travel | the introvert’s guide to solo travel
Updated: Jun 3, 2020
Amara Amaryah | travel + books + poetry, always poetry. a platform for story-telling, visuals, positive self-talk and empowerment | an introvert’s guide to solo travel.
back on the blog to speak to my solo travel friends. specifically the introverted ones. since coming back from my solo trip to jamaica i’ve had loads of lovely messages here and on insta, telling me how solo travel might be calling. it’s been great to see how many of you were impressed by how confident i felt going alone. i’m aware that jamaica was planned so quickly and i was so adamant that i was going that i didn’t even consider how i’d feel travelling as an introvert. i’ve recently returned from cuba having fought off friends to go alone in all my introverted glory. and so here is a guide with my thoughts and tips. my february love offering for my adventure seeking introverted loves.
picture taken by colin the lovely libra who i met whilst exploring the least known treasure of ocho rios – turtle rivers park and falls. story here.
the introvert’s guide to solo travel
first thing that i’d like to say —
if you are an introvert, hi. you most likely appreciate your own energy and you likely didn’t need much convincing to book this trip across the world with only your own energy to lean into. my advice is to really take the time out to explore what it is that your inner self is craving. do you like your own humour, do you need to seek out opportunities to laugh with yourself? do you need to create funny memories? is it maybe that you enjoy your own positivity? maybe you need to take the time to flood your mind with positive meditations and rituals while you’re away. maybe you even need to consider going on a retreat-style holiday? maybe you just need to be reminded of your energy. maybe you’ve missed yourself, this is your moment to be yourself while noone is around to judge or question or remind you of who they think you are. be yourself. be free.
meeting new people as an introvert
one of the first questions i get when i tell people that i am planning a solo trip is: aren’t you afraid you’ll get lonely? the answer – nah. my first solo trip to budapest was short but still came with a few questions of doubt. i was so cautious i didn’t speak to anyone outside of hotel staff and people who worked within tourism. also, meeting people wasn’t a priority for me. as soon as i had time to roam the streets i forgot all about interacting with other people. there was too much to see. two more solo trips later and i still feel most confident when exploring solo but i also crave stories and so i make sure to make friends.
because there is really nothing greater than meeting people from other sides of the world and becoming friends. it is the greatest thing, i am so sure of it.
in reality, there are so many ways to meet people. i can list you some ways. also a reality, it has to be organic. don’t search and hunt (you might attract the wrong energy). just put it out there to god that you’d like to meet extraordinary people on this trip and hold that until you do. and hopefully you will. but here is the list of questions to facilitate that:
in touristy locations, accept that you won’t be left alone. lean into the conversation and ask questions. where do you recommend to get good [country] food? what do people do for fun around here? what is the music like here? what is your favourite thing about this city? and my favourite question – have you lived here your whole life? – so far this has always unfolded into a series of interesting conversations about wants, memories, desires.
another tip for meeting new people and staying safe – don’t be predictable. don’t eat in the same place at the same time, ordering the same things. see what else is there. it could be as short a walk as the next road. example, knowing that there were a handful of recognised vegan restaurants in habana, i never visited any of the ones i googled or returned to the places i found. it allowed me to find brand new food spots and meet new people at the restaurant and on the way each night.
this picture was taken on my first day exploring la habana. a cuban who left cuba (was kicked out?) lived in new york and came back for a visit, took this picture of me. my airbnb host (new aunty) recommended exploring the capitolio which is where i met him. after this picture, he recommended a reggae concert playing close to me the following wednesday. i never went but only because other adventures from other recommendations came up.
speak to taxi drivers, hotel staff, airbnb hosts, waiters – it helps massively.
if you’re the kind of introvert who isn’t necessarily looking to meet too many new people or would prefer more time alone than chatting, i got you. i think there are a few things that may be useful:
photography. i am capturing and documenting and that requires me to be present – no time for loneliness to settle.
i usually carry a book to read or my journal on my days out exploring. it is mainly because i find simple pleasure in reading my favourite author in a new setting. or i want to journal while i sit at a table with a beautiful view outside a restaurant with good food and wine. writing helps to ground me so this is a go-to.
eventually, this is the life i want to live. being free and exploring new terrain, constantly moving further from english and learning because of it. i am spending my solo travels living a taster of my life to come. again, no time for loneliness to settle.
don’t ever let this scare you out of new friendships. ever. i always travel and learn a bit of the language but go with it. i remember during afropunk paris we met an old parisian man who was talking to us non-francophile peopledem about reclamation of the word n*gger. we got him, he got us, somehow. none of us ever forgot it.
another suggestion about language learning in general, don’t stay away from speaking a language because you’re not fluent. make mistakes! let a local teach you. this is how you learn. i am currently around B1 level spanish and am constantly making mistakes, because i want to be fluent! text books/duo lingo can’t teach you as good as la gente can.
one thing i have noticed as a woman solo travelling and a quiet, introverted one – people sometimes think that you will not speak up. ultimately they will push your boundaries to see if they can take advantage of someone they think isn’t loud enough to defend themselves. even if you are intimidated, never show it. prepare yourself for this.
a few tips:
learn your exit strategy. there will be times when you’ll need it. equally, learn when you need to stay. don’t let an awkward situation run you out of an experience you are enjoying. stand firm.
feel free to shrug people off without being too offensive. example, sometimes locals try and give you a ‘tour’, they won’t tell you it is a service, at the end they’ll ask for a tip. notice when this is happening and develop a polite exit strategy. i’m still learning this one now. sometimes i don’t mind paying because i have the money and it doesn’t break the bank. but sometimes you don’t want what you don’t want. and you can honestly see it alone. say no thanks with a smile or say you’ve already seen it or that you’ve visited the city before and are just passing through.
never look lost. again, unnecessary attention you’ll have to politely turn down.
mimic the cultural phrases/accent/mannersisms/dress where possible. even mirror the pace of walking, in jamaica i had to slow it all the way down. this sounds ridiculous but it has helped me a few times. if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself and want to explore freely, make yourself seem as the locals do. in cuba, i seemed afrocubana (except the day i did tourist and wore a sombrero because i wanted to) and it worked for me. sometimes it made things (like travelling in taxis) cheaper or sometimes it meant that when my cuban spanish wore off we’d have conversations about where i’m from and jamaica and reggae.
eating out alone
this is something i think a few people worry about. i personally really like eating out alone as i get to choose exactly where i want, the seat i want, the vibe i want (i want what i want as a fixed sign you see). so all is well with me. one thing i will advise if you struggle with this, try it at home before you try it abroad maybe. see how it feels. see what you like. maybe you like to sit by the window? maybe you like to sit by the bar – certainly you’ll attract more conversation as socially it is more open. maybe you like to sit outside – more passersby. i think the main thing is practising carefreeness, don’t worry too much about eating alone and what you think people are thinking. enjoy this act of self love.
jamaicans are the funniest. i was drinking my beer on a saturday watching the sun almost go down. made a friend and we started talking about church. i am a sabbath keeper and tell him this. in the most jamaican way possible he tells me off for drinking on the sabbath (i completely forgot) and it has never left me. you really meet the funniest people eating out alone. also red stripe for the win.
drinking alone + night life
la habana was the first place that i ever enjoyed the night life whilst travelling solo. it was the best experience because i had made a cubano friend who knew the best places to go. judge it by ear. intuition is very important. research is the next most important thing. find out if there is any nightlife near your accommodation – that makes walking back safe. see my post on safety tips for solo travel here.
in all honesty cuba was the safest place i’d travelled to so i had no doubts but i advise to always consider exit strategies. at a bar, are you sitting in a place that is too secluded? are you too far from the door should you need to make a quick escape? do you know where the train/bus stop is for your journey back? all safe things to consider that will make you less jumpy and more present to meet fabulous new friends.
this is all gets easier over time. the more you solo travel the less you’ll fear and the more you’ll safely expect the best out of the unknown.
travelling at your own pace
“are you alone”
smiles, because it is a familiar british accent and i haven’t heard one whilst in jamaica for over a week. “yes i am”
“wow… you must be so bored” \
this was a genuine ‘interaction’ that i had in jamaica. as if i thought she and i were going to talk about jamaica or britain or bravery or something. no, she just wanted to let me know that she would feel bored in my scenario. i didn’t bother to explain to her that i was actually in the midst of the most transformative experience of my life and was learning so much about the land my ancestors lived in. i guess the point is, don’t let people project onto you. just because it might scare people to go alone, doesn’t mean you should be scared. doesn’t even mean you’re better than them. it is just a matter of preference and pace. if you’re moving at a pace that feels comfortable, voila. keep going and ignore everything else.
and that rolls into my final point:
travel guilt-free. this is what you need my introverted love. honour what your inner-world needs and if that means cancelling dinner with the new friends you made then so be it. or maybe you must change up an evening of watching the sunset on your balcony in exchange for some adventure. do it. give yourself what you need because this is most likely why you went away. to be here for yourself without being tugged in multiple directions. you deserve guiltless and shameless solo travel simply because you can.
i hope you’ve enjoyed my guide for the introverted solo traveller. feel free to add your own tips below and let me know what you think.
thank you for reading what i write. Yah bless.