We all have milestones we hit as travelers – stepping foot on every continent, living abroad for one consecutive year, the list goes on. I hit my own personal milestone when I traveled solo for the first time in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Although this isn’t my favorite form of travel, I highly recommend the experience to truly connect with yourself. You will have the opportunity to discover a new destination in just the way you’d like with no one else to worry about.
1. Stay in a hostel, stay in a shared room
Without doubt, the easiest way to meet fellow travelers is to stay in a hostel. If you’re traveling solo, book a mixed or shared dorm room. Don’t feel comfortable staying with someone of another gender? No worries, male and female-only rooms are available. You’ll save money and meet a room full of people who have likely been in that particular city for a few days and will have suggestions on where to go or what to see. Invite yourself along for dinner or drinks and engage in conversation with these friendly “strangers.”
2. Take time and make an effort to meet new people
3. Do exactly what you want to do
Duh. Often times, I feel pressure to do something when I’m in a particular city. If I don’t get a photo in front of a specific landmark, will this trip even count? Yes. It will. While I was in Paris, I opted out of visiting the Louvre. Not only did I avoid disastrous lines and crowds, I got to explore a more intimate part of Paris and enjoyed getting lost in unknown neighborhoods. Though I hope to return one day to walk through the museum’s halls, I am not disappointed in my decision. When considering your itinerary book only things that truly peak your interest. This trip is all on your time – you can do as much or as little as you’d like.
4. Stop and enjoy
When traveling with friends, it is inevitable that we will be in some kind of rush. We’re always looking forward to the next stop, the next night, the next item on the to-do list. I must admit, it was nice traveling solo and feeling less inclined to go, go, go. I slept in everyday. I read my book over breakfast every morning, which consisted of a few slices of toast and tea. I got lost. I sat and people watched while enjoying a good cup of coffee. I stopped to take photos without the worry of being left behind. My pace in Kuala Lumpur was much slower than what I had become accustomed to, but it was incredibly refreshing.
5. Research your destination
As with any new city you may be unfamiliar with, it’s important to research and understand the destination you will be traveling to. Is it safe to travel solo? What is it like traveling solo as a man or woman there? What are the best hostels to stay in when traveling alone?
6. Get uncomfortable
It’s easy to get through an embarrassing moment when you’re with a friend. Falling down in public is less humilating if you have a friend alongside you can jump up and laugh with. Things get more complicated when you’re solo, especially when traveling in a foreign destination. I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone while in Malaysia, but I’m so happy I did. I ate a traditional Indian dish (with my hands, for the most part) outside the Batu Caves. I visited the National Mosque. I played with some monkeys. Is it weird to do these things alone at first? Of course. But that’s what travel is all about.