Today I’ll show you how to travel alone for the first time.
If you want to travel more and looking for a challenge; keep reading.
The work I started to do in Latin America became a great way to travel outside my comfort zone! From my first-time solo travel to now; I’ve achieved a lot.
Back in 2014, I coined the term Trips of Growth. I use this term to describe the action of traveling outside of my comfort zone.
Table of Contents
Traveling Alone For The First Time
Right, so you’re thinking of traveling by yourself for the first time. Below I’m sharing tips and tricks on how I did it for myself.
Personally, I find travel the best way to break from the known!
On a trip of growth, you’ll find me traveling alone, exploring new territories, and facing old fears.
I did this when backpacking Mexico by creating a new set of challenges to add to the long list I was already born with.
Traveling solo has become an integral part of my personal growth.
Are you ready to take the necessary footsteps towards becoming a better you?
In this guide, I’m going to give you some tips which I implemented my first time traveling alone. For me, it was a major comfort zone challenge.
The interesting point is how managed to use solo travel as a tool to facilitate it.
Let me start by firstly saying that a Trip of Growth doesn’t have to mean traveling to a new country or place.
As a person who thrives off creativity and discovers the new and unknown, I gain so much value from positioning myself in new environments.
Also learning what important things I should carry with me.
Outside Your Comfort Zone
No matter if you have traveled before you are traveling alone by plane for the first time. I’m going to give you so of my tips on how to travel alone.
If you’re traveling to an unknown place, you are taking a risk. Any risk that you run in life can appear daunting.
Choose a desirable place
After acclimatizing, a few hours or days later that feeling quickly fades away.
If you’re still in the stage of wondering where to travel alone for the first time. I recommend you try backpacking in Latin America.
Why? Because I know you’re going to have the time of your life.
The people and places you’ll visit will win your heart in seconds. Below I will list the five safest countries for solo travelers (in my opinion).
Forget about the bad press pick up your map of Latin America and start to nominate a few locations.
If you are from the United States and it’s your first time on a plane, for example, Latin America is a great choice because it’s not too far.
Also, you’ll more than likely be in the same time zone so it will be easy to communicate with family and friends back home.
Here are some countries I recommend for traveling alone to:
If you don’t yet speak Spanish. Or, a bit rusty from high school, don’t worry. Even in Europe there are plenty of options to support you in becoming fluent in Spanish before, during, and after your solo trip.
Don’t let the language barriers be the reason for dismissing a whole continent of life of love that awaits you.
Get a Travel mentor / Guide
In my case, I started by searching for the right mentors. I did this to learn more about areas I found myself lacking in fulfillment.
I developed the trip of growth idea after listening to lectures by Joseph Campbell. He talks about ancient mythology and living with purpose.
Joseph’s books inspired me to discover a deeper meaning in my first 3 months of solo travel from down through Central America back in 2014.
When traveling solo it’s necessary to have support and challenge.
When you’re not fortunate to have someone challenge you, you may find yourself stuck in a rut.
Reliving the same experiences day after day, whether good or bad.
Let’s be honest, we’d all prefer the right type of challenges; the type that plays to our strengths. But then, ask yourself, is it a challenge if you’re reliving something you’ve known or experienced before?
Having a mentor is paramount to being challenged.
I wanted my experience traveling alone for the first time to be backpacking in South America, but I was scared.
Then I met an oracle, disguised as a young Australian cocaine addict, who give me a piece of advice that changed everything.
Read about it amongst my other backpacking South America travel tips.
Make a solid plan
If this is going to be your first solo backpacking trip. I recommend you do at least a bit of trip planning. Do you know how to plan for a trip like this?
Don’t worry if not, you can kind of wing it, a little bit.
The main idea here is to execute your main travel strategy getting from point A to point B. Let your heart sort out the rest of the in-between bits.
Whether going beach hopping in Colombia or exploring the streets of Buenos Aires, I recommend carrying a travel journal and use it as the base for all your trip notes and findings.
One of my best tips for traveling alone for the first time is to know where you want to go but at the same time allow time for Mr. Random and his friends to creep in at any moment.
Being spontaneous is where your unknown adventure starts.
Follow your heart
When the world was telling me not to travel to Latin America because it was dangerous. If I’d listened to my head and ignored my heart, I would never have made that initial trip of growth I did to Mexico back in 2014.
In fact, when searching for solo travel destinations, the counties in Latin America barely even make it on any list.
Your heart has a reason that the mind cannot understand.
The same reason why society, our friends, family, and even ourselves cannot fully comprehend why we would do something.
I’ve found that every instance that I follow my heart, I find myself wishing that I’d do it more often.
When traveling alone for the first time, following our heart usually means turning our backs on society and sometimes friends and family.
Not in a spiteful way, but in a more polite way, that says…
Look, I need to do this for myself.
Breaking the code of everyday thinking and following your heart is a courageous thing to do.
The only thing I’d worry about is not following my heart, because, as we grow older and wiser we rely on it more to guide us.
In other words, start following your heart now; before it’s too late.
One of my most useful tips for traveling alone for the first time is to stay social. This may sound obvious but it can get lonely traveling alone.
As travellers, we don’t always get the opportunity to connect with like minded people. I don’t recommend forcing interactions.
Or, in other words, don’t spend your valuable travel time chasing other people.
Backpacking alone for the first time I started my first trip by staying with a local. I’m grateful to this day that Araceli and Omar put me up in their home for a few weeks in Mexico City.
The best way to spend time traveling the world alone and still being social is by mixing it up. Carry a board game or show a skill, or, even have something that you can offer new people you meet.
I like to do a mixture of the following:
- Staying with locals
- Getting my own apartment
- A dorm room in a hostel
I’ve found I can do all 3 methods on any one trip. Staying and living with other people in a new country has been my number 1 comfort zone crusher.
I will continue to do this as I’m able to learn and share with others and some cases offer a lot of value to my hosts.
One of the hardest things to achieve as a backpacker. If I could give you only 3 of my best tips on how to travel alone for the first time, this would be one.
As I mention in most of my travel tips on this blog. Traveling light is an art form. Even the most seasoned backpackers have trouble with this.
I managed to achieve it after 4 years of backpacking through South America and still carry some things I don’t use.
Traveling light is and for an evolving process of testing, learning, and try new gear.
I have listed just some of the things that may inspire you, especially if you’re a first-time traveler.
Learn the Language
One of my old adage’s is this. Travel to a country where you can’t understand the language and you’ll quickly realize how unimportant you and your life are.
When I first started to learn Spanish in Latin America I felt like a baby.
My friend Araceli initially helped me in Mexico. Without the support and challenge from her and the family, I wouldn’t have made it out of Mexico sane.
Of course, I’m going to encourage you to learn Spanish and here’s one way I did it.
Not only is learning a language a great thing to do but it will give you more confidence and access to more layers of the culture.
If arriving in a new place for the first time this is a smart thing to do. The best solo travel destinations make this easier for people.
I once landed in Latin America with terrible jet lag and without pre-booking any accommodation. I almost left myself stranded.
When you’re looking for the best places to travel alone for the first time, at least research the accommodation before you arrive.
I have done this with some of the best hostels in South America because they usually get booked up fast. This doesn’t mean you have to book anything, but, I recommend you do if you want the best beds.
With some sites, you can book accommodation and cancel for free if you’re not sure you’ll go to that place or if your travel plans change.
Smart Travel is not for everyone but if you’re a first-time traveler with little experience researching and booking at least your first night’s accommodation is a smart thing to do.
Benefits of Traveling Alone
I’m going to share some of my most valuable tips with you here. When I travel abroad, the first trip is usually the hardest.
If the idea seems scary, it means I’m about to embark on what I call it a trip of growth, which refers to traveling to a new place for the first time.
This is not a definitive guide on how to travel the world or anything like that, but by the end, I assure you that you’ll know some benefits of traveling alone.
You’ll even have some practical advice on how you can build your confidence and leave your comfort zone.
As you may already know, I like to put myself in a position where I have no choice but to engage with the culture.
Solo Travel can be seen as life changing travel if you do it right.
So, in this super useful article, whether you’re thinking of traveling alone or with a friend; you’ll learn six benefits of traveling alone.
These are tangible ideas that you can apply, even before you travel solo.
There are so many perks in traveling alone.
Below are some tips that will give you the cutting edge on solo travel in different countries – not just in Latin America.
Traveling by yourself, are you crazy?
Many of my friends still ask why on earth do you travel by yourself? I receive joy from packing up my life and heading out on the road with purpose.
During solo travel, I took the initiative to learn Spanish, and when I’m not in Latin America, I continue to learn Spanish Online, no matter where I am in the world.
Below are six benefits I’ve had from backpacking Latin America alone.
You learn more about yourself
Solo travel gives you direct access to yourself. After the honeymoon period has worn off, you can become very knowledgeable about yourself.
Here are some tips for first-time solo travel, which I call a trip of growth.
Every day, there are signs, messages, and hunches you’ll receive that inspire you to delve deeper, but you’ll only notice them if you’re in an open mode.
Losing your way, then finding it again
Losing your way in foreign lands can lead to unforgettable experiences. I learned this when I traveled to Havana, Cuba, for the first time.
Growth doesn’t happen by staying in your bubble of comfort where everything is familiar. One of the main advantages of traveling alone is personal growth.
Losing your way is the key to learning something about yourself, something that you would never have known otherwise, no matter how big or small your solo trip is.
If you’re worried about safety, don’t let that hinder you. I’ve listed some best solo travel countries in my pro travel advice for backpacking Latin America.
There is no itinerary
I promise you these are some of my best solo travel tips. Believe me, most new travelers over-plan.
With solo travel, you’re free to make travel plans on the fly – without the pressure of anybody or anybody else’s schedule.
As a person who likes to plan things and know what I’m doing, I’ve learned to live with more uncertainty.
This crazy, unplanned way of travel becomes like a way of life. The key is being able to use this thinking in the right place at the right time.
You may not see this as one of your traveling alone benefits, but to me, it is.
People you meet during solo travel
This is one of my favorite benefits of traveling alone.
You do realize that you’re never alone, right?
People who travel together seem to hang out together. They don’t tend to be as open to meeting other people as much.
Solo travel gives allows you to interact with more people. The key is that it forces you to interact.
Being solo gives you more opportunities to connect with locals or any fellow travelers you encounter.
Why? I think it’s because you have the time and space to dedicate to new people. This space comes without the objections and fears of missing out.
The people you meet are definitely one of the solo travel benefits that I have enjoyed.
Keeping a Travel Journal
This is one of my most personal tips for backpacking alone. This is a tool to be able to learn more about who you are and why you do what you do.
If you’re new to this blog, I recommend you check out my travel gear page to see what I like to carry with me when I go on these solo travel adventures.
Whether you write analog or digital, keeping a journal while solo traveling or any other type of travel is crucial, especially if you’re learning Spanish.
I never travel without carrying a decent travel journal or my Uni-pin pen set.
My journal covers details from – place, date, time, people, costs, etc.
Use your journal any way you choose. For me, it’s my private conversation with myself, and I’ve started to add thoughts from my travel journal with you.
This is one of the last and most important ideas from my solo travel tips.
The epitome of my traveling essays is to return home and look back on everything I’ve done; this is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever felt.
If I don’t do this, it’s a disservice to my personal growth, hence why I like to carry a travel journal with me at all times.
You’ll laugh at yourself, smirk, hit yourself, and even cry. But in the end, you’ll be certain it was all worth it.
Read about my first experience in Mexico to learn more.
I’ve never looked back on a trip where I thought, ‘I wish I hadn’t done that.’ That is the beauty of solo travel.
Doing it all over again
When I return to my home base after completing a solo trip, one of the things that keep me excited about solo travel is doing it all again. 🙂
This is why I’ve added it to my list of solo travel tips.
I believe trip planning is an integral part of your growth cycle when traveling. If you wish to keep growing as a person via travel, the cycle must continue.
By this point, you may consider whether or not you’ll revisit the same country or place. At times, it can be wise to revisit the same locations.
However, I don’t recommend it if you want to challenge yourself, especially if you want to re-live the same experiences you had the first time. That can be contradictory to your growth.
I’ve seen many people do this when they go on holiday. They revisit the same places, the same hotels, eat the same foods, etc.
I just wanted to remind you that this is the opposite of what a trip of growth is.
Building confidence to travel alone
Knowing the benefits of travel is one thing, but traveling by yourself for the first time can be daunting, especially without a mentor or companion.
Friends have asked me how I find the confidence to travel to foreign places alone, especially without knowing anyone or speaking the language.
If you need some solo travel advice, here are six top tips to help you build travel confidence before, during, and after your trip.
Do your research
The solo traveling benefits for you may not be as clear until you have a plan. Without a plan, nothing seems to make sense. I mean, why would you travel alone, again? I’ve forgotten…
Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution.
Before I travel alone, I sometimes use free online tools to help me plan.
Who would have thought that these traveling alone benefits would include Evernote, Google Drive, and Dropbox?
The truth is that these are pretty much standard tools for experienced travelers and digital nomads to plan and work as they travel the world.
Being able to access your research at any moment during your trip for me is key.
With trello.com, I create some visually interesting (and useful) trip notes.
I used a similar method to study Spanish before and after my trip to Central America in 2014.
Book your first night’s accommodation before you arrive.
Turning up to a new place with no knowledge can be like climbing Mount Everest to get your confidence back.
The more you know about the place, the more confident you’ll feel.
Learn to understand things like urban sprawl, currency, food, accommodation, and transport. Find a balance in-between having a guide and being the guide.
During solo travel, I like to leave 80% of all the collected information to one side.
Find a mentor
Create a line of communication from somebody who’s done it before
Finding a travel mentor is a great idea, and many people doing solo travel aren’t even considering this!
Try to find somebody who’s already done it and can recommend the best places to backpack alone, but more importantly, someone who’ll understand how important it is to challenge and support you while you’re on your solo travel adventures.
I mean, sure, I don’t doubt for a second that there are some benefits of traveling with friends, but this is another level.
Have your mentor ask you powerful questions leading up to the trip. Get them to press you for information while you’re there. This will force you to become more interested and engaged with your surroundings.
Make contact with locals
Use social media to build contacts before you arrive.
Like the first time I arrived in Guatemala in 2014. I’d been in contact with the lady from the Spanish school, who kindly found me a family to stay with.
Having a local contact can help you in many ways, from saving funds to finding accommodation. My favorite is when someone shows me the best local restaurants and breakfast spots.
Read inspiring books
Books give you the confidence to get up and go.
Books are stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and we can find many situations in real life, similar to what we can read in books.
Having more time for reading books is one of the advantages of traveling solo. For many people, books are like friends. They can simulate experiences before we even travel, thus building up our confidence.
Here are some book ideas you can try before your first backpacking trip in South America.
These types of books will surely help you build up the confidence to start your travel solo plans.
Learn the local language
Learn a few basic words and phrases before you arrive.
Learning a new language isn’t easy, and depending on who you are, neither is solo travel. However, traveling to foreign countries while learning a new language gives you a purpose when traveling to any new destination.
Being able to speak fluently with locals in their native language can give you greater insight into their world.
Speaking the local language gives both parties a much richer experience and insight in how each other thinks.
I experienced this in Mexico when I first started learning Spanish–since then, learning Spanish has inspired over 100 days of solo travel.
Learn new words and phrases and practice them daily with local people.
Backpacking for beginners
So, now you have some of the benefits of solo travel, but if it’s your first time, backpacking for beginners can be daunting.
Here are some mistakes to avoid to make your solo travel experience run more smoothly.
Imagine it’s pitch black. There’s no-one around, and you’ve got no local currency to get to your hostel, which is almost 10 miles away.
It happened to me in Nicaragua my first time backpacking in Central America, one of the best places to backpack for beginners.
Backpacking for beginners will mean making some blunders along the way. If you can avoid these top five travel mistakes, you’ll already be ahead of the game.
Leaving without travel insurance
You see many travel articles that say if you can’t afford decent travel insurance, you probably shouldn’t be traveling in the first place.
When going on a trip, most beginner backpacking destinations will require you to take out insurance, especially if you are traveling in Latin America.
This is an absolute must and has to be the most important document needed in crucial times. I feel like it’s my duty to say this.
Luckily, I’ve not needed to use my travel insurance in an emergency, but I know I’m always covered.
Arriving in new location after dark
I usually book all my travel so I can arrive at my destination early. Like the rest of the tips for traveling alone for the first time in this article, you’ll have to test them and see how they work for you.
For me, arriving either the following morning or by the afternoon, at the latest, is the best. Getting dropped off in the middle of the night is always riskier.
If you’re traveling by bus, make sure to carry your best backpacking books to keep you company.
In Nicaragua, I was lucky because I got a free ride to the local town. However, I recommend scheduling any new arrivals well before dark.
In Latin America, I prefer to take overnight buses; that way, I can save money on accommodation by arriving at my destination the following morning.
Packing heavy items
Honestly, these are just backpacking basics but a tall order for most. Why
Because you always end up carrying things you don’t need (Unless you plan to give it away).
I have a rule where I pack everything I’d like to take, then split it by 50 percent.
There are many creative hacks you can do around packing electronic items like laptops, cameras, and tablets. Invest in a decent luggage tracker, if you’re worried about getting your bag stolen or misplacing it while traveling.
You can buy most things you’ll need while you’re on the road, which makes much more sense, especially when doing slow travel. If you’re lucky, you may even find those everyday items at a fraction of the price you’d normally pay.
Be careful not get mixed up with the hiking v.s backpacking debate because you can easily end up carrying too many things.
Arriving without access to local currency
This is one of my less exciting tips for traveling alone but equally as important. Make sure you’ve always got at least $20 of local currency in case you have to get a taxi outside the airport.
If not, always carry a fist full of dollars, especially if traveling in the Americas.
Always check credit card fees (if any) with your bank and avoid using airport exchange kiosks like crazy because you’ll pay high rate and commission.
Traveling without a smartphone
When backpacking for the first time, technology is critical, especially if you’re working online as a Travelpreneur or digital nomad.
Traveling with a smartphone will definitely enhance your travel experience if you know how to use it effectively.
It can be tricky to know what to bring backpacking but don’t forget or lose your smartphone. Learn to utilize basic apps first e.g. Google maps.
I created a page to show you the apps I use when traveling. For example, I use Google maps to track everywhere I’ve been.
Avoiding these five common travel mistakes will help you graduate to a pro backpacker.
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Travel Alone For the First Time
So, what is backpacking going to do for you? For me, it’s changed my life and helped me develop many areas of my life, and I hope you’ll see the many other backpacking benefits I have gained by reading this blog.
As you may have gathered, there are many health benefits in traveling.
You can also check out Eli’s tips on solo travel in South Americafor even more ideas. He’s got some great insights and tips on traveling alone.
So, why is traveling important again?
Hopefully, you’ll be able to see this for yourself after traveling alone in Latin America.
Don’t expect it to be easy, but you should have a boost of confidence that will take you far because you’ve read the benefits of traveling solo from this article.
I’ve found that solo travel has helped me in many other areas of my life, and I hope that the benefit of solo travel has the same effect on you.
At age 26 I set myself the challenge of learning Spanish. Learning a language is a true comfort zone challenge.
If you can open your mind to the possibility then you only have to get started. Just like I did with my old rusty backpack in 2014.
We are capable of learning a new language at any age. In fact, age is not a factor, however, many people still believe age stops them from learning a language.
Initially, I chose to learn Spanish for the simple reason; I always liked how melodic it sounded when spoken, especially Latin American Spanish.
Now I go around telling people I love Latin America.
Nobody challenged me to learn Spanish or to love anything. On one cold day, back in England 2013, I decided to take a night class at my local college.
During that time and shortly after, It hit me. There is so much more to learning a language than meets the eye.
My comfort zone challenge started to commence.
Remember, a trip of growth means you traveling outside your comfort zone.
When looking for new ideas on how to travel alone for the first time. Or, if you have a friend that is thinking of doing the same, please share one of my tips from this article with them.
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Paulina On the road says
I really liked this post, and there is nothing better than solo travel than to grow personally. I also moved abroad to learn Spanish, to Madrid, Sevilla etc. ANd it s the best way to become fluent in a language. Can’t wait to see how your Spanish will improve.
I totally get you about moving beyond your comfort zone when you travel. For instance, I had to learn Japanese when I taught in Japan. It was the ultimate challenge. I’m interested in listening to Joseph Campbell though.
Dada KS says
I belive one can grow as a traveler, solo or with someone…you just have to find the right partner. I have challenging myself a lot while traveling by my own and traveling with my husband so at the end its not about traveling solo or with someone is about if you are open to challenge yourself. And yes you can learn a language at any age. I learnt fluently french at 26 years old and now at 36 I am learning german.
I am sure you will learn spanish fluently because you have so much will! Good luck!
Bailey Mills says
It’s so funny, I often find myself saying solo travel is the number way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I am glad that you were able to take the experience of solo travel and really utilize it to help you grow as a person. I will definitely have to take a trip like your’s through Latin America and see how I do!
Lydia Smith says
This type of post is rare and glad I came across a gem such as this! For someone who’s not married, I think solo travel is the way most times. However, starting out can look scary. Good to read of your determination to learn the Spanish language. It’s an inspiration to me. There’s always something rewarding stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
Kate Storm says
Love the idea of a trip of growth! Similar to you, I initially went to Latin America hoping to improve my Spanish (among other reasons, of course). I didn’t get as far as I had hoped last year, but I have plans to go back in 2018–fingers crossed I grow more on this trip!
Cat Lin says
I love this type of trip where you challenge yourself to step outside the comfort zone! I agreed that it doesn’t have to be going to an unknown place. Last year, I challenged myself to learn French so that I can go back and revisit other parts of France. I was making small progress and I can’t wait to continue this year!
Totally agree. Growth begins when we step out of the comfort zone. Right now, looking at my baby gal, trying to crawl inspite of getting stuck up (which looks adorable though) and starting to cry, she still tries the moment we make her lie down. I was asking my husband when the hell did we stop trying this much!