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Travelling solo is one of the best things you can do – you’ll feel empowered by the sense of independence and freedom. If you wait for others, you might never get to go on the best adventures and check where your limits are.
But going it alone doesn’t come without its own set of challenges. There’s no one for you to lean on and you’ve got to take responsibility – so it’s best to be well-prepared. As you know, for my solo trip to Iceland which was quite extreme due to weather conditions and the amount of trekking and backpacking planned for each day, I had been preparing for quite some time before. Here’s a list of 5 tips I would recommend to everyone who plans on a solo outdoor adventure.
Research before your solo adventure
As much as I like spontaneity, travelling solo without any preparation is simply irresponsible, especially if you’re after backpacking, trekking, and basically any kind of outdoor sports. I have recently been referring mostly to Iceland – but really, it’s applicable to any country you’re visiting. If you’re heading off on your own, research anything from weather conditions to levels of difficulty, clothing, equipment, and public transport. Don’t forget about any medicines you need to take, painkillers, the lady stuff. I’ve recently written a post with all packing list, tips and tricks, and basically all you need to know about preparing for trekking in Iceland here.
Also, don’t forget to get yourself an insurance. Since my trip to Georgia when I was dying of stress when a run-down marshrutka was sliding down a steep road in Svanetia, I always buy an insurance. Also, travel blogs are a great source of reliable information so look for people who did solo trekking or other things similar to what you’re planning and see if you build on their experience. This way, you will actually be well-prepared but unshackled by any itinerary.
Be prepared, but don’t completely fix your plans – allow for some flexibility (and adventure!)
Become familiar with your equipment
If you’re buying new equipment for your solo adventure, make sure you test it out before you set off. For example, if you treat yourself to a new pair of walking boots, the last thing you want are painful blisters. And remember to get yourself good socks as well (no cotton!). And a pack of plasters just in case.
You should also find out how much you can carry with you – don’t take any more than necessary, and remember, LESS IS MORE. If you’re doing a multi day backpacking trek, take fewer clothes and allow space (and weight) for food and water. Don’t bother packing beauty stuff or impractical clothes, because you’ll be hating yourself when you will have to carry it all yourself.
Get fit enough
Whether you’re going scuba diving in Croatia or on a cycling tour in Italy, you need to be fit enough to actually enjoy it. Having experienced Iceland trekking, I really know what I’m saying here. You want to focus on enjoying the views not catching your breath. Of course, fitness levels will vary depending on what you’re doing – but the sooner you get moving, the better.
It’s not a secret any more that high intensity interval training has become a solid part of my lifestyle. The beauty of HIIT is that you don’t burn muscle, but you burn fat. You build your endurance and breathing capacity. And you can do it absolutely anywhere. I do it in the gym, but you can do outdoor HITT or you can do it at home. It all depends on your preferences. If you need some motivation and know-how, The Body Coach shows how to do HIIT anywhere.
Consider an experienced guide (especially for off-path solo trekking)
It’s not possible to safely travel solo everywhere. Some of the most beautiful places you can go are also remote and fairly inaccessible. To explore the Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland properly, I simply had to go with an experienced guide who really knew what he was doing. Otherwise, it would just not be possible. I am also planning to do the complete Peaks of the Balkans trail and I know I will also do it with a guide.
Good, experienced guides are invaluable help when it comes to navigating complicated bureaucracy, communicating with the locals and translating if you’re in some off-path places, drawing your attention to safety, and just making the whole experience more enjoyable.
Allocate enough time
Getting out of your comfort zone and travelling solo to some of the most beautiful parts of the world is a fantastic experience. But you’re got to go home at some point and it’s not always as smooth as it should be.
And if you’ve been on a solo adventure that takes it out of you somewhat, you’re going to need some time to recover. I work full time so my time is usually quite limited. How do I manage to recover after a challenging trip quickly? I try to get home either during the weekend or in the early afternoon. Usually, having an evening to myself and a good night’s sleep is enough for me to recover. However, when I was younger I could actually go to work straight from the plane and still feel good. Pity it’s no longer the case.
If you’re travelling somewhere far away with a considerable time zone difference, tips for beating jet lag from Lonely Planet might help.
Are you planning a solo adventure? How are you preparing? Let me know below.
This is a contributed post, but all opinions, tips, etc. are, as always, my own.