I've spent more than 50 days solo traveling around the world. My biggest tip is to have a jam-packed itinerary.

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I've spent more than 50 days solo traveling around the world. My biggest tip is to have a jam-packed itinerary.
In destinations like Japan and New Zealand, Insider's author filled her itinerary with stops at unexpected wineries and abandoned islands.Monica Humphries/Insider
  • I've spent more than 50 days traveling by myself to destinations around the globe.
  • Like anyone, I have bad days. I've learned that instead of sulking, I need activities to distract me.
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I took a deep breath and stepped into the Italian restaurant Amano in Auckland, New Zealand.

My 21-day solo trip was off to a rocky start. My goal for the day was to explore the city, see its beaches, and visit a few cafes and restaurants.

I thought it was going to take all morning and afternoon. Instead, it took just a few hours.

I spent the rest of my day bouncing between emotions. I was feeling lonely, which turned into frustration when I realized I was wasting my time feeling sorry for myself on a trip to new parts of the world. I felt hyperaware that I was sitting alone at a restaurant when everyone else around me was dining with others. And I looked at the 20 days ahead of me fearing these emotions of loneliness would stick.

As I sat at the bar, I wondered why this solo travel day had gone so poorly. By this point, I had spent dozens of days by myself traveling in both the US and around the globe. Why did today suck?

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I landed on the fact that my mindset didn't match my day's itinerary. Since I didn't have enough planned and was grumpy from jet lag, my empty schedule only encouraged me to dwell on the negatives.

I've spent more than 50 days solo traveling around the world. My biggest tip is to have a jam-packed itinerary.
An open road at Arches National Park.Monica Humphries/Insider

Having a packed schedule helps me forget I'm alone

For the most part, I'm comfortable being alone. I spend most of my afternoons and evenings with friends, so when the rare solo weekend or night approaches, I celebrate.

I also celebrate solo traveling. It allows me to do what I want when I want. I can wake up for sunrise without anyone complaining about sleeping in; I pick which tourist traps I want to visit and which ones I want to skip; and I can decide how long I spend in a destination and leave at the drop of a hat.

I thrive while traveling by myself. But that doesn't mean I don't have hard days.

To prevent those days from happening, I keep my schedule busy.

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Prior to each trip, I create a list of all the museums I have any interest in visiting. I list out all the restaurants I want to dine in, as well as takeout options and fast-food restaurants. I'll map out roadside attractions, local events, tourist traps, and other activities I can fill my days with.

The goal is to create a list so long it's impossible to complete. That way, I'm never bored or sulking in a bad attitude.

This is especially helpful when something goes wrong.

On a recent solo trip to Japan, I missed a train and had to wait another hour for the next one. Thankfully, it wasn't a big deal, but I was frustrated with myself for being late.

Instead of spending an hour being upset about my mistake, I pulled up my list, spotted a nearby bakery with traditional Japanese pastries, and headed that way.

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A few years ago, I would've likely let a missed train ruin my day, but by filling my schedule with delightful, flaky foods, I distracted myself from my error. And once the sugar was pulsing through my system, I was back in a good mood.

I've spent more than 50 days solo traveling around the world. My biggest tip is to have a jam-packed itinerary.
There have been plenty of times when Insider's author spent the night in on a solo trip.Monica Humphries/Insider

I don't always follow my itinerary, but it helps to have one

I don't build itineraries when I travel with friends. That's because I know I'll have company, and we can wander around aimlessly and still have a good time.

There are times when I can have a blast exploring with no plans and no one else, but it doesn't always work that way. So I keep full itineraries as an option — not a requirement.

I'm still open to exploring places I've never heard of or listening to a local's restaurant recommendation. Thankfully, this ability to pivot has led to some of my favorite travel memories.

I also check in with myself on when I need to rest. I feel pressured to cram in activities when visiting a new place, but sometimes a night in with takeout is the fuel I need for the rest of the trip.

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My jam-packed itinerary isn't set in stone. Instead, I've learned to tune into my feelings and create a schedule that best suits my needs.

Typically, though, I feel most fulfilled when I'm doing a lot, so with a stuffed schedule, I'll always have options.

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