|Patrick and the Mesa Arch. (P. Gensel)|
While it isn't for everyone, solo travel can offer a unique way to see more and expand your comfort bubble considerably. I didn't make it all the way through my first solo trip, which was supposed to be an overnight in Denali National Park. I wasn't comfortable being alone with my thoughts, which got incredibly loud when I found myself alone in one of the most profoundly quiet places I've ever been. Friend Patrick Gensel, however, is an expert solo traveler. After a recent adventure, he's here to share his tips on making the most of a trip on your own.
This past September, I took my first solo trip in about two years, and it was refreshing. I spent nine days on my own exploring the American Southwest. I actually planned very little of this trip in advance. I simply booked a flight and rental car, make a quick list of some places I wanted to see and when they might work best, and the rest evolved organically when I got there.
There is no solid set of rules or guidelines for solo travel, but there are definitely a few good tips to keep in mind as you wander the world alone to ensure you make the most of your journey.
|Capturing a new friend doing what she loves. (P. Gensel)|
Don't be Afraid to SocializeOne thing that I can’t stress enough about traveling alone is the importance of socializing. It is probably the biggest perk of solo travel in my opinion; it's an amazing opportunity to meet new people and everyone has a story. On my recent solo trip, I made a conscious effort to start a conversation with as many people as I could. This led me to making a new friend while taking photographs at Delicate Arch.
Be Open to Learning Something NewLife is about learning and growing; traveling alone is no exception. This may be more of an observation then a tip, but make sure you not only observe your surrounding, but observe yourself and your reaction to new and potentially uncomfortable situations. Perhaps your will learn a thing or two about yourself.
|Patrick's ability to go with the flow gave him a chance to visit beautiful Mesa Verde National Park. (P. Gensel)|
Don't Be Afraid To Change PlansIf you're like me and don't typically book your lodging in advance, this tip will be a lot easier to accomplish. Like I mentioned earlier, I didn't do much planning prior to my recent trip to the Southwest. I had a rough outline of where I wanted to go, and approximately when I wanted to be there. I had it loosely planned around meeting up with a friend, which ended up falling through. This allowed me to change my plans and head to the Grand Canyon a few days early, and ultimately adding a visit at Mesa Verde National Park, a place I hadn’t even considered for this trip.
Tell Someone Where You Are GoingIf there's anything I've learned from reading stories about other solo travelers, it's this tip. This is a BIG one, and may even save your life. Since you are on your own, and likely hours, or even days away from friends and family, it is important to keep those close to you informed on your location, it could save your life. Even a simple check-in on social media or a note on your car well help clue people in to your location in the event you get in trouble.
|Though we aren't all as gifted as Patrick is with respect to photography, sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words! (P. Gensel)|
Document Your AdventureTraveling solo means you don't have the luxury of turning to your friend three weeks after a trip and say "hey dude, remember that time we got the car stuck on the beach at Lake Powell?" That's why you should be taking photos and writing down your thoughts daily. Years later you will be able to look back on that and smile. Balancing this with staying present is a challenge, but it can be done.
While I don’t suggest you bolt out on a trip with next to no plan like I did, don’t be afraid to be flexible once you begin your trip. After all, that is one of the biggest benefits of traveling solo. Without a travel partner to weigh in on decisions, you are free to move about as you please. The bottom line is to make sure you have fun and meet as many new people as you can. If you play your cards right, you may even make a new lifelong friend.
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He also has prints of the above photos and more available on his website.