6 Alternatives to Travelling Alone.

solo travel, solo female travel, solo travel tips

It is absolutely normal to feel anxious at the thought of travelling alone for the first time. I recently shared tips on how to plan your first solo trip, but if it drives you too far out of your comfort zone, you may be better off considering one of the following alternatives to solo travel, and gradually easing yourself into travelling alone.

1. Travel in a group

While a group trip can constrain you to a fixed itinerary and dates, travelling with unknown people is a big leap in preparation for your solo adventures. Opt for a single room on the trip, to get used to sleeping alone and having your own space. If possible, take a free day on the trip to ease into solo sightseeing. Step out of the group to talk to the locals wherever you go, till you attain the confidence to do it alone.

The best way to choose a travel company is to speak to the organizers and join a group that would largely consist of amateur solo travellers, not families. Group trips at India Untravelled are my own little way to encourage solo travel, with a focus on the valleys of Spiti and Kinnaur in the high Himalayas of India.

first time travelling alone, group travel
Join a group by yourself, to ease into the world of solo travel. Photo by Sam Nasim.

2. Travel as a volunteer

Travelling as a volunteer is an excellent way to discover a place, while also using your skills or expertise to contribute to its development. Depending on your volunteer project, you could be traveling in areas and interacting with people that you never would otherwise. And being affiliated with an organization makes it easier to navigate the region, as well as get over the initial blues of solo travel.

My first solo trip within India was indeed as a volunteer in the cold mountain desert of Spiti. The initial plan was to be based out of Kaza and help with online marketing, but thanks to poor Internet connectivity, I got involved with a project that took me to remote villages and had me interacting closely with the monks and nuns of the region, something I may never have ordinarily done. India Untravelled, together with The Alternative, has compiled a comprehensive list of volunteer travel options within India.

volunteer travel, volunteer Himalayas, volunteer travel India
Volunteer travelling in the backdrop of the Indian Himalayas.

3. Opt for a semester / work assignment abroad

Though obvious, most people refrain from seeking a semester or a work project abroad – I know my biggest regret after college was not opting for a study exchange in another country. Both, being on a student budget or on a more lavish paid assignment, are good ways to acquaint yourself with a different city or country. Living in an unknown place by yourself is sure to take away the anxiety of traveling alone.

Madrid travel, solo travel abroad
Wouldn’t it be nice to live by the river in Madrid for a semester or an assignment?

4. Visit a friend

If you have friends living in countries, cities or towns far far away, visit them! You don’t need them to take leave from work to show you around; just having them there, having someone familiar in an unknown place to call or meet for dinner, will help ease you into traveling alone. Couchsurfing or meeting someone via Twitter are close alternatives, but you might still want to expand your comfort zone before venturing there.

Read: Practical Ways I’ve Learnt to Stay Safe While Travelling Alone

how to travel alone, first solo trip
Having a friend in an unknown place can curb the solo travel anxiety.

5. Learn a skill

If you’re itching to take a break from working or studying, enroll yourself in a skill class somewhere that you also yearn to travel in. Think of it as a way to indulge your creative side, while also getting the chance to interact closely with the locals. Enrolling in a cooking class in Italy, learning Arabic somewhere in the Middle East, and practicing a fast-disappearing craft in one of India’s many villages are some skills on my own list. Start penning yours.

first solo trip, how to travel alone
From wine appreciation to cooking classes to a new language, the options are aplenty! Photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simões.

6. Take a working holiday

This is probably the most fantastic option when you start travelling by yourself; it offers close interaction with the locals and is financially far more sustainable than all other options. Unfortunately the Indian passport doesn’t afford us this option, but if you find a way around it (permanent residency in another country, special visas, any other jugaad), please let me know!

working holiday, digital nomad, solo female traveller
The closest I’ve come to a working holiday is working online on the go.

Have you tried any of these alternatives to a solo trip? How were your experiences?

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  1. Assignments & work holiday abroad for Indians….pipe dream as far as many great locations are concerned….But hey does Indian passport give us access to places like Africa et al..??
    The Volunteering options list are super!

    1. Of course, you can get a tourist visa to Africa, as well as a work visa. A working holiday is not an option anywhere, which is heartbreaking. Glad you liked the volunteering options.

  2. These are great ideas, Shivya! The skill-acquiring idea seems fascinating, but I am not sure who will sponsor my long-ish stay in an expensive developed nation. Surely, I can’t afford to spend all my meager savings on that. Any way around it?

    1. I think the skill-acquiring idea is great as an investment if you can use the new skill to earn an extra stream of income. Like a language translator if you’re learning a new language, or saving money by cooking at home, if it’s a cooking class.

  3. Travel i a group is very good options for starters like me :). I found the option of day trips in group much better. This way though you are supposed to follow a schedule but it’s just for one day and then next day you can be on your own again. I found this approach useful for myself. This is also useful you for making yourself comfortable in a new place due to presence of group. Also visiting a friend in other country is another good option of course we shouldn’t expect full time availability of them.

    1. Day trips are a great idea, Makrand. I think the key is in making sure that there are not too many people in the group and a small degree of flexibility.

    1. Glad you found them exciting, Gayatri 🙂 Which one do you plan to experiment with?

  4. Did a group trip with Intrepid to Morocco last year as I didn’t feel comfortable travelling there by myself. It was absolutely fantastic. I had a single room for most nights unless it was a special thing i.e. night in the desert, which was great. As much free time as I needed, but company when I wanted. Doing another trip with them to Cambodia and Vietnam this year.

    1. Sounds wonderful. I did consider a trip with them to Madagascar but couldn’t afford flying there! Next time I suppose.

  5. Go with a plan to start a venture, fail at it, but return all satisfied 🙂

    1. yes, I agree, that’s the best way to start feeling comfortable traveling solo. You get the sense of independence and yet aren’t alone.

  6. Great article! Thanks for sharing. What great ideas and suggestions in here. Beautiful photos too. The Himalayas are stunning. I can’t wait to go back. I have been to 99 countries and must ADMIT I have never traveled solo (except on airplanes). I think the best first step is to visit a friend in a different country. That’s a great way to get started and dip your toes into the idea of solo travel. Also, I highly, highly recommend Couch Surfing, what a wonderful site and way to connect with locals. Though again, I’ve never traveled solo so I’d recommend being more cautious and smart if you are a solo female when Couch Surfing. We met amazing people this way and families hosted and welcomed 6 of us at a time in some places!!! Can you imagine? What a wonderful world we live in.

    1. Aniriddha W. says:

      Solo travelling is something that will open your mind to many new ideas… 99 countries !!!! thats amazing.. would love to know about travels Savannah..

      By the way, when are you goin on that Cambodia and Vietnam trip?

      let me check Intrepid and get back to you.

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  14. Kishor VR says:

    Agree with the volunteering option the most, but not if you want to attend a program in the USA of the UK. My visa got denied twice for both the countries. But I have volunteered in India. As for other options, I prefer solo travel.

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