We’ve all been there. You’ve managed to squeeze time in to your diary for general gallivanting – your one chance in the year to roam to farther shores or even explore hidden nooks of your own corner of the world. There is one hitch – all your friends are too busy, too poor or too boring to come with. Going alone? Oh no, that’s far too scary! You should just cancel your plans and wait ‘til next time. Let’s hit pause a second and re-evaluate. Solo travel seems hugely daunting, but you have some much to gain by going it alone…no-one nagging you for dawdling taking pictures, no putting up with that rowdy club when you’d prefer the quite local wine bar, no one cutting in on your conversation with the cute barman! Starting to like the idea…?!
Although it sounds kind of selfish, one of my favourite aspects of solo travel is not having to compromise. Having to plan an itinerary to keep everyone happy is sometimes exhausting – having to go to a local football game instead of the spa, tolerating moans when waking people up to go to that on crack-of-dawn trip to somewhere you desperately see. As a solo traveller, your agenda is your own. Stumbling on that art gallery on the way to the market is no longer an irritation to others but the great find around which you’ll spend hours wandering. Going at your pace and satisfying your own curiosity and interests will become a luxury that you won’t want to give up – you have been warned!! Don’t be surprised if you find yourself becoming a tad more assertive on your return home – a welcome change to spending an hour deliberating which restaurant to go to for your next girls meal out!
When you’re on your own, it forces you to step out of your comfort zone and open yourself up to meeting different kinds of people. Staying in hostels is a great way to meet like-minded people who are in the same boat and many offer meet ups and things like morning yoga class free of charge. If you like the social side of hosteling without the sharing part, have a look at online couch surfing forums – while it might not be wise to couch surf alone, the forums have details of local meet ups of solo travellers just passing through. You might find someone sightsee or to sample local cuisine with. Make sure you get your new found friends to take some snaps of you – a pitfall of solo travelling: there are no pictures of you because you’re the one taking them! Also make sure you’re open to new experiences – I enrolled in a weekend flamenco class as a long term solo traveller and had new-found buddies until they went on their merry ways.
Whilst there are many up-sides to solo travel, there are some practical aspects that you should consider to be safe during your trip. Make sure someone back home has the details of where you’re staying and that you check in once in a while to let them know your safe – not only for their peace of mind but for them to raise a flag if you miss an agreed contact point. Get someone to write down the number of reputable local taxi company and call them if you feel unsafe or if you’re in an unfamiliar area. Be street smart and make sure you don’t draw attention to the fact that you are a lone tourist who is unaware of their surroundings. Ooze confidence like I know you all can and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
While some people might think you’re nuts for going solo, they’re the ones who’ll be jealous when you show them the snaps of new found friends, quirky experiences and that gorgeous Italian waiter you had all to yourself. Be a trail blazer, break away from the crowd and book that ticket – you’ll never see travel the same way again!