Hi everyone! In case you don’t follow me on social media (and you should) you would know that I was travelling around Japan this past week for my school break. Today I wanted to talk a bit about my experience solo travelling and share with you my tips and suggestions so you too can have a safe and amazing time travelling. I’ve heard people say that solo travelling isn’t for everyone, but if you never try, you’ll never know!
The idea of solo travelling was scary to me at first and for most people it is. I remember meeting people at my hostel when I went to Munich last summer who told me how they had been travelling alone for months, some even for the entire year! But by moving to Singapore for my semester abroad, I thought that if I can get through 4 months of studying on the other side of the world, I can totally do a week alone in Japan.
My first piece of advice when solo travelling is to pick a place that is safe, more specifically, a place that is safe to travel alone. Both my dad and sister have been to Tokyo before, which was one of the places I wanted to visit while there, and so they were okay with me going alone. Surprisingly my parents actually encouraged me to go, my dad emphasized how helpful the Japanese people are and I have to agree! Japan is an incredibly safe place from my experience. Unfortunately, there are some places in the world that you might want to avoid for solo travelling. The best way to know if a place is safe or not is to visit your government website and see what the status of the country you’re interested in visiting is. The Canadian government website is the one I used of course, and I was able to find information about the political status, if there were any epidemics, etc. Personally, there are some places I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to alone. When I went to Malaysia last month I was constantly getting stared at by men, a couple of my friends had even gotten chased by some locals. Although I went with a group of people, I still felt a bit weird at times and so I know that going there alone wouldn’t be the best idea. Of course, you are the one planning your trip so you call the shots, but I would do my research before going.
I know not all of us are planners, some of us want to go where the wind takes us and shout “YOLO” from the mountain tops. However, I would highly suggest doing at least a bit of planning on where you want to go before you leave. Besides booking you plane tickets, look into accommodation that is not only inexpensive but also in a good location. Take your time scrolling through websites like www.hostelworld.com and carefully read reviews. I always check how far it is from 1) transport and 2) the places I want to visit. I personally stayed at SPACE Hostel in Tokyo and it was one of the best hostels I ever stayed at. Japan in general is super clean so I wasn’t too worried about that, but the location was perfect. I was just a 5 minute walk from the subway and a 15 minute walk from some major tourist attractions in Asakusa and Ueno. Make note of some attractions you would like to visit as well. I made a list of about 15 places I wanted to go to while in Tokyo. Although I didn’t end up going to all of them, it was nice to have goals for myself. I created an excel file that had tables that were sorted by accommodation, attractions, places I wanted to eat, and also dates that I wanted to go to those places. This was nice because I could refer to this and sort where I was going to based on location. For instance, I did the Imperial Palace, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, CoCo Ichibanya, and visited the Tokyo National Museum in that order since it would save me the most time and they weren’t too far from one another. Also, if you are a vegan like me or have any sort of dietary restrictions, it’s good to make note of places you would like to eat at so you can save yourself the last minute hassle of finding places to eat.
Communication is key when you solo travel which sounds a bit contradictory since you’re solo travelling, who the hell are you talking to? If you’re going to visit somewhere where English or whatever you speak isn’t the main language, learning a few words and phrases in the local language can’t hurt. I literally typed in “words to know when travelling in Japan” in the YouTube search bar and was overwhelmed with how many videos there are. Spend a few days before your trip learning some of the basics like, “hello”, “thank you”, “please”, “I don’t know”, “do you speak…”. It will vary which phrases are the best to learn depending on where you’re going but I’m glad I knew some Japanese before I went. It came in handy in Kyoto especially since not a lot of people there know English. It also is polite and from my experience, the Japanese loved it when they could see that I was trying.
My biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone who is solo travelling is don’t panic. Come to terms with the fact that you will get lost a few times and make mistakes along the way, but it’s all apart of the journey. For me personally, I get really stressed out over the smallest things but I was surprised with how calm I was when something didn’t go according to plan. I don’t have the greatest sense of direction but I had to remind myself that I would figure it out and when in doubt I asked for help. When planning your itinerary, factor in getting lost and give yourself and add some time to get to places, especially if you have a reservation somewhere. And when in doubt you can turn to trusty Google Maps to help you find your way, which means don’t be an idiot, buy some data when you travel. Back to my point, don’t freak out because people make mistakes all the time. Getting lost in Japan worked out for me personally, I ended up seeing things that I wouldn’t be able to find on a map. In Kyoto I was trying to find the Arashiyama bamboo forest, I ended up climbing up a small mountain and meeting a monk!
In all, I can confidently say that I will definitely solo travel again. I loved the feeling of being in control of where I went, being responsible for myself, and the challenge that travelling alone presented. As cheesy as it sounds, I learned a lot about myself in my week of being by myself. It’s nice every once in a while to spend time with yourself and do what YOU want to do. Sitting back and thinking about it, I still can’t believe I successfully travelled through Tokyo and Kyoto, which are not the easiest of places to travel to alone. I didn’t think I was capable exploring a new country like this, but I’m so incredibly proud of myself and I can’t wait to do it again! Solo travelling can be tough but it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences, so if you haven’t already give it a try! Be sure to check out my social media platforms, linked all below, and take a look at some of my food articles here on ChiChi!
Safe travels xoxo