Traveling alone can be a scary thing. It forces you out of your comfort zone and throws a bouquet of challenges at you. I recently received a lot of feedback from people who were thinking about traveling solo, but still seemed a bit hesitant. The thought of being all by yourself, maybe even in a total unknown environment, is sure a daunting one. From an early age on I traveled by myself – sometimes by choice and sometimes because I simply couldn’t find a travel partner. But leaving aside the reasons, traveling solo can be extremely rewarding and it’s something I would always do again. In this post I want to share a few thoughts which I have learnt along the way but also talk about the cons which one shouldn’t forget about. Spiced with a few tips, it might persuade one or the other of you to make the leap and give traveling solo a try.
1| Do your own thing
When traveling solo, you have the freedom to customize your itinerary. You can follow your own rhythm and your very own desires. You can choose what to see, where and when to go and all that without making compromises and having to take account of somebody else. Along the road you will meet other travelers that tell you about that hidden gem, about a mystic waterfall or that remote village with super friendly locals. Instead of sticking to a group’s agenda, you can easily turn info like that into your own experiences. When on your own, you are open for change, you will welcome it and you will be able to easily change your itinerary.
2| You will meet more people
Meeting new people and making new friends is an important aspect of traveling. When you travel with a group or even your partner, you will naturally tend to stick to these people, if you want it or not. If you are by yourself, you will be more open to new acquaintances, you will socialize and you will get in touch with people that you would have never met back home. You will also naturally appear more approachable to other travelers.
3| Challenge yourself and grow
By forcing you out of your comfort zone, traveling solo will make you a more confident, independent and flexible person. You will have to deal with fears, insecurities and unexpected events but you will see that it is all not so bad after all and that you can cope with more things than you could have imagined. It can be a truly empowering experience, changing you as a person and inspiring you to even tackle other things in your life that seemed daunting.
4| Be who you want to be
At home we often tend to live up to the image that others have of us. When you are on the road by yourself, no one else knows you. You can be whoever you want to be. You can even be a different person every single day if you want to. This is a great chance to explore yourself and your personality and find out who you really want to be – your real self which might have been buried under the routines of everyday life.
5| Relax and disconnect
Life can be hectic these days. You might have to study hard for university, work long hours in the office or just be preoccupied with the hassles of everyday life. When traveling solo, you can take the time to disconnect from all that and truly indulge yourself. Enjoy a sunset while wandering along a deserted beach, sit in a café and just observe the people that pass by, treat yourself with a relaxing massage or try exotic local foods. It will help to detach yourself from the daily worries and responsibilities and free your mind. You will be able to re-adjust your focus and tackle things with a fresh mindset once back home.
6| Get in touch with the locals
During my travels I found being solo extremely helpful in terms of getting to know the local people. Most of them tend to care about visitors and find it easier to approach a foreigner who is by himself. The result can be some unique experiences or even invitations into people’s homes.
1| The moments of loneliness
If you travel for a longer period of time, these moments will eventually come. You will find yourself enjoying a beautiful sunset or discovering a hidden gem, just wishing that you had someone to share this moment with. You will feel lonely. The saying “Happiness is only real when shared” comes to one’s mind. But luckily those moments are usually confined to short episodes and you can actively work your way out of these. See the tips below for more.
2| No one to share the troubles with
What a lot of people don’t know and won’t believe is that traveling, especially long term and in exotic locations, can be stressful, draining and even a bit of a burden. You have to find out about transportation, negotiate prices, you will get overcharged and you constantly have to take decisions. At times you will feel that all of this would be easier when shared with a travel partner and sometimes it actually is.
3| The money issue
In the long run, solo travel will be more expensive than traveling with a partner or a small group. With a group you can share meals or the cost of a room (if not staying in dorms). You can also share transportation costs and you will have better arguments when it come to bargaining.
1| Start out easy
If you haven’t traveled solo before, start out easy. Pick a destination that is not too far from home and schedule for a short getaway. Maybe even a weekend will do the trick. Try to get a feel for that new situation and embrace it. Pick places with a lot of other travelers and where getting around is rather easy. Then work your way up, travel to farther away and more exotic places and stay longer. There is no need to travel the world solo if you have never done it before or start you first solo trip in the remotest spot of Africa.
2| It is easy to avoid and tackle Loneliness
I like the saying that you are never really alone when traveling. If you fear loneliness, check into backpacker places with a lot of other travelers around. Be proactive and talk to people. If you specifically look for hostels, make sure they have a communal area. That’ll make interaction much easier. And if you really are in need of company, book a day tour or some other group activity offered by most hostels these days. Even if you have been off the beaten path all by yourself for some time, the backpacker trail is usually not too far away. A blessing and a curse at the same time.
3| Stay safe
A fear that especially a lot of female travelers have. The fear that traveling alone might be more risky if done alone. While this might be true in some places, a few precautions will reduce possible risks significantly.
Try not to arrive at your accommodation in the middle of the night. Research the places you will visit beforehand and make yourself aware of the practicalities like transport and prices. Avoid appearing like a tourist wearing flashy clothes or jewelry. Don’t use big paper maps but download offline maps onto your smartphone. Try to blend in as much as possible. Respect the local customs. Exude confidence and look people in the eye; it will show that you are aware of their presence.
4| Use common sense
Always use and trust your common sense and you will avoid ending up in sketchy situations. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Trust your gut.
5| Check your prices
In terms of transportation, solo travelers often tend to get “taken for a ride”. So check the prices beforehand by asking your hotel personnel. This will help evaluating if you are being overcharged or not. Same with other services.
If you are aware of it or not, extruding positivity and smiling attracts people – fellow travelers and locals alike. They will be much more inclined to approach you and chat you up. No one wants to talk to this grumpy looking backpacker sitting all by himself in the hostel.
Traveling solo isn’t for everyone and that is totally ok. It has its downsides but for me the positive aspects far outweigh them. I can recommend everyone to at least give it a try… who knows, maybe you will love and stick to it. I hope this post can maybe take away those last doubts you might have and convince you that solo travel is an adventure worth trying.
Are you an avid solo traveler or are you still thinking about giving it a try? Let me know what you think and feel free to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.