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I’ve Been a Solo Traveler for 15 Years—These Are My Tips for Doing It Right

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A woman standing on a scenic lookout overlooking Moraine Lake in Alberta, Canada.

I’ll be the first to admit there’s nothing better than sharing a sunset with your partner, exploring a new destination with your bestie, or experiencing the joys of intergenerational travel. But there’s something so uniquely rewarding about traveling solo. Especially if you know how to do it right.

I first fell in love with solo travel in my early 20s, when I sold my car (and anything else I could afford to get rid of) and moved to Australia to start working on organic farms through a program called WWOOF. The freedom of not having to answer to anyone else’s plans or desires was so totally liberating, inspiring countless solo adventures and eventually, a career as a travel editor.

People always seem surprised that I find joy in traveling solo. Not to get all Kelly Clarkson about it, but just because you’re on the road alone doesn’t mean you’re going to be lonely. In fact, I feel it actually makes it easier to meet fellow travelers, or get absorbed into other groups of adventurers. Here are my tips to make the most of traveling solo.

The Buckhorn Bar at Cuyama Buckhorn

Courtesy of Cuyama Buckhorn

1. Sit at the Bar

Sitting at the bar is one of my my most time-tested methods of successful dining solo. It’s a low-commitment way to enjoy a meal by yourself, plus, there’s built-in conversation with a local in your bartender. There’s always a roving cast of characters enjoying before- or after-dinner drinks, making for ample opportunities to connect. If I’m feeling chatty and want to strike up conversation with other diners, I opt for a middle seat if it’s open rather than hiding in a corner. It offers double the chance of interaction, and if someone is giving you the ick, you can always box out to the other side instead of being cornered.

Lost Books in Montrose, California

Thomas J. Story

2. Bring a Book

My favorite accessory for dining at the aforementioned bar is a great book. They’re not only a form of entertainment and escapism, but they’re also a wonderful conversation starter. I also love bringing a Moleskine journal for jotting down notes or doodling, or even collecting things from a trip to collage for a self-crafted souvenir.

MarcoGuti/Getty Images

3. Wear a Statement Piece

Let’s face it: Americans generally don’t have the greatest travel style, especially when it comes to air travel. Instead of opting for slouchy athleisure or cargo pants, bring along some polished statement pieces, which are great conversation starters. I am a big fan of wearing my California-made Wyeth felt hat along with a unique hatband, like those from Andeana, started by a Venice Beach local who sources from craftswomen in Peru.

Guy with Phone on Trail

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4. Get Buzzing on Bumble

There are two apps that have an official travel mode that I am looking forward to trying out on my next trip—Raya and Bumble BFF. Though both are better known for being dating apps, each of these has specific settings for folks simply looking to network with like-minded individuals. With Bumble’s travel mode, which is available to its premium members, you can select the city your profile appears in for seven days. You can also extend it for as long as you like, or turn it off.

Co-Working Space: WeWork Customs House (Portland, OR)

Courtesy of WeWork Customs House

5. Consider Co-Working

Many co-working spaces like Neuehouse and WeWork offer day-pass options, meaning you can work (and network) alongside other like-minded professionals. While working in cafés is great, I find that I’m much more productive in these spaces. Plus, they sometimes offer happy hours and free coffee—it’s another awesome chance to meet local folks.

Woman with Smartphone Listening to Music

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6. Turn on Find My iPhone

I do acknowledge that it can be nerve-wracking flying solo, especially in this day and age. I always have at least two close contacts that I share my geo-location with, just in case.

Communal Coffee, San Diego, CA
Communal Coffee in South Park, San Diego

Garret Van Swearingen

7. Become a Café Regular

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a huge fan of whirlwind, bucket-list travel that has you racing around checking off the boxes. Instead, I like to opt for slow travel, oftentimes revisiting destinations that I love in order to continue diving deeper. One of my favorite things to do while exploring in this way is to find a local café to frequent each morning. It’s a real luxury to pick up local alt weekly, linger over a pour-over, and settle into a space.

Holiday airport travel

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8. Get Lounge Access

Not only are airport lounges a great way to be able to get work done, it’s nice to be able to let your guard down just a skosh by having a little bit of space for you and your stuff—especially if you opt for a luxury option like the PS Lounge at LAX. To me, the social nature of an airport bar is ratcheted up even further in airport lounges, and I am here for it.

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