This month, I will be visiting Marrakech on my own for four days. I plan to wander around the medina, visit a couple of museums, book myself into a spa and do a little shopping – and I can’t wait! One thing I’ve noticed as I get older is that I’ve become a bit more fearful of things. For example, I’m not as comfortable driving as I used to be, and I even get mildly anxious about flying. Strangely, I have no qualms about traveling on my own and have found that when I return from a solo trip, I feel a bit braver than when I left. This is all to say that I highly recommend solo travel for everyone, the adventurous and the timid. Here are five tips to make your independent adventure a rewarding one:
1. Safety first. This should go without saying, but independent female travellers are going to want to take some extra precautions. You are going to want to stay in a safe area and let a friend or family member back home know your complete itinerary. Know what the local emergency number is (911 is the standard in North America and Canada while all EU countries use 112. Otherwise, refer to this list) and if you can, carry a phone. Know what local customs are and follow them as much as possible. No need to dress exactly like a local, but if you’re in a conservative country, wear modest clothes.
2. Join a tour group, take a class. Solo travel doesn’t mean you have to be alone the whole time. A very easy way to meet people or at least have some company is joining a tour group. These are especially great at the beginning of a trip, when you’re just getting your bearings. Other ways to socialize include taking a class or finding a meetup group you can join. On a solo trip to Rome last year, I did both – I took a weeklong intensive Italian class and spent a couple of evenings with a language exchange group. I met some wonderful people and even went out for dinner one night with an American and drinks another with a Swede, both whom I’m still in contact with! For those looking to make romantic connections, dating apps work abroad, too. In Paris, I met an Australian woman who moved there for a year to find herself and meet a new love. I’m not sure how successful she was in the first instance, but she did end up having a year-long love affair with a Frenchman.
3. Live in the moment. One of the best things about solo travel is that you can focus on yourself. What do you feel like doing? What do you feel like eating? And when do you want to do any of the things you want to do? As you enjoy your own company, you might find yourself contemplating some other, deeper questions. Are you happy at home? Are you satisfied with your life, your friendships, your career? I find that these internal conversations I have while traveling solo give me clarity and renewed vigour, which is a great gift.
4. Try not to use your phone as a crutch. It’s not just solo travellers who do this, but in the absence of a travel partner, the pull of your screen might be powerful. Try to resist! Not being glued to your phone opens you up to witnessing the scenes around you, overhearing conversations, and maybe even meeting people. These scenes will stay with you long after whatever it is popping up on your phone.
5. Treat yourself. For me, this means staying somewhere beautiful. It doesn’t have to be luxurious, but I want to love my surroundings. You might have other priorities, but spoil yourself to the extent that your budget allows. Remember, this is your opportunity to enjoy what you want, so go for it!