Solo Travel Activities to Make You Feel More Independent

solo travel activities header - Aoraki Mt Cook hike

Solo travel is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It’s also one of the most rewarding.

Less than two weeks ago I returned home from my first ever solo trip. Even for an independent introvert, spending over 120 days on my own was daunting. All my travelling in the past had been with family or friends, but I was determined to make this trip happen.

As Anthony Bourdain once said, “travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay.” I think this goes double for solo travel; all the uncomfortable things about travelling are heightened when you’re on your own. There’s no shoulder to cry on when everything goes wrong and no one to laugh with when you realize it’ll turn out fine. During my trip I once texted my mum when I saw a whale because I felt like I had to share it with someone.

However, I also think I grew a lot as a person. I recently graduated university, and doing this made me feel so much more competent and independent. I had to organize and book everything, budget, cook, and just be on my own.

Everyone should try travelling solo at least once in their lives, even if it’s just to the next city over! In this post I’m sharing activities that I think everyone should do on their own. If you’re nervous, try them at home before you go.

Enjoy a Movie in the Cinema

My first time going to the movie theatre solo happened on this trip. So did my second, and third, and so on…

The movie theatre right near my hostel in Byron Bay happened to have half priced movies so I went to see Rocketman with a couple girls from my hostel. It turned out that the sale was on all week, so I took advantage of it the next day to see another movie – on my own this time! The movie didn’t end up being very good, but my experience absolutely was. So enjoyable, in fact, that I went to movies solo five times over the four months of my trip.

My favourite cinema experience? Watching The Farewell at Cinema Paridiso in Wanaka and crying my eyes out while eating a freshly baked cookie.

Eat Out Alone

While scrolling through Pinterest recently, I saw a post that claimed to share “# Tips for Eating Out Alone.” Over the course of my four month trip, I got pretty comfortable with going out to eat by myself, but decided to take a look so I could see if they had any good insights. Spoiler alert: they did not! To my disappointment, nearly half of the so-called tips were actually ways that you could avoid eating at a restaurant alone, including things like ordering room service or meeting people to go with. While obviously it’s good to meet people while travelling, you can’t completely avoid being on your own.

Although going out to eat solo felt awkward at first, it ended up being a very enjoyable activity once I got used to it. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea, you can ease yourself in by having breakfast or lunch at a more casual restaurant. I can almost guarantee that you won’t be the only one eating on your own! Work your way up to eating dinner somewhere nice (though not necessarily fancy). As a challenge, try not to look at your phone for the meal so you can really be present. You’d be surprised how nice it is to take yourself on a date!

eating out alone can be fun, like these berry pancakes in Melbourne's trendy Brunswick
Pancakes at Melbourne’s Green Refectory

Solo Hike while you Solo Travel

Hiking is one of my favourite activities, and hiking solo turned out to be just as great! I loved being able to go at my own pace and stop for photos or a snack whenever I wanted.

The meditative feeling you get on hikes is even deeper when you’re on your own. Since you don’t have anyone to talk to, you might be tempted to reach for those headphones, but don’t give in! It definitely feels odd to hike in silence at first, but it’s worth it to be fully immersed.

However, you’ll have to be prepared to go on a solo hike! Just like for any hike, having the right gear and enough food and water is essential for your safety. I would also recommend letting someone know where you’re going and what you’re doing. I would often let my mum know where I was going and when I came back, but telling someone at your hostel would also work.

hiking solo at Aoraki Mt Cook through New Zealand
Hiking the Hooker Valley Track at Aoraki Mt Cook

Go for a Drink

No, I’m not telling you to go out and get smashed by yourself. That’s not a great idea in any situation, and doing it on your own in a foreign country would be even more stupid. Instead, I’m suggesting that you go have a drink or two that you can savour somewhere enjoyable. Make sure you get a local drink to make the experience special – like tinto de verano in Spain. Look for a place with nice atmosphere to enjoy your drink, whether it’s a a bar with live music, or a winery with ocean views.

rose wine at Mud Brick winery on Waiheke Island near Wellington New Zealand
Sipping rosé on Waiheke Island

Absorb Some Culture at a Museum

Museums and art galleries are the perfect individual activity for solo travel. Many people have different interests (and attention spans) so I actually find these more enjoyable on my own. Museums and galleries are generally quiet too, so it doesn’t feel as awkward as many other solo activities.

When I was trying to be social in Sydney I went to a gallery with some people I met just moments before heading out the hostel door. I knew immediately I had made a bad decision when I told them how to get there, they said I was wrong, and then proceeded to get lost. To make matters worse, as soon as we got to the gallery, half of the group just sat down in the lobby to look at their phones. Needless to say I made an excuse pretty quickly that I had to go find lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon happily wandering the gallery on my own.

Now go solo travel!

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