Tips and challenges of planning your first solo trip

Last Updated on November 2, 2009 by Christine Kaaloa

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It’s Halloween and the perfect time to talk about the SCARY of planning my itinerary for my entirely solo trip to Thailand.

I leave for Thailand in a day and my solo fears are now starting to sink in!  I’m filled with all sorts mixed emotions and self-doubts that aim to sabotage my confidence. I’m wondering how well I planned my first solo trip . When friends ask me whether I’m excited about my trip, I feel numb.

Frankly, I wish I did not have so much time to think about it, but I do.

Planning  Woes for the First-Time Female Solo Traveler

Planning for a first time solo trip can feel challenging, so hopefully, I’ll be imparting some tips for you.

I’m not normally a guidebook enthusiast. I like to keep them as a safety net or as a Bible to refer to when I’m in the thick of a situation.  But seeing as this is my first ‘planned’ solo trip, I want to make sure I’m safe and prepared as best as I can. So I feel a little shaky…. knowing I’m going against a societal norm.

And nauseous.

My travel goals are to:

•    Maximize time for sightseeing and getting around via local transportation
•    Minimize stress during my travels and navigate a foreign country safely
•    Not get robbed, raped or scammed.
•    Enjoy my trip 

Sound easy, right? So why does it feel so hard?

•  Sole Responsibility

Being responsible for yourself is not fun.  When you travel with friends, you collaborate ideas for an itinerary, take turns sharing the responsibilities and trust that another pair of eyes will be looking out for your safety.  With planning a solo travel itinerary, its really ALL you. Like one of those Hindu multi-tasking gods, you feel like you need ten heads and an infinite number of hands to juggle the endless number of tasks… from decision-making, researching and planning route schedules and ensuring your own safety.

And then, what do you do with your backpack, when you have to pee at a train station?!

•  Unlimited choices, limited time.

One of the luxuries of being a solo traveler (many soloists will tell you) is that you have the unlimited freedom to go anywhere and do ANYTHING your heart desires!

Well, my heart desires to do EVERYTHING! So how do I narrow it down into a time frame of two weeks? Also, I currently lack of much information about navigating my way through Thailand.

Can we say- “overwhelmed“?

•  The fact you’re a Woman

I work in a male-dominated industry and my job as a camera operator is normally perceived is a male job. So I shouldn’t feel like my feminine loins, can’t defy unconscious societal roles. But I do. A part of me struggles with societal norm and what it’s impregnated in the way I look and see my ability.

Being in a foreign country, alone can feel scary.  “Damsel-in-distress” “delicate female”… such terms come to mind and wrap around me like a cloak saying- Don’t go out and play, without your safety helmet and elbow/knee pads.   “Adventurous” is something our society nominates men for. Not women.


Why planning for my first-time solo trip feels so necessary

I’m sure I’m not preaching to the choir by saying planning is important here.

Being a beginner soloist, with first time fears of “the unknown” and uncertain as to what will be encountered, it helps for me to create a solid springboard for minimizing stress during my travels, while optimizing my experiences. My itinerary is my crutch.  Yup, it’s my safety helmet and elbow and knee pads.

But it makes me feel my travel bearings will be secure and I’ll be safe as I experience the culture shock of a foreign country.

I’ve had friends who were Nazi itinerary planners. I’m not very strict in following itineraries or good with “creating itineraries” for myself.   So this is a bit of a first time for me, as well. Before if I didn’t have friends to travel with, I’d have friends in different places to stay with and they’d tell me how to get somewhere. When I traveled for work, the essential parts were already planned for me– shoot location, hotel, car and a GPS.

Essentials of an itinerary:

•  Lodging and accommodations
•  Transportation
•  Navigation and directions
•  Directions to getting to Main Attractions.

But I’ve been trying to plan logistics and this is the most difficult part to do alone.  My Rough Guides Thailand  guide book has ratted edges, highlights, hand-written notes and post-it bookmarks. It looks like its been through war with Thailand, without even making it into my backpack!

It’s as if I’m studying for an exam called life

Which is a good analogy. As a female traveler planning her first solo trip, it’s as if I’m cramming for “life” and trying to quickly figure out how to live it.



The Golden Egg of Solo Traveling

I have a more detailed list of How to Plan your first solo trip, but this is the nutshell of what it entailed.

–  Decide on my route
–  Plan my daily itinerary (mostly, how to get to the places I want to go to aka  “navigation“)

After 3 weeks of mental strain, I had an itinerary. But I know it’s not full-proof.

Being a female solo traveler, there’s one Golden Egg which is essential and that I can only do once I’m there. This will help my trip the most, where I have loose seams or questions. It goes like this…

 I will make it my daily goal to TALK to everyone- fellow travelers, hostel desk managers, locals, my restaurant waitress and bus driver.

If it moves and looks friendly and safe, I will talk to it.

I will ask for recommendations about where to stay, how to get somewhere, what’s a recommended sight, etc…

If I begin to feel shy, which I do at times, I will create personal dares for myself like “I will speak to at least 6 people today!”.

Okay, so that’s it!  Wish me luck as put my completed itinerary(with holes) into effect tomorrow!


Want a breakdown of my Thailand travels, check out my Travel Survival Guide for Thailand


Here’s your chance to weigh in… What are some of your tips for planning a first time solo trip?


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