still do love travelling with others, I REALLY love this perk about travelling by myself. You get to choose your own schedule, do things when you want and go places when you want to without having to consult or accommodate others’ needs.
Take your time in the art gallery, guilt-free. Have that second glass of wine on the restaurant patio, watching the world go by. Choose not to go somewhere or do something just because you’re “supposed to” or because everyone else is.
Myth-busting: “It’s unsafe to travel alone.”
Although the movies Taken and Hostel paint the world as a dangerous and scary place, it’s really not. Most people have good intentions and aren’t out to get you. Of course, bad things can happen everywhere and to anyone. The truth is, if you travel intelligently, responsibly, and use your common sense, you set yourself up for success from the get-go.
Feeling trepidatious? Here are some tips for feeling comfortable in your adventuring destination:
- Everything is scarier in the dark. Arriving at your destination well before sunset gives you a chance to get your bearings and get settled.
- Walk, walk, walk. Exploring on foot gives you a chance to find those cozy cafés, shops or bars that help you feel integrated into the neighbourhood. Pro Tip: Always plan any tours or self-guided tours through the city at the start of your stay so you can know where you’d like to check out again, and what you don’t need to go back to.
- Check in with someone at home every once in a while so they know you’re safe and having a good time. I turned on the Find My Friends app on my phone so my close friends and family could check-in easily. A quick message does wonders to ease the fears of family and friends at home, and makes you feel connected too.
Myth-busting: “I’ll be lonely.”
Please see my previous two points about the perks of being alone, but also about making friends and staying in hostels. I can’t recommend staying in hostels enough. There’s always something going on, people around, and friends to make! Plus, being alone isn’t a bad thing.
Travelling alone is also wildly empowering. It’s hard to be lonely when you’re the captain of your own ship, so to speak. You might just discover that you really (really) enjoy your own company.
Another perk of travelling solo? You can never be late—happy hour starts when you get there!
Pro tips for staving off a case of “the lonelies.”
- Join a food tour, ideally early in your trip. It’s an incredible way to get to know the city, eat great food and connect with other travellers.
- Book a Flytographer shoot! Capture your vacation memories (because come on, we can only take so many selfies), while hanging with a new friend. Our photographers are all locals who know the ins and outs of their cities, and are eager to share tips on what to eat, see and do!
- Roll with your interests. Into yoga? Check out a local class. Always wanted to try surfing? Join a lesson! Enjoy cooking? Learn to cook the area’s flavours at a local cooking school.
Gum is your secret friend-making weapon.
I got this tip from an old high school friend who moved every two years because of her dad’s job. She told me this is how she made friends at a new school and I never forgot it! If you’re sitting next to someone and want to talk to them (in an airplane seat, bus seat, hostel room, tour etc.) offer them a piece of gum. It’s non-threatening and it usually sparks some type of conversation. I was wary at first, but it’s tried and true for me now. Someone actually offered me gum on the plane recently and we ended up spending an entire weekend together! It’s a little less weird than saying “So… you here alone?”
Still nervous about flying solo? I came across this quote and it really resonated with me:
“The truth is solo travel isn’t just something you do when you can’t find anyone else to come along. It’s an incredibly rewarding and enlightening experience in its own right. You will learn about resources you never knew you had, and discover amazing things. You may even make some big life decisions. But one thing is certain–you’ll definitely have fun.” —Unknown
After running around Europe for the past year, I assure you that every part of this statement is true!
Solo trips give you confidence, a chance to prove to yourself that you can handle anything (cancelled flights in London leaving you stranded, getting home when your Italian taxi-driver doesn’t speak English, and successfully navigating the Parisian subway system without Google Maps) and that’s a pretty great feeling (that sure beats a keychain travel souvenir!).