If you don't already know, I'm a huge advocate for solo traveling. Taking the leap to embark on my first solo trip to Madrid was one of the best decisions I ever made, and it opened up a whole new world to me.
It's a completely different experience compared to when you travel with your family or friends. You have complete freedom over your travel, which is exhilarating and nerve-racking at the same time. But I love the option of being able to fly off whenever I want to wherever I want and not having to abide by someone else's budget.
I realize traveling alone is not for everyone, but if it's something you're debating on, I urge you to just go! It's thrilling, challenging, and sometimes emotionally and physically draining, but it's such a rewarding experience in the end. It's also incredibly addicting, and once you return from your first solo trip, you're going to want to book another. So whether you're a first timer or well-versed in traveling solo, here are 12 things you should do on your trip:
1. Take yourself out to dinner
"Table for one please!" Just because you're traveling alone doesn't mean you shouldn't treat yourself to a nice, sit down meal. Order an extra glass of wine and have two entrees - no one's there to judge!
2. Get lost in the streets
Spend a day walking the streets without any destination in mind. Turn down cobblestoned streets you wouldn't normally go and see where it leads you. The more lost you get, the more you'll discover.
3. Make an effort to speak the local language
Wherever you're traveling to, be sure to learn or write down a few essential phrases of the local language if you don't speak it. No matter how silly you may think you sound, give it a try! You'd be surprised how appreciative the locals will be with the effort you're making.
4. Befriend the locals
If you're trying to find out the best spots around town, who better to ask than a friendly local? So chat up the waiter from the local bar or the vendor selling fruits and vegetables at the market. They'll happily divulge their secrets, and you'll be exploring the city like a local in no time.
5. Join a group tour
If you've made the jump to travel alone but you're still nervous about how it might unfold, join a group tour or day excursion. Every city offers something unique, like street food tours or bar crawls, so there's something for everyone. I also recommend researching to see if there are free walking tours available. It's a great way to get guided tour of a new city, and you might even meet other solo travelers.
6. Help out your fellow travelers
If you're a well-seasoned solo traveler, be sure help out your fellow travelers if you see them lost or struggling to communicate something with a local. We've all been there, so don't hesitate to offer a few words of wisdom or tips. It's so important that we, as travelers, cultivate an open and welcoming community.
7. Challenge yourself with something new
Get out of your comfort zone and try something you've always had an interest in. Whether it's taking a cooking class in the local cuisine, learning a new sport, or doing some crazy, adrenaline-inducing activity, the possibilities of gaining new experiences are endless. And even if you fail epically, you're probably not going to see these people again, and at the very least, it'll make for a good story.
8. Sit alone at the bar
Once during a solo trip to Madrid, I stopped by one of my favorite bars on my last night for a glass of sangria. I wasn't looking for company, but I ended up befriending the bartenders, a fellow American, and a group of French girls. Well, a glass of sangria turned into multiple glasses along with shots of tequila on the house. Needless to say, the rest of the night was complete blur, but the hangover was definitely rememberable.
I know sitting alone at a bar sounds daunting, especially if you're a girl, but who knows what kind of mischief you might invite - it could turn out to be quite an adventure!
9. Be selfish
Wake up when you want. Go wherever you want. Be unapologetically selfish. This to me is the best part of traveling alone. You don't have to compromise your time or freedom to please anyone else. You are in complete control. So, do whatever you want and indulge in things you wouldn't normally. This trip is all about you, so relish in it.
10. Lose track of time people watching
People-watching is an art everyone should master, and there's no better time to do it than when you're traveling alone. So settle down in a cozy cafe or find a little spot amongst the hustle and bustle and watch how people go about their day.
11. Embrace the tranquility of your own company
As you're running around sightseeing and discovering a new destination, take some time out of your itinerary to enjoy your own company.
12. Be in the moment
I feel like there's so much pressure nowadays with social media to post the most enviable travel photos. Like if you don't post an amazing pic of you playing with elephants in Thailand, did you really go? (Guilty!)
As great as it is to capture special travel moments, don't forget to put down your phone/selfie stick every once in a while, and just be there. Take it all in - the sights, the smells, the people - cause you'll never have that same moment again.