Don’t be scared to solo travel.
The prospect of travelling to a foreign country by yourself can be daunting for many people, especially the introverts amongst us. I am, by nature the quiet, shy girl-next-door; so much so, that one of my best friends used to nickname me ‘Mute’ (thanks, darling). So, in hindsight, after I’d booked my first flight abroad alone it’s no surprise that I was repeatedly being told that I was brave and asked if I was scared or worried about travelling by myself. My immediate answer to their questions was, no. It felt right and I was going. To be honest, I hadn’t given an awful lot of thought to what I’d do if I did spend that next year or so by myself but as I found out, the answer to that really didn’t matter.
In the time that I have spent solo travelling, I have probably only spent around 15 days by myself and some of those days were by choice. The travelling community is one of the most welcoming that you will ever come across and even if you are travelling by yourself, you are unlikely to be alone for long.
To get started, don’t stay in a private room in a hostel – crash in a dorm room. Battle the instinct to shy away and stay at a distance. The easiest way to meet people and make or join plans to explore locally is to get talking with those that are there to do the exact same thing. Don’t worry if you are shy, just say hello and it will all flow from there. You’ll be surprised at how many others are travelling alone or who were travelling alone and have picked up people along the way to form a group. For those who are past the days of staying in hostel dorms, go on organised trips. Whether it’s a hiking tour of a nearby nature spot, a cookery course for an afternoon or a city walking tour, get involved. It won’t be long until those walls of yours start tumbling down and you find yourself doing the samba in the middle of a street festival with a friend you made the day before.
There are key benefits to solo travel that you don’t get if you are travelling with others. Travelling alone makes it so easy to enjoy real freedom and do what you want, when you want. If you wake up and feel adventurous, grab your walking boots and head off on that hiking path which was recommended to you yesterday; feeling relaxed, go to the beach and enjoy reading in the sun; not feeling the vibe from a town you’ve stopped in, then pack up and move on to the next; don’t want to leave when you had originally planned to, then stay.
Sometimes it’s more ideal to be alone with your thoughts, not answering questions about who you are and where you have been; taking time to reflect on your experiences and map out what you want to experience next. This can be one of the greatest benefits of solo travel. Other times, you just need a day by yourself to avoid going crazy. You can wander off for the day and not have to explain that you need a break from interacting with people.
As you get a bit older, it does get harder to find people to travel with. Those who you used to go away with now have partners who they do their adventuring with; or families and say their travelling is on hiatus. So if you want to travel, you are forced to do it alone. Again, this is not a bad thing and you can still enjoy the time by yourself away from the stresses of everyday life. Alternatively, there are plenty of organisations which offer tour group spaces for solo travellers, more and more of which are offering tours for those over 30. Which, for those of us over 30, is great! Sorry youngsters, but our bodies (and tolerance levels) can’t quite keep up with yours anymore!
Of course, safety is often a concern for solo travellers. It’s wise to check advice on travel to certain countries before you make your way there. In today’s climate, some countries are safer to travel than others. From that point on, a common sense approach to travel will keep you safe.
The best thing about solo travelling is the chance to be you, just you on the road, with no one from your past or present to influence your decisions. The experience of solo travel will benefit you in the future and bring you a quiet confidence that will transcend into many aspects of your life.
Turn that fear of being a solo traveller into fuel for adventure and go!