Zen and the Art of Solo Travel

Inhale. Exhale. Store your tray tables and lock your seat in the upright position.

Relaxation isn’t exactly synonymous with independent solo travel. For an adventurous few, solo travel comes naturally. Then there’s the rest of us.

Planning your first solo travel experience can be panic-inducing: Will I be lonely? What if I get lost? What if my travel plans fail?

Solo travellers ask themselves these questions every day. But fears are often grossly exaggerated. Rarely is loneliness or drifting off-course more than just a hiccup.

You can’t plan everything. You may even plan nothing. Either way, keep your cool and sort out your woes with these 9 zen solo travel planning tips:

Expect the unexpected.

Things won’t always go your way. And the best way to prepare is to prepare to be unprepared.

A senseless anti-tautology perhaps. Dig it.

Start small.

You don’t climb K2 or Everest on your first ascent. And likewise, if it’s your first solo trip, don’t jump head first into a headache-inducing destination with hassles abound.

Stick to classic backpacking itineraries like Europe or Southeast Asia at first to acquaint yourself the world. Your epic Cape to Cairo journey can wait.

Explore the unexpected.

Travel plans are meant to be broken. Show little mercy. Gently pummelling your itinerary with a unexpected hook will remind it who’s in charge.

Good Morning Japan

Never stop dreaming.

We live in an increasingly connected world. No destination is out of reach.

Want to hiking across the mysterious mountains of Bhutan? Good! Save your money, assemble your resources, and float far away.

Never wait.

Itchy feet? Scratch ‘em. Don’t wait for longer fingernails. Or for your friends to tag along.

The best way to thwart an opportunity to travel is to rely on someone else to make it happen. Just go. You can thank me later.

Love your own company.

Embarking on solo travel means learning to love spending (a lot of) time alone. Embrace it. Life won’t always offer such silence and quiet contemplation.

Daisho in Temple, Miyajima, Japan

Get social.

Don’t get too comfortable with yourself yet. (Unless you want to be the weirdo in the corner chatting your own ear off.)

Solo travel is never solitary travel. Other travellers and locals can provide on-the-ground advice to enrich your experience. Don’t miss out on that opportunity.

Besides face-to-face human interaction is a welcome break from 140-character exchanges. Not only that, you need it. Unless you are the most introverted of introverts, conversing with others for more than 3 seconds at a time keeps you grounded. And sane.

Don’t weigh yourself down.

The number one mistake on new solo travellers? Easy: Overpacking.

Don’t stuff your travel backpack with clothing, footwear, toiletries or accessories that you won’t need. Apply minimalist packing techniques to drop your solo travel stress to a minimum.

Stay in touch.

Don’t discount your loved ones and friends just because you’re living twelve hours in the future. Keep them updated.

I’ve yet to meet a mother, father, brother, sister or best friend who wouldn’t welcome a phone call at any time of day.

(Just don’t do it drunk.)

Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O'Rourke is a Canadian traveller, food & drink aficionado, and the founder & editor of Treksplorer. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

DISCLAIMER: Treksplorer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and its affiliated international sites.

DISCLAIMER: You'll notice that from time to time I link out to recommended hotels/tours/products/services. If you purchase anything through these links, I'll receive a commission. It won't cost you anything extra, but it will help keep me trekkin' on and delivering more free (and unsponsored!) travel information to you. Thanks :)