What I Missed The First Time I Traveled Solo

The first time I traveled solo, I went to Italy’s Amalfi Coast. I swam in the Tyrrhenian Sea, hiked through lemon groves, popped in and out of art galleries, and explored gardens that overlooked heartbreakingly blue water. I ate fresh pasta, watched gorgeous sunsets, and took a day trip to Herculaneum, a city destroyed (like Pompeii) by Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

I loved almost every minute of my time in Italy. In fact, for someone who had never traveled solo, I managed to plan a pretty great trip. (Most of the credit, of course, goes to the Amalfi Coast itself: it’s such a beautiful place that I was bound to enjoy myself there.)

But before I left, I had no idea how much I would miss laughing with a travel buddy. I had just spent three months in Ireland with my younger brother, and throughout the summer, I had occasionally met up with one of my best friends, who was living in Germany at the time. In Italy, I was all on my own, and I felt most lonely when I heard other people laughing with their friends, partners, or family members.

It sounds like a petty complaint. I traveled solo in Italy and had a great time, so why am I bringing up the fact that I missed laughing with my loved ones?

Hopefully, the following tips will help other solo travelers in desperate need of a good laugh.

A view of the Tyrrhenian Sea from Ravello, Italy, where the author traveled solo.
A view of the Tyrrhenian Sea from Ravello, Italy. Photo by Whitney Brown.

Adjust your expectations

Simply put, you should expect fewer laugh-out-loud moments when you travel alone. Your travel buddies generally understand your sense of humor, and they can make you laugh by sharing old stories or adding commentary to your adventures. Without a friend on your side, you’re automatically cutting off a major source of humor.

Of course, solo travel has its perks, like letting you call all the shots, so there’s a tradeoff here. If you can find other ways to make yourself laugh, you probably won’t mind the tradeoff as much.

When you’re on the road, keep an eye out for quiet funny moments. Maybe you’ll witness a misunderstanding between two or more people in a public place. Maybe a little kid’s antics will make you laugh. Maybe you’ll see something bizarre and it’ll put a smile on your face.

You’ll have a few embarrassing moments too — but you can laugh when the moments have ended, and you can share those stories with your friends and family later.

If you adjust your expectations and remember not to take yourself too seriously, you’ll find more and more things to laugh about during your solo travels.

Cliffside buildings on the Amalfi Coast, where the author traveled solo.
Cliffside buildings on the Amalfi Coast. Photo by Whitney Brown.

Connect with strangers

Sometimes, traveling solo can make you feel like you’re all alone in the world. Of course, that’s not true, but once that funk has settled in, it’s hard to break out of it.

If you ever feel isolated while you’re traveling solo, try to connect with a stranger. By becoming friendly with someone sharing your space (a bus, a bar, a hostel dorm…), you’ll feel less alone. With any luck, you’ll even share a few laughs with that person.

Even if you’d prefer to keep to yourself, it’s still a good idea to reach out to others. You don’t have to make a new best friend while you’re on the road, but if exchanging pleasantries and swapping smiles can improve your mood, you shouldn’t hesitate to do those things.

A tower in Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy, where the author traveled solo.
A tower in Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy. Photo by Whitney Brown.

Phone a friend

When you travel alone, your friends won’t be at your side, but they’ll still be on your side. Keep that in mind, and keep in touch with the people who love you while you travel.

This piece of advice doubles as a safety tip and an anti-isolation tip. It’s a good idea to make sure that someone from home knows your plans (just in case!), and it’s a good idea to stave off loneliness by chatting regularly with someone you love.

Luckily, thanks to modern technology, solo travelers have plenty of options for staying in touch with their friends: FaceTime, phone calls, messaging apps, and social media, to name just a few possibilities.

If your friends can make you laugh while you reconnect, so much the better!

The old expression says that laughter is the best medicine, and if that’s true, then you’ll want to keep laughing on your solo travels. We hope that this article has given you a few ideas about how to make that happen.

Have you traveled solo? Did you miss laughing with your friends? Let us know in the comments what you did to make up for that loss. And if you haven’t traveled solo yet, make sure to check out our other resources as you plan your first trip!

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