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Solo Travel Tips for Cowards

Lifestyle |

Brave is not a word I would immediately think of to describe myself. I am the type to plan out itineraries, hotels, and transportation ahead of time before major trips. I check and double check and pack too much, just in case. Recently, though, I went on a trip through Southeastern Turkey to purposefully challenge all those habits. I traveled alone, in a country where I did not speak the language, without a set plan other than a list of cities, and some contacts from the website Couchsurfing. After just a week of travel, I can feel the shift in confidence.

The world often seems a much scarier place when you sit at home, watching the news, than when you are actually out there living it. This summer, I am working in Kars, Turkey. The country is currently in the news for its civil unrest in cities including Istanbul and Ankara. Watching the photos from protests, it’s easy to assume that you are in danger unless you hunker down indoors. I have enough experience to know that risk is always a part of travel, and I wasn’t about to sit around at home and miss out on exploring this region of the world I’ve landed in. The key to travel is having your curiosity outweigh your fears.


If you’ve never traveled alone, consider it. The sense of accomplishment you achieve lasts far longer than tropical tan lines. Here are some travel tips for solo trips abroad:

Learn some language basics

If you do not know your host country’s target language, do not just assume that everyone will speak English. Even if English is well known in the region you are traveling in, at least learn  how to say hello, please, and thank you. You can always mime the rest. Carry a notepad to write down amounts or addresses. Many times, I had nothing but the name of my destination and vague instructions to get around with. In these cases, just saying “excuse me” in Turkish and smiling was usually enough for people to open up and help. Even if you never learn to count past three, the people you speak to will appreciate the effort.

Make connections

Traveling solo does not have to mean being alone! Strike up conversations on buses and in cafes, if you can. Take advantage of websites like Meetup or Couchsurfing to meet locals—people love showing off their cities. Use your judgment when staying with a Couchsurfing host—check their references and whether they are verified.

Pause, evaluate, think. Do not be afraid to be “rude” when something doesn’t feel right—the risk of giving offense is much less important than getting into real trouble. From personal experience, I can guarantee that the way to a castle gate is not through a cemetery and around a barbed wire fence, no matter how earnestly the teenage boy tried to convince me. My initial queasy feeling anticipated the scam. Decline a coffee, a Couchsurfing offer, or a ride if your gut feeling tells you to walk away.


Stay in cities for more than a day and dig deeper. Use public transit. Don’t go to familiar fast food restaurants! Ask locals for their favorite café, gallery, and place to walk. Don’t forget to incorporate some downtime—a city is not defined by a list of museums and monuments, and you’ll exhaust yourself if you overschedule. On my favorite day of the trip, I spent hours chatting over Kurdish coffee with a Couchsurfing host, then ditched my guidebook’s top to-do’s to go pick mulberries.

Change it up

Don’t be afraid to change your itinerary! Part of the beauty of traveling alone is that you do not have to compromise or be accountable to anyone except yourself. Savor your time and your own company.

The next time you go on vacation, consider challenging yourself to a solo adventure —it may help you learn a thing or two about yourself and what you are capable of. You’ll come away with the ability to be comfortable with uncertainty, and with a stronger belief in your own self-reliance. You may also realize that you are better company than you think.

Levo Mentor Nicholas Flanders has worked in seven countries. Ask him for his best travel tips! 

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I really appreciated this article. I will be leaving on a trip soon and it is he first time being completely on my own. It is so exciting and even though it is a bit intimidating I have never felt more exhilarated before. These are rules I will definitely keep in mind. One more I can add is blog hopping. You can find amazing authors, insider information and history from the people who live or have been where you're going!


I was in Istanbul for six weeks this summer. Definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a unique place to travel, and this advice is all so relevant to travel anywhere!


I would love to see an article on the effects of mid/long term travel (anywhere from 4 months to a year) on the ability to find a good job after you return. For someone just starting out in their career, it is tempting to want to get a foothold in, but it also seems like the best time to go traveling (no real commitments yet)! Anybody have any good thoughts/advice?


Very curious about this too - I've been in the work force for a few years, but took a short-term job in Turkey for the summer, and will be traveling/living abroad for 4 months afterwards. Maybe the key is to have a project while traveling - blogging, photography, learning a new skill (such as by taking an online course). In my opinion, if you have the chance to travel before commitments set in, you should take it.

Elana Gross

I love the articles emphasis on the personality traits you can acquire traveling alone. Life is a beautiful adventure or nothing at all.

"You’ll come away with the ability to be comfortable with uncertainty, and with a stronger belief in your own self-reliance."


Definitely inspiring me to try a solo trip at some point!


Would love to hear about it, if you go!


"The world often seems a much scarier place when you sit at home, watching the news, than when you are actually out there living it." Never thought of this but it is so true!


I absolutely love this article!
"The key to travel is having your curiosity outweigh your fears." Amazing insight!


I completely agree is saying that I am not brave, it's a quality I wish I encompassed but it's just not there. Traveling alone is not something I think I could ever pull off but these tips are great for those who desire to go somewhere solo.


You don't have to go far! My first solo trip lasted 3 days, but gave me a taste of what a longer trip could be like.


"Do not be afraid to be 'rude' when something doesn’t feel right." PERFECT advice for solo travelers.

This is an amazing article - thank you Kseniya! I don't consider myself a particularly brave or spontaneous person, so these tips will definitely come in handy the next time I travel.

Kseniya Tuchinskaya

Kseniya Tuchinskaya is an over-thinker, avid reader, and photo-taker. She writes, photographs, hikes and explores in the Bay Area. She can be found online at or on Twitter @ktuchinskaya