Travelling Solo: how I balance introversion & meeting new people

One of my absolute favourite things to do is travel solo. I love the freedom, flexibility,  excitement and the independence. After more than a decade of solo travel I finally feel like I’ve found my ideal travel style. Here are three aspects of solo travel that I’ve adapted over the years that might also help you foster your unique style.

10481605_10155773185290145_8606927097836134981_n_10155773185290145.jpg

Socialising

On past trips I’ve struggled with the balance of socializing with friends and alone time. As an introvert, being around people who are not in my “second gear” sphere (people I feel completely comfortable and relaxed with), can drain me very quickly. On the other hand, if I spend more than a whole day alone I miss social connection and can start to feel a bit down.

On this trip I’ve found a great balance by spending much of my days alone– walking the streets of new cities and reading in coffee shops, yet also making an effort to meet like-minded people for an hour or two on a near daily basis. Predominantly I’ve used Tinder for this- but this doesn’t mean the people I’ve met are “hook ups”. I’ve found the dating app great for meeting people for platonic chats about topics we’re both interested in and to gain local insight into all the hidden spots and tips that guide books don’t tell you about. And if something further develops, then that’s an added bonus. Like any form of social interaction, you have to navigate your way through people you don’t click with, but the vast majority of people I’ve met have been well worth the effort and I’ve learnt something new from every person I’ve met.

I’ve also met some amazing people at random- like director Michael Caton-Jones, with whom my new Italian friends and I struck up a conversation outside a bar on a Saturday night in Budapest. Luckily none of us really knew who he was at the time, so we were able to have an honest, down-to-earth chat. He was exceedingly nice. Today I also got to know Christian from Bulgaria who’s staying in the dorm bed next to mine and insisted I have some chocolate from his homeland whilst he excitedly told me about his Erasmus exchange, career plans and the best gay clubs in town.

 

Planning

Another aspect I’ve dramatically changed for the better on this trip is the amount of planning I’ve done- or lack there of. As I don’t have any deadline to return to ‘normal life’ I have amazing freedom to be spontaneous and take each day as it comes. Aside from my first two flights, a handful of nights in hostels and a return flight to Australia in the middle of my trip, I didn’t lock anything in before leaving Helsinki. I had a rough plan of the countries I wanted to visit for the first 6 weeks of travel, but that has already changed and will change again.

This is the first time I’ve traveled with such an open itinerary and I love it. So far I’ve extended my stay in Budapest for an extra few nights than I’d originally penciled in and I might stay more. I toyed with the idea of visiting a friend in Azerbaijan for a week. I might skip Slovenia and go straight to Croatia. But whatever I decide, it will be what feels right in the moment. Of course there are some practicalities like visas to consider. As an Australian, I’m able to stay for 3 months within a 6 month period in Schengen States in Europe. So I was sure to consider countries that are outside this when thinking about longer travel- for example Croatia, Albania and Cyprus.

While I realise that few people travel without any time restraints, I would recommend spending at least a week in one country and leaving much of your time up to chance exploration rather than rushing around to see every tourist site in two days.

On the day-to-day scale of things, I’m free to choose when and where I go for breakfast, where to explore during the day and I can take as long as I want to snap photographs, browse stores and get distracted by foreign city life.

 

Safety

As a female solo traveller I have rarely felt unsafe whilst travelling. And while I previously travelled throughout Asia and the Middle East without a cell phone, now I ensure that I am at least able to connect to free wifi and more often than not I have data roaming on my phone. This is quite good value on my Finnish sim card, if you have an Australian sim it would be worth buying a new local one. Additionally I:

  • Tell family/friends which city I’m in and where I plan to go next
  • If people ask if I’m traveling alone, I normally say at the moment but I am meeting up with friends in a few days (often true)
  • Don’t walk through dodgy looking places at night (or day)
  • Keep your valuables locked up in your dorm room (often lockers are provided- you may need to bring a lock)
  • If you do have valuable with you, put them where you can reach them but not others, ie. not in a backpack out of site/reach
  • Be wary of people coming up to you in the street
  • Use ATMs instead of money exchangers- and be sure to cover your pin to avoid fraud
  • Don’t drink to a point that you lose control

 

Finally, I just want to re-iterate how much I love travelling by myself and how rewarding it has been for me. I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you have any questions or concerns regarding solo travel, comment below or send me an email 🙂