Two words: Google Docs
The last two years has been anything but easy for those of us who love to travel. Many international borders were closed for extended periods (some remain so). And now that they’re open again, entry requirements mean that packing your suitcase and booking a last-minute trip is … tricky.
It hasn’t been all bad, though. Being trapped within the borders of one’s own country—or at least the country you found yourself in when the pandemic began—has driven many of us to explore closer to home. Rather that accumulating stamps in our passports, we’ve racked up miles on the road and gained new insights into the places that we thought we knew well.
But as restrictions ease and things go back to normal, many of us are traveling internationally once again.
In the travel industry, we’re seeing more and more travelers heading out solo. The reasons for this are multitudinous. From wanting some alone time after spending months locked inside with our loved ones to being able to go wherever we want whenever we want to go, everyone has a different reason for choosing to travel on their own.
While the prospect of creating a trip that’s suits your exact desires is exciting, the prospect of going it alone can be scary—especially for your loved ones.
Personally, I love traveling alone. I’ve explored huge swathes of South Africa with nothing but the company of my trusty hatchback (I call him Percy), some [painfully well] curated playlists, and my backpack. It’s been fantastic. But I’d never crossed the borders of my own country without at least one travel buddy.
Things can go just as wrong when you’re traveling in your home country as they can anywhere else in the world, sure, but getting the people who care about you to understand that can be tricky. More so if your destination is a place they’re not familiar with.
So, when I decided to take a trip to Europe completely on my own and with very little idea of an itinerary, I knew that I would need to give them peace of mind that I’d be ok. That it was safe to go and that I would be safe while I was there. To do this without reducing the sense of freedom I was looking for by going it alone was a challenge, but I found a few simple tricks to ensure that everyone got what they wanted. That is, for me to maintain my sense of freedom while reassuring my family that I was alive and well.
Know your general direction
Announcing that you’re going “somewhere” to do “something” isn’t very confidence-inspiring.
Give your plan at least a little thought before you break the news to your family. Letting them know the season, timeframe, and specific country or region can all go a long way to assaying any anxieties. For example, I knew that I wanted to visit Vienna in the early spring for a month. But I wasn’t sure of where I wanted to stay or if I planned to visit any other cities while I was there.
Although I wasn’t sure of exactly what I wanted to do or which other destinations I’d like to visit, having a broad outline of where and when I was going helped my family get used to the idea.
Get them excited
Naturally, as you start planning, you’ll figure out more details of your trip. And involving your loved ones can get them just as excited for your trip as you are.
Booked your tickets? Take a screenshot of the confirmation and send it to the family group chat. Found an amazing activity that you’re definitely going to do when you arrive? Look up pictures from other travelers and share them. Found a hotel for the night you arrive? (This is highly recommended.) Send them the address or drop a pin.
Keeping your family in the loop and making them feel a little bit included in your trip will go a long way to relieving some of the worries they may have about your solo trip.
Stay in touch
Staying in touch while you’re out and about is by far the most difficult aspect of traveling alone. I, for one, am terrible at it. It doesn’t matter whether there are endless Wi-Fi hotspots or if I purchase a local SIM card, I simply get lost in the moment and forget to send an ‘I’m safe’ message when I’m having fun. So this was the biggest challenge for me.
Fortunately, with web-based software, there’s a super simple solution: Google Docs. All you need to do is start a new document, share it with anyone who might want access to it, and add your itinerary as you figure it out.
Start with your departure and return dates, add your flight details, and the name and address of your first night’s accommodation. Then, as you figure out more of what you’ll be doing and where you’ll be going, you can update your online itinerary. Everyone who needs to know will have the peace of mind that they’re able to see your up-to-date travel plans – as well as when you last updated them—at a glance and you won’t need to check in constantly.
If you’re thinking about taking your first solo trip but are feeling a little anxious, we’ve got some tips for how to travel alone with confidence. Plus, some of our seasoned travelers share the best destinations for solo travel—like Paris, Cape Town and Cuba—and how to explore them.