I discovered this situation myself a few years ago. Basically, I had reached the rather wor-risome point in my life where all my friends had decided to get married and start having children. This of course put a rather blunt full stop on our regular travel jaunts. Very in-convenient, I’m sure you’ll agree.I was upset about this at first, but then I started to reframe it all. It could be a positive. It could be something great. It didn’t mean I couldn’t go anywhere, it just meant I would have to take the brave step of going alone.
Lone travel is one of the most rewarding and confidence-inducing things you will ever do with your time. If you’re not sure if heading off into the sunset alone is for you, let me convince you why it really is.
What is Solo/Lone Travel?
As the name would suggest, lone or solo travel is heading off on your own. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to meet people whilst you’re away, and it doesn’t mean you’re going to spend all your time kicking it alone. On the contrary! Solo travel doesn’t have to be lonely, and it is a fantastic way to meet new, likeminded people, whilst getting to totally please yourself.
Don’t want to argue with your friend about which beach to head to? No problem! Sick of trying to convince your partner that the museum you’ve been talking about is worth a vis-it? Head off on anyway! Lone travel gives you the opportunity to be totally selfish, without feelings guilty in the slightest. How many times in life can you say that’s possible?
Why Might You Want to go Travelling Solo?
Some people would never dream of going travelling on their own, and that includes going on a beach vacation without a friend in tow. That’s fine, perhaps travelling solo simply isn’t for them. Having said that, there are times when it’s either head off alone, or don’t go anywhere.
I mentioned my earlier predicament, that my friends had decided to settle down, and were holidaying with their significant other from that point onwards. There are other reasons why you might want to go travelling alone too:
You want the opportunity to explore somewhere without having another person to think about
You want space to think and clear your mind
You really want to see a particular destination, and your friend simply doesn’t want to go there
As you can see, travelling solo is nothing to do with being ‘sad’ and having no friends, it’s about fulfilling dreams and being motivated and confident enough to say ‘I’m going any-way!’
The Advantages of Lone Travelling
Before we get into the real meat of our chat, e.g. is it safe to travel solo and how to do it, we need to convince you why you should be doing it.
The benefits of lone travel are:
You don’t have to consider anyone else’s wishes but your own
You have time to think and clear your mind
You will meet many likeminded people along the way (lone travel is very popular)
Your confidence will soar
You can budget much more easily
You can see the things you want to see, without having to convince someone else of the reasons to go
If you’re a people pleaser, you won’t feel the need to impress someone else with your visit recommendations
It sounds great, right?
The Disadvantages of Lone Travelling
We have to balance things up in life, so let’s discuss the possible downsides of travelling without a buddy in tow.
Possible loneliness – whilst you will meet people, there will be stretches of time when you’re alone. Can you handle that?
You will need to be more aware of your surroundings, in terms of your general safety
No-one close to share your amazing memories and experiences with
People close to you may not understand your reasons for heading off on your own
Everything in life has a balance of pros and cons, but the downsides can be overcome.
Is it Safe?
Now, the real conversation we need to have. Is lone/solo travel safe? Yes and no. It totally depends on how you do it, where you do it, and what you do. On balance, lone travel is no more dangerous than travelling with a friend or partner, pro-vided you don’t put yourself into potentially dangerous situations. For instance, these are the things you shouldn’t do when you’re travelling alone:
Don’t drink too much and put yourself in the hands of strangers
Don’t walk around on your own after dark
Don’t walk around in areas which are desolate or which simply feel ‘off’
Don’t trust strangers too much, always keep some of yourself back
Don’t go against the conservative dress code in certain countries (this is especially per-tinent for women)
Don’t have long discussions with locals about anything inflammatory, e.g. religion or politics. Keep your opinions to yourself
As you can see, these are general safety rules that you would stick to if you were in a group too! Solo travel is therefore safe, provided you don’t make it unsafe by your own actions. Now, is solo travel less safe for women?
That is the question on everyone’s lips. In some cases it can be, but not always. Again, it depends on the situations you put yourself in. If you’re travelling somewhere which has a conservative way of dressing, e.g. perhaps certain parts of the Middle East, then it would be wise to cover up yourself, to avoid unwanted attention. You’d do that anyway, right?
In addition, in certain countries, western women may experience unwanted male atten-tion, simply because they are different or seen as exotic. Be firm and polite with your re-fusal, and confidently walk away. It’s a good idea to have an alarm of sorts with you, and to know the numbers to call in an emergency.
This isn’t designed to scare you, this is just common sense in any country in the world. This also goes for tourists and residents who have lived there for years! To answer the question of whether lone travel is safe – yes, provided you use your com-mon sense.
How to Travel Solo in The Safest, and Most Rewarding Way
By this point, I hope you’re feeling interested and possibly even excited by the idea of heading off into the sunset on your own, wherever it is you choose to go. Now we need to talk about how to do it. I want your lone travel adventures to be a revelation, the start of something great, and to help you realise that you can go anywhere in the world you want to, even if you don’t have a buddy who wants to tag along. So, how can you do it properly, safely, and in a way which makes you want to repeat the experience?
Think Carefully About The Places You’ve Always Dreamed of Visiting
Where have you always wanted to go? It’s likely that there is somewhere on your bucket list, but you bent to the will of friends or partners in the past and never got there. This is your chance to be totally selfish! Start small if you need to, but make sure you head to somewhere which grabs your excitement.
Do Your Research
Sit comfortably with your laptop and research the life out of the place you’re going. What is there to see and do? Are there are any fun learning experiences, such as dancing or cooking? What is the nightlife like? Is there a sociable feel to the place? Where are the must visit beaches? Get all all the information ahead of time, and you’ll have plenty of ideas when you arrive.
Listen to Safety Advice From Reputable Sources
One of the most important things is to always listen to safety advice from reputable sources, such as your embassy or foreign office. Bookmark the official website and check in on a regular basis. The world these days may be small and generally safe, but there are still flash points you need to be aware of. Heed this advice – it’s there for your safety, not to put you off travelling.
Leave a Copy of Your Itinerary and Passport at Home
It’s a good idea to take a copy of your passport, visa, insurance details, and your general itinerary of travel and leave it with someone you trust at home. If you lose your passport, you can contact them for the passport number, and if something ever did happen (hope-fully not), then your loved ones will know roughly where you are at any given time.
Think About How to Stay in Touch
We can talk to anyone with an online connection these days, but what if you don’t have wifi? Look into your options in terms of the country you’re visiting. Can you rent a wifi hotspot? Can you buy a local sim card and top up with 3G data? Is there a roaming plan with your current provider? This way, you can stay in touch on social media, as well as making everyone jealous with your latest castaway vibe Instagram pics!
Consider Staying in Hostels
One of the best ways to meet new people on the go, as well as having a more sociable feel to your time, is to stay in a hostel. Now, before you panic and start to picture dorm rooms and shared bathrooms, they’re not all like that nowadays! You can rent a private room, and even shared rooms are plush and much more luxurious than they ever used to be! There will usually be a bar and a shared lounge area, so you can meet all manner of people who are travelling in the same way as you.
Think About Joining Excursions and Guided Tours
Another good way to meet people, whilst cutting down on the possible anxiety of first time lone travel, is to head off on guided tours. You won’t have to do the logistics of getting from A to B yourself, you’ll probably have air con at some stage (a god send), and you’ll be with other people too. Of course, you’ll also have a knowledgeable guide. Check out your options online before you head off, but always check testimonials before parting with any of your hard earned cash.
Talk, Talk, and More Talk!
If you’re shy, or if you simply don’t like talking to strangers, it’s time to just go for it. Make eye contact, say ‘hi’, make a comment about someone’s clothes – everyone loves to be complimented! Ask a random question. More often than not, other people are waiting for you to speak, because they’re too scared to do it themselves. That person could turn out to be a new travel buddy or friend for life! This happened to me on more than one occa-sion, so just talk!
Embrace The Solitary Moments
Whilst it’s great to make friends, and I would encourage you to meet as many new people as you can, it’s also wonderful to embrace those moments of peace and quiet. Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely, it means having time for yourself. For me, the greatest benefit of travelling by myself was being able to unwind and really question my life and what I wanted. Travel has a strange way of making you do that. This time out could be just what you need, and having the time alone to be able to evaluate, is a true blessing.
Lone travel is certainly not something to be afraid of, and it’s not something which only lonely or ‘sad’ people do. On the contrary! Lone travel is a fantastic experience, and something that I believe everyone should do at least once in their lives. If you have the guts to make the first step, I can guarantee that you will never allow travel buddy absence to hold you back again.