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Tips for First-Time Solo Travelers

After experiencing a traumatic car accident that left me nearly immobilized and in need of spinal surgery in my thirties, I made an “80 by 50” promise to myself –to travel to 80 countries by the time I turned 50 if I was lucky enough to make a full recovery. Having recently celebrated my 54th birthday, I’m happy to report I made good on this promise and have journeyed to over 92 countries and territories solo.

It’s difficult to put into words how solo travel has changed my life, expanded my worldview and given me the confidence I never knew I needed to rebuild life after a crushing accident – I just know I wouldn’t be who I am today without the opportunity to solo travel.

In the hopes of inspiring others to embrace solo travel as a means of self-discovery, I documented part of my journey in my Amazon Prime series, “Me, Myself & The World: The Art of Solo Travel,” now in its second season. If you’re thinking of taking your first solo trip, here are some tips to help you get started. 

Pick a solo-friendly travel destination

If you’re nervous about traveling solo for your first time, it’s OK to start local. A day trip or a short getaway to a nearby town is a great way to get your feet wet. If you’re ready to travel abroad but you’re nervous about going alone, consider English-speaking countries or cities that have a transportation system that is easy to navigate. Once you’ve selected your destination, there are several tools available to help you map out your journey. For example, you can use AI to help kick off an itinerary if you don’t know where to start.

Pack light

Extra baggage can literally weigh you down on your solo travels. To avoid overpacking, I recommend following the “54321” rule. For most week-long trips, you’ll only need five tops, four bottoms, three accessories, two pairs of shoes and one swimsuit. If you’re checking a bag, I recommend packing one set of clothes in your carry-on or personal item in case your luggage gets lost or is delayed. You’ll want to wear your bulkiest or heaviest items like jackets or coats on the plane, and consider using compression packing cubes to save space and keep your belongings organized.

Pamela Holt Vietnam Cave 2
Pamela Holt in Vietnam

Be flexible and inquisitive

Organized itineraries can make for seamless trips, but don’t forget to leave room for adventure and discovery – after all, you never know what opportunities or invitations may arise from your solo travels. I have found that some of my most memorable solo travel experiences were completely unplanned!

Mingle with locals

While typical tourist haunts are bound to wind up on your itinerary, don’t forget to go where the locals go. This is where you’ll really immerse yourself in local culture, whether it’s at a corner cafe, a street festival or a sporting event. For example, in Season 2 of my show I traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, where I took Muay Thai boxing and sword-wielding classes taught by locals to immerse myself in the local culture while getting some exercise in! 

Pack your wits and trust your gut

When solo traveling, it’s crucial to be well prepared so you can depend on yourself and have the best travel experience possible. Make sure you have enough emergency cash in the proper currency, access to a map (I recommend downloading offline Google Maps of the places you’re visiting) and cell phone service (consider e-sim cards that you can pre-purchase before you travel). Don’t forget to take note of local emergency numbers and the location of the nearest embassy. Be aware of your surroundings, walk with confidence and if you get lost in an unfriendly neighborhood, walk to the nearest public store or café to get your bearings. Lastly, trust in your ability to make good decisions for yourself, whether you’re at home or abroad. And with every solo trip you take, your confidence will grow, you’ll feel more self-assured, and that independence will help empower all aspects of your life. 

For more travel inspiration, tune in to Season 2 of “Me, Myself & The World: The Art of Solo Travel,” now streaming on Amazon Freevee and GoTraveler.

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