Solo travel can seem intimidating. It could involve moving every 3 months to new cities, figuring out a new workplace with new coworkers, and not always having a regular support system. How do you make friends when you don’t know a single person in the area and the situation is so temporary? While these concerns are very real, don’t let them hold you back. Solo traveling could be the next step to catalyze breakthroughs in personal and professional growth.
As someone who has moved ten times in the last two years by myself, I’ve learned how important it is to stay social and connect with others. Even the most introverted therapist needs human connection. Along the way, I’ve learned how to expedite the process of finding my people and making the most of the journey.
Finding Your People
There is no question that making friends as an adult doesn’t come quite as easy as it was in school. However, I’ve found there are still plenty of ways to meet new people, it just might require effort and open-mindedness.
Get to know coworkers. I didn’t know a single person in North Dakota on my first contract but I met some amazing people there! We ended up going hiking on the weekend, doing an escape room, and had a halloween party.
Bumble BFF. This is something I wish I found earlier. Use it like a dating app but for making friends! I’ve met some amazing people through the app that I still keep up with. I see so many travel professionals on the app as well.
Meet Up/Facebook groups. Nearly every city I’ve lived in has multiple facebook groups with events. My last contract had one specifically for women and they did all kinds of outdoor activities, workouts, wine nights, etc. I’ve also used travel facebook groups to find other travelers in the area.
Be a regular somewhere. Think coffee shops, bars, restaurants. Even though you’re in a new place, it can create some familiarity and you might even hit it off with the bartenders or baristas.
Immerse yourself in what you love and connections will happen naturally. This is the best way to meet like-minded people. Think churches, book-clubs, yoga classes, salsa dancing.
Be open-minded, open-hearted, and put out good energy. One time I got groceries delivered and the woman who was my shopper welcomed me to the area and offered to meet up and show me some spots. Another time I went to get a blow-out and hit it off with the hair stylist. You just never know who you will meet!
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for our well-being to stay social and have human connection. It just takes a little more effort and intentionality.
Maintaining Old Friendships
While new friends are great, sometimes it’s nice to spend time with people where you don’t have to introduce yourself all over again. There are lots of ways to create that familiarity and home-like energy.
Pick places where you know at least one person. Traveling could allow you a great opportunity to spend more time with a friend who moved away.
Invite friends and family to visit you. This is the best, I love showing my family and friends all the new places I’ve lived and my favorite spots there.
Pick a place driving distance to a place you are familiar with. Traveling doesn’t necessarily have to be about going all over the country. My last couple of contracts have all been in Florida and 3-5 hours driving distance from my hometown. I’ve never missed any holidays or family get-togethers.
Local contracts. After a year of taking travel contracts I found myself craving some more familiarity and took a local contract back in my hometown to reconnect with my friends, family, as well as maintain my tax home. The pay package will just be structured differently in that there will be no stipends, it will be 100% taxed. However I made up for this by staying with my parents and saving in rent.
Solo travelers need to prioritize self-care in all aspects – mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually. We go through so many life changes with moving so often and getting used to new workplaces. I am a huge proponent of virtual therapy so you can stick with the same therapist wherever you go.
For exercise, it can be tricky because you don’t want to pay a join fee for just 3 months. At a few of my locations the YMCA waived the join fee after I explained my situations. Other options could be finding housing that comes with a gym and trying out various boutique studios. Yoga, pilates, barre and cycling studios usually have introductory offers or a discounted trial for the first month.
For meals, I like to find housing with a kitchen. A lot of rentals on Airbnb and Furnished Finder don’t have a full kitchen which can be frustrating for those who like to cook. While these rentals can be a lot cheaper, I tried it once during a clinical and just found myself eating out all the time, probably spending more and eating worse.
If there is something you want to do but don’t have anyone to go with, do it anyway. Life is too short! Try that restaurant. Explore that beach. Watch that movie. Go to that concert. Take a day trip to the next city over. As an introvert, this could be uncomfortable at first but gets easier with time. Enjoying your own company is a great way to learn more about yourself and build confidence.
While traveling solo can be intimidating at first, I am so thankful for the experiences and growth I’ve experienced through it. It has been full of unique opportunities, new friendships, and professional growth as a therapist.
Ashley is a DPT who started traveling as a new grad. She quickly found her niche in the home health setting. Now she coaches other therapists on how to get started with traveling and/or home health. She is passionate about self-care and work-life balance so she can show up as her best self for patients. You can find her on her website http://www.thegypsydpt.com.