Nothing exciting ever happens within a ‘comfort zone’. Consider some of the world’s greatest travel adventures; Would Cook have discovered the Pacific Islands if he’d hung around at home in Yorkshire? Would Amelia Earhart have paved the way for female pioneers if she’d left the flying to men like Charles Lindbergh? And would us Europeans know the joys of the Kama Sutra if Burton had actually turned around to the Royal Geographical Society and said ‘thanks, but I don’t really want to explore India’?
Stepping out of your comfort is how you uncover new places and jaw dropping sights; it’s how you make memories; it’s how you achieve your dreams; it’s the best way to travel. But let’s be honest here, it’s also terrifying! Comfort zones are comfort zones for a reason: they’re a place where we feel safe and secure.
But many people are stepping out of their comfort zone, choosing to travel solo without the support of a partner, without the security of having another person around, and without being able to rely on someone else’s map-reading skills! Sure, some people do prefer travelling together, like the Oxford husband and wife who miraculously didn’t kill each other during a transatlantic yacht race, but others much prefer to explore in their own way, in their own time. So just how do they manage to do it?
Here are 8 ways to go beyond your comfort zone and enjoy all the benefits of travelling solo:
- Choose Wisely
Your destination is one of the most important considerations if you truly want to venture outside your comfort zone and perfect the art of travelling solo. Some countries typically have a ‘friendlier’ reputation than others, but it’s really more about finding a destination that you’ll feel comfortable in. You might feel more confident travelling to an English-speaking country, like the USA, especially if your GCSE languages are a little rusty, or you may want to ensure there’s plenty to do so you’re never left wondering ‘what’s next?’. How can we save money if our budget is low, without renouncing the trip? It couldn’t be easier! Just check if there is an Expedia discount code on Plusvouchercode and with the discounted flight price you need to choose the destination available with your budget.
- Have a Plan
Did you know that research shows you’re 42% more likely to stick to your goals if you write them down? That’s why many solo travellers draft up a day-to-day plan before setting off on their adventure. Do your research first, picking out everything you want to see and do on your trip, and tick them off once you’ve managed it. Try not to select only the ‘easy’ sights and attractions, but also include some of the more ‘off the beaten track’ options which will really help to take you out of your comfort zone and experience new things. The more items you tick off your list, the more motivated you’ll be to get out there and do it.
- Take a Tour
There’re two great things about booking a tour when you travel solo. Firstly, it’s easy. If there’s something you want to see, but don’t feel confident enough to brave public transport on your own, a tour is the simplest (and sometimes the safest) way to get there. Secondly, it’s a great way to meet likeminded people who will probably be all too happy to share their experiences (unless, of course, you bump into one of us stiff-upper-lipped Brits who avoid talking to strangers at all costs!). If you’re travelling on a budget, look out for free walking tours (historic cities like Edinburgh even offer spooky ghost tours!).
- Don’t be a Sheep
As a solo traveller, it’s very, very tempting to follow the crowd; to stick to the ‘tried and tested’ sights. But in doing this, you’re creating a new type of comfort zone… just in a different destination! As long as you’re taking precautions to stay safe, don’t be afraid to head in an alternative direction. If you head away from the crowds in Venice, you’ll discover the amazing residential back streets. To really make the most of travelling solo, it’s important to keep pushing yourself to go beyond this new comfort zone you’ve created. Don’t go to the same cafe every single morning; try something new and keep exploring.
- Be Proactive
One of the best ways to go beyond your comfort zone when you’re travelling solo is to be proactive. If you don’t know how to use the transport system, where to buy a phone card, or how to get from A to B…. ask! Again, there’s a real risk of creating a brand-new comfort zone within a 1-mile radius of your hotel, simply because you’re too afraid to ask. Be proactive, and make things happen. No one else will make them happen for you. If you’re unsure of communicating in the local language, keep a pocket-sized guidebook with you (most have basic phrases in them) or download a translator app to your phone.
- Eat Casually
Is there anything more nerve wracking than sitting alone at a table in a restaurant? Possibly not. But who wants to travel to a new place and spend all week eating hamburgers and pizzas from room service? Not us! Sampling the local cuisine is a massive part of travelling to new places, and it’s well worth stepping out of your comfort zone to try the gooey stroopwafels in Amsterdam, the flakey croissants in Paris, and the delicious (but truly disgusting looking) crni rižot in Zagreb. Opt for restaurants that offer bar seating, where it’s perfectly normal to sit alone, and where you won’t be staring across to an empty chair.
- Do Something Different
Dance like there’s nobody watching. Seriously. No one knows you here, so keep pushing yourself further and further out of that comfort zone and try something new. There’s no need to be embarrassed. Lots of destinations have their own ‘thing’; ride a bike in the Netherlands, take a flamenco class in Spain, enjoy a dip in Slovenia’s Lake Bled. Travelling solo is really about doing your own thing; it’s about doing what you want to do, when you want to do it, without feeling restricted by anyone else’s interests. That’s something that really is key to perfecting the art of travelling solo; remembering that this is about YOU.
- Have a Back Up Plan
Sometimes, even with the best intentions, solo travel won’t work out exactly as you’d planned. Perhaps you’re not feeling too confident and are having trouble getting out there, or maybe it’s been raining cats and dogs all week. It’s OK. You can still have a successful trip by making sure you have a backup plan, just in case. A great way to make sure you have excellent support when stepping out of your comfort zone is to book a hotel that’s welcoming to solo guests. Look for hotels that organize activities, offer a local shuttle service, have a bustling bar area, and communal spaces where you can get out of the room.
It’s an Art… Not a Science!
Remember, it’s called the art of solo travel, not the science of solo travel! There’s no right or wrong way to step out of your comfort zone, and your adventures may not be exactly what you want them to be each and every time you jet off. No artist is particularly proud of their early work, but with a bit of trial and error, you’ll soon be wondering how you ever coped with the whole sharing a hotel room thing.