Imagine this: you’re planning a dream vacation with friends. Great. Except all of your friends have their own dream cities and none of them are the same as your dream city. So fine, you compromise because you just want to travel. You all finally agree on a place, you’re setting the itinerary but whoops—Mark refuses to take vacation days until November, Maria won’t go unless there’s *prime beach weather,* and Josh needs to block out a time ASAP (Josh hates spontaneity). Long story short, the trip never happens.
But why give up your dream trip when you can travel solo? When you travel alone, you can set your own plans, go at your own pace, and visit your dream city without making any compromises. Don’t miss out on seeing the world because it’s too hard to plan with friends. Here are some tried & true tips for traveling alone in your twenties.
1. You need a travel routine. . . mostly
Travel is the one thing that seems to mess up the routines of even the most organized, type-A control freaks. Between the jet lag, the eating out, and the lack of familiar jogging trails, travelling can wreak havoc on your body’s internal clock. Though the Insta models make traveling look like back-to-back spontaneous adventures, successful solo travel requires a good routine—no matter how short your trip is.
Here’s how: Give yourself a day to recover from the jetlag, then start getting into a groove. Do you normally work out at home? See if your hotel has a gym or check out the Let’s Go 2019 Travel Guide to find good hikes nearby (FYI jogging is an underrated way to see new cities). Though it can be tempting to eat cacio é pepe for every meal while in Tuscany, your body will thank you for including some staples from your regular diet. Sticking to a modified & flexible version of your normal schedule will provide stability and ward off travel burnout.
2. Make your plan the night before
Hours of research go into the perfectly curated travel Insta account. We’re not saying you have to plan every detail of your trip before you hop on the plane, especially if your goal is to ~find yourself~, but do work in some strategizing time the night before a big day out on the town.
Here’s how: You can work in spontaneity by planning your day geographically instead of topically. Finding neighborhoods worth exploring first and then interesting attractions within those neighborhoods minimizes walking time, especially in big cities. Familiarize yourself with the city geographic orientation so that you’re not totally lost the moment you arrive. Nothing screams, “I’m a tourist! Mug me!” like standing lost in the middle of a train station, staring at a map looking dazed and confused. To get yourself situated, top-notch travel guides like Let’s Go Europe 2019 have navigation tips, neighborhood-focused itineraries, and important safety information (phone numbers, etiquette tips, and warnings about tourist pickpocketing traps, etc) for hundreds of European cities.
3.Budget for the mid-itinerary blues
Even though you won’t see your favorite influencers post about the travel blues, you might have a few lonely moments on the road. You will be out there alone, plowing through a probably pretty hectic itinerary, putting in very long days of adventuring and exploring. But traveling solo doesn’t mean you have to be alone the entire trip, or that you can’t climb out of a rut you may fall into.
Here’s how: We have two big tips for staying sane on solo trips: First, bring stuff to keep yourself entertained, even without wi-fi. Crossword puzzles, a travel guide, hand-held video games—whatever it is that you enjoy at home, bring it on your trip! Second, talk to as many people as you can. If your social anxiety spiked just reading that sentence, there are low-pressure ways to make travel friends. Cooking classes are a great way to meet locals who are almost guaranteed to speak English. Unusual or niche tours of the city will get you acquainted with like-minded travelers. Youth hostels will introduce you to friends that will have your back if you decide to go out at night.
Solo travel is awesome—don’t shy away from it. If you want more ideas for how to get into a travel routine, plan an incredible itinerary, and make real friends while traveling solo, pick up Let’s Go Europe 2019, the best-selling travel guide written exclusively by Harvard college students traveling solo. It’s on sale for a limited time directly from the publisher. Enjoy your trip!
Michelle Borbon is Let’s Go 2020 Europe Associate Editor. An Arizona native, she’s not afraid of any strange wildlife (excluding spiders & cockroaches). Catch her hanging out and editing travel blogs in Cambridge, stifling her serious FOMO with as many mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups as she can fit in her mouth.