Always wanted to go out travelling on your own adventure, but too scared to take the plunge? Emily Gerson explains the pros and cons of solo travel…
Why people do it
It’s certainly not for everyone, but travelling solo is the best way to explore the world if you want the freedom to go anywhere, any time. You won’t get dragged to boring museums for hours when you would rather be out hiking or exploring a local farmers’ market. If you’re feeling exhausted and need to take a little down time, there is nobody pressuring you to get out there and hit all the tourist sights.
When you travel solo, you are more independent. It is solely up to you to find your way around, and because you don’t have a travel partner, you will have more interaction with locals and other travellers. At times, it can be scary but it is also incredibly empowering.
How to beat your fears of going solo
Experienced travellers will tell you that you’re never really alone when travelling solo. If you are open to meeting people, you will discover there are plenty of other travellers on the road, exploring the world the same as you. Whether on a train or in a restaurant, you will surely find others like you who could use a little conversation, a meal or even a day trip together.
While some solo travellers enjoy solitude, every once in a while it’s nice to share the company of others. Staying at a hostel is a great way to make friends from around the world. Many hostels have bars and/or living areas where you can socialise. Band together with your your new friends and go see some live music, grab a drink, or visit a nearby town. If you are concerned about privacy, most hostels offer private rooms, some of which are en suite.
Dealing with homesickness
Skype is a godsend to solo travellers; it makes communicating with your family and friends incredibly easy and affordable. This computer software allows you to make audio and/or video calls, but you can also have a text chat. Skype-to-Skype calls are free, but it is still incredibly cheap to use Skype to call a real phone number, much cheaper than it would be to call from a mobile phone or landline. There is also a Skype iPhone app. If you have access to free Wi-Fi – very common in hostels nowadays – you can get online and Skype from your phone and call home. Ask your family and close friends to install Skype (it’s free!) before you leave for your trip, then they can talk to you via their computer or the Skype app for free. Alternatively you can call their landline for a minimal rate per minute.
Making friends with other travellers on the road will really help. Enjoy the company of others and don’t feel guilty about it – just because you’re travelling solo doesn’t mean you have to spend your whole trip alone. Consider using Twitter to find other travellers in the same area who may want to meet up.
From a woman’s point of view
While it’s generally safe for women to travel solo, they must always be very cognisant of their surroundings and use common sense. Never accept drinks from strangers, and never get too drunk to take care of yourself. Do not walk alone in dark alleys by yourself at night. Be cautious with suitors. Trust your instincts. If you are concerned about your safety in the hotel room at night, get a doorstopper alarm.
Around the world, a woman’s level of independence in society can vary. Always swot up on important local customs and if necessary, dress conservatively.
A tongue-in-cheek guide to dining alone
Dining alone can be extremely scary for someone who is new to it. You may wonder what you are supposed to do, and fear that everyone is staring at you wondering why you have no dining companion (perhaps thinking that you have been stood up). One of the best ways to pass the time is to sit in an area with prime people-watching prospects. For example, sit on the street-facing patio of a café and enjoy watching the world pass by. Another popular way to deal with solo dining is to read a book while you’re waiting for your food. But unless it is breakfast or lunch, us girls know better than to read at the table!
Still haven’t won you over? Need inspiration? Take a look at a few of these and discover how popular solo travel really is!
Read: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Made into a popular film starring Julia Roberts, this book is about a woman who decides to travel solo to Italy, India and Thailand. Well heck, if Julia Roberts can do it…
Watch: Into the Wild. You don’t have to go to quite the same extremes as Christopher McCandless – giving away his life savings to charity, travelling without a penny in his pocket and seeking total isolation in Alaska – but we could all do with a spot of his lust for life as he travels and meets people from all walks of life in America.
Read: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. As much a spiritual lesson about life as travelling solo and with 65 million copies sold in 150 languages, Coelho must be doing something right! It’s also a nice quick read.
For further advice, see Solo Travel: Tips for Women Travelling Alone
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