“I’d love to quit my job and go travelling… but I’ve got nobody to go with.”
How many times have you thought this? Or had a friend say it to you in the middle of a post-work drinks moan?
The thing with this is, it isn’t really a problem – it’s something you’re saying to hold yourself back from doing the thing you’re scared to do. Which is travel solo.
Like all things worthwhile, making the leap to travelling alone starts off frightening – but often becomes one of the most rewarding descisions of your life. Just ask the #WeGoSolo ambassadors – Mariellen, Sherry, Amanda and Shivya.
We asked them to share the best lessons they’ve learned from travelling the world on their own – ideas that have made their trips satisfying, fun, enriching… and a little easier. These lessons give you all the tools you need to help fall in love with solo travel, so what are you waiting for? Go out and get to it…
Lessons from Sherry @ Ottsworld
1. Eat alone with confidence
“Just one.” This is probably my most used phrase when I’m travelling alone. I had to learn how to say it with confidence at every restaurant, as eating alone is typically one of the biggest fears of a solo traveller. You have to really believe that eating on your own makes you intriguing, not lonely. How to you come off as intriguing? I recommend to ask if bar seating is available and ask to sit at the bar and eat dinner if possible.
In addition, I always take a book or journal, for those moments when you simply need something to occupy your time while you wait for your food. When I journal at my table/bar stool I know that I look intriguing – everyone around me wants to know what I’m writing about and who I am – it’s a great conversation starter!
2. Embrace fear
I normally write about and do a lot of adventure travel, however I’m not a very brave person naturally. Yet I have driven from London to Mongolia in the Mongol Rally, hiked the Annapurna Circuit, walked the Camino de Santiago solo, swam with sharks, and volunteered solo in remote Nepal – these things don’t come naturally to me.
I have learned to embrace fear and do these things as a solo traveller. I embrace the fear because if I didn’t then I’d go nowhere in my life. One of my main tactics is to tell people I’m going to do it. This is how I announced the Mongol Rally – I put it out there for everyone to see! Once I ‘announce’ my goal or crazy idea I’m much more likely to follow through and do it.
3. Pack only what you alone can carry
If you are travelling solo then you MUST make sure that you can carry your own pack and luggage…for hours if necessary. First step is to pack light in general. Stay in the same color palette, roll your clothes, use packing cubes, and choose things that are versatile such as running/hiking shoes. Next – do a test run – pack it all and walk it around for a while (hours) – wear your backpack around your home. Then try to hoist it above your head a few times as you’ll need to be able to get it into overhead bins and trains yourself.
If you can’t do this – then start to take things out. Finally, when you are on the road I have a strict one in/one out policy. If I buy something then something else has to go.
Lessons from Amanda @ A Dangerous Business
4. Listen and observe
Travelling solo means that I usually have plenty of time to reflect – and plenty of time to perfect my listening skills. But listening doesn’t always apply to other people. I have learned to “listen” to the places I visit, too – because there often is more to a destination than initially meets the eye. This has led to me falling in love with some pretty unexpected places.
5. Your biggest obstacle can be yourself
I can’t tell you how often people tell me that they wish they could do what I’m doing. Well guess what? They can. People who want to travel but currently aren’t are just hiding behind excuses. Time. Money. Responsibility. Fear. They are all nothing but excuses. The more I travel on my own, the more I realise that I truly am my biggest obstacle – my fears, prejudices, stubbornness, and perceived shortcomings are really the only things holding me back.
Lessons from Mariellen @ Breathe, Dream, Go
6. The world is not a scary place
I travelled mostly alone across the Indian subcontinent, a landscape and culture completely foreign to me. I don’t speak any of the local languages and I had never been on a big trip like that before. Yet I had a wonderful time and the trip was a great success. None of my worst fears materialised. Yes, I was sick with Delhi Belly several times and a man grabbed my breast for a millisecond in Old Delhi. Yes, I experienced train delays, annoying touts and other travel nuisances.
But overall, I found the people of India to be warm, caring, hospitable and helpful – and they made all the difference. After a few months in India, as my confidence grew, I relaxed and realised that many of my fears were unfounded, that most people are good and that, up-close, the world is not a scary place.
7. You are stronger and more flexible than you think
When I was packing for my first big six-month trip to India, I bought so many “just in case” items that I was loaded down when I arrived. I eventually ditched most of those unnecessary things and learned to rely instead on …. myself. By overcoming all of many the challenges of travel in India, my confidence in myself as a strong, resilient, capable person grew by leaps and bounds. You can read my story here.
8. Everything always works out
There is something about India. I am not the only one who says it: India pits you against seemingly impossible situations and then rescues you – or helps you rescue yourself. Like the day I got lost in crowd of literally 10 million people at the Kumbh Mela.
But as challenging, chaotic and crowded as it is, somehow India restores your faith in God, the universe, man – whatever it is you choose to believe in. In India, I learned not to worry as much; to have more trust and faith. There’s a sweet scene in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel when the hotel owner says, “Everything always works out in the end. If it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”
Lessons from Shivya @ The Shooting Star
9. Don’t take life too seriously
Most of us have been brought up and set in such molds of what our life should look like by the time we’re thirty, that we forget it’s okay to mess up and live a little. Meeting people both in my own backyard and halfway across the world (Read: Land of a Thousand Friends) made me realise that you don’t always have to be running, striving and aspiring for something more.
That more than a steady job, a posh apartment, a promotion, a life partner, or even a to-do list, it’s more fulfilling to live, experiment, make mistakes, see the world, and know that in this present moment, you are thoroughly enjoying your life.
10. Responsible choices can save the planet
True story. In the driest parts of Punjab, Rajasthan and north-central Sri Lanka, I’ve met individuals who have literally transformed barren pieces of land into a flourishing green forest. Y You can feel the freshness in the vegetables they grow. Not all of us have their conviction or patience to affect change, but supporting their tourism offerings can save at least a small part of our planet.
As can choosing to carry a water bottle over buying plastic mineral water bottles, and using public transport while travelling.
11. Freedom is underrated
At some point after I quit my corporate job and gave up any semblance of a regular schedule, I started to wonder why so many people, my family included, couldn’t appreciate the sense of freedom I felt every day. Then I met a fisherman in Mauritius who chose not to work in a factory for more money like his friends, because he loved the sea and could choose not to work on some days and still feed his family. It was his philosophy that made me surer of mine.
What lessons have you learned from travelling solo? Tell us in the comments…