A Guide to Travelling Solo
For those thinking of taking a solo trip in 2017, there are plenty of aspects to consider: where to travel? How long for? What to do when you’re there? While the freedom to make these choices completely on your own is exhilarating, the unknown can be unsettling. Here’s what you need to know, from the feelings you’re likely to encounter to pre-trip planning like a travelling solo pro:
Solo travel: the pros
You can do anything you want to
Always wanted to stay in an AirBnB? Check. Want to look at every piece in a particular museum? Done. Hungry enough to pig out for hours on end? No-one will know. One of the most rewarding, relaxing things about solo travel is that you have complete control over what you do. There’s no-one else’s plans to fit in to, no-one else’s interests to take into account. The decisions are yours, and making them is bliss.
You challenge yourself
There are two ways this can work in your favour: a) you’re free to take whatever type of trip you want so can really go for a challenge (summiting a mountain or trekking a long-distance trail are good examples); b) you’ll find yourself in a sticky situation or two and you’ll be the only person to get yourself out of them. Either way, you’ll learn how strong a person you can be, how far you can push yourself (either mentally or physically) and you’ll discover plenty about your character along the way.
You’ll make new friends
When we travel with companions, more often than not, we stick with those we know. When you’re alone you’re forced to interact with people, whether they’re other travellers or residents, and this can forge friendships. They might be different to your usual crowd, opening yourself up to alternative cultures or political beliefs too. You’ll often find you have plenty of unique experiences pretty quickly with these people too… A half-naked hamman alongside three women I’d known for just over a week springs to mind here. Embrace these and the people you meet: they’ll often help to shape your fondest memories of a place.
You’ll learn new skills
From taking an alternative type of trip (think learning to surf, practising yoga or trying local cooking techniques) to developing personal traits, travelling solo really puts you out there. Your problem-solving skills will sharpen. The ability to keep calm in a crisis, being able to think quickly on your feet and dealing with issues that arise on your own will help you progress personally and be an asset when you return home.
Solo travel: the cons
It can be lonely
Spending time on your own can be liberating but it can also be isolating. Sometimes you can expect to feel alone a little too much. Going out for dinner solo can be a… quiet experience.
How to avoid it: Get involved with local walking tours, free classes or activities in your chosen destination. This will put you in the path of residents, as well as other solo travellers. If you’re worried you might get lonely, look at staying in a backpacker-friendly hostel or at least somewhere with a communal kitchen. You’ll be surprised how many friendships have been made over a budget hostel meal and beer… or two.
It can be intimidating
There’s no harm in saying that being on your own can leave you a little on edge. Sometimes just not understanding the native language and mannerisms can be a little unnerving. Staying somewhere new and unknown can be fraught at the best of times, and even more so when you only have yourself for company.
How to avoid it: Research your destination’s cultural etiquette before departing. This is good advice, regardless of whether you're travelling solo or not, as it should avoid any offence and unwanted attention in-destination.
It can be frowned-upon
Not all solo trips are welcomed by friends and family, especially if you’re female, but don’t let other people’s negativity put you off. Planning is key to making sure your trip goes ahead without (or at least minimal) hiccups. Take time to research your destination and keep those left behind in the loop.
How to avoid it: Remember, this is your adventure, not anyone else’s. Leave a loose itinerary of your travel plans with a friend or family member before you set off. It means those back home will feel less nervous about your solo adventure and, should any issues arise, they’ll know how to get hold of you or know roughly where you are.
It can be stressful
I’m not going to lie, travelling solo means you have to work through any issues on your own, deal with crummy rooms on your own, navigate your journey after missing a bus… You guessed it, on your own. While there are positives that can come out of this, in the moment it can feel like a disaster.
How to avoid it: Obviously, this one depends on the situation you’re in. Usually, a little clarity and remaining calm will get you through the most anxiety-ridden moments. Make sure you’ve done a little pre-trip prep to keep yourself safe, though. Get a good travel insurance policy in place before departing, in case your kit goes missing. Keep copies of your travel documents too. And, if you’re a little bit more paranoid (ahem, it’s okay, I do this), keep a written copy of your country’s embassy address and contact info somewhere else in your luggage. Just in case…
Solo travel: top 5 tips
1. Start small
It’s best to plan a long weekend or week-long adventure as your first solo trip. There’s no point planning a six-month round-the-world adventure, only to discover you dislike being alone within the first day or two.
2. Learn the lingo
Ideally, take your first few solo adventures in locations where you’re comfortable speaking the local language. At the very least, learn the basics (hello, goodbye, please, thank you etc) so you can get by. It can feel daunting when you’re in a new place and it’s difficult to communicate.
3. Plan ahead
Get at least your first night’s accommodation booked before you arrive, to avoid panic from the outset. Also, pre-plan your journey from the airport to your accommodation, whether that’s working out how much a taxi will cost, booking a private transfer or taking on the local public transport. Having a plan can alleviate a lot of arrival stress.
4. Be smart and use your common sense
This applies for all trips to all destinations, no matter who you’re travelling with. A little common sense when you’re on your own goes a long way. Don’t walk home after a night out on your own. Make sure you know how to find a legitimate taxi firm. Ensure you get your bearings on arrival so you know where you are (and how to get back to your hotel). And, above all else, trust your instincts. If something feels a bit odd, it probably is. No matter what the situation, a few minutes to think things through can help avoid travel mishaps.
5. Make the most of every moment
We all know that time flies when you’re having fun, and never has that been more true then when we’re travelling. However, taking a trip solo isn’t always a laugh a minute. Even so, make sure you appreciate every experience, the good and the bad. Each is shaping you and helping you grow as a person, and showing you parts of your chosen destination you may not have seen before.
That’s it. You know what’s great, what’s not and what to look out for on the road. What are you waiting for? Grab your bags, plan a route and get out of here!
Plan your solo travel with the help of one of our Travel Experts – make an appointment with us today and we'll help find the perfect trip for you.