1. First And Foremost, Be Safe
It goes without saying that traveling alone comes with specific risks, but none are insurmountable with the right preparation.
When you're getting ready to leave your hotel, for example, consider a few safeguards such as leaving a note with your intended destinations and approximately when you'll be back to your room. Leave your most valuable possessions, such as your laptop, in the safe when you go. Try to make connections with the staff so that they're aware of you and can look out for you. You can even ask them if the place you're planning on going to is safe for someone traveling alone.
Don't be an open book when it comes to strangers! It's good to be friendly and meet locals who can make your travels more enjoyable. But start slowly. Give only your first name, and never tell someone you've just met where you're staying. Most people, of course, mean you no harm. But trust is earned.
Identity protection doesn't come to mind as frequently as physical protection, but it's an important thing to keep in mind when you're traveling alone. If you're using public WiFi, consider getting a VPN to protect yourself from hackers and malware that can access your personal information. What's a VPN? Um, we'll let someone explain who knows better than us.
2. Alone But Not Lonely
The purpose of traveling alone isn't usually to avoid all human contact, so look for opportunities to make new acquaintances. Learning some words in the local language is undoubtedly a big help in meeting people. Even if they speak English, the fact that you've taken the trouble to learn some words in their mother tongue will endear you to them.
Take advantage of tours to meet fellow like-minded travelers with whom it will be easy to strike up a conversation. If you're going for a meal or a drink, don't be antisocial and sit in the corner! Body language can be a huge factor in seeming approachable, and if you make yourself available, it's likely you could strike up a conversation with a friendly local. Try a service like Voulez Vous Diner which will arrange for you to have a meal with a local in the area you're visiting if you're feeling especially outgoing.
While some forums encourage travelers to avoid appearing like a tourist for fear of pickpockets and other criminals, it's not always a bad thing to show that you're a stranger. By displaying your camera or map where it can be seen in relatively safe places like a restaurant, it's more likely that someone will ask where you're from and offer some insight into the local culture and your surroundings.
3. Be Your Own Boss
One of the perks of traveling alone is that you don't have to compromise and do what other people want to do. You get to do whatever it is that you want, when you want it, at the speed you want to do it. Instead of thinking about what your fellow travelers want to do, meditate on what it is you wish to experience about the place you're visiting. There's no one to stop you.
If you normally travel with children, for example, there are likely a few adults activities that you might want to take advantage of. Live in the moment and feel what it's like to have no limitations!
4. Think About Your Destination
Some places are more idyllic for solo travelers. While laying on a beach alone might be your ideal vacation, for some people, they'd rather stay busy, see sights, and explore. Loneliness tends to rear it's head when there's little to do.
Consider destinations that will keep you on the move. Once you've selected a place, weigh your lodging options carefully. By looking at reviews, you'll see if certain hotels are well-suited for people traveling alone, and the same goes for activities. Looking at feedback from other travelers will help you to find out if specific tours, restaurants, etc. are better alone or with some company.
When you're selecting accommodations, make sure that the hotel or cruise line doesn't require 2+ people to share the room. Some establishments have a surcharge for single guests so that their bottom line isn't affected, so you'll want to make sure the place you're staying doesn't have anything like that.
5. Stay Connected
Unless you want to escape life as you know it, an excellent way to avoid loneliness is to stay connected with family and friends from home. Take lots of pictures, share them on your social media, and engage with the people you'll miss. It might make the journey a lot easier if you stop in at an internet cafe to Skype or chat online with your loved ones. They'll appreciate it too.
Traveling solo doesn't have to be scary; it can be quite a liberating experience. If you're thinking of trying it, make sure you utilize these essential tips and most importantly, have fun on your own terms.