Solo Travel

Solo Travel

Tazara train journey on a foggy morning - Tanzania

Tazara train journey on a foggy morning – Tanzania

You are keen to travel to an overseas destination so you organise with friends for a couple of weeks of fun and discovery. However, one by one, they withdraw from the trip – reasons being work, not having enough money, or rather taking a local holiday instead. Suddenly you are the only one still planning to travel, but you do not want to travel alone. What should you do?

I faced this exact situation many years ago on a planned journey to Spain. Our group of four dropped to three, two and finally only me. I had never been to a non-English speaking country before, and now faced the prospect of going alone. I considered my situation, and decided to travel to Spain – it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Benefits of Solo Travel
Travelling solo is definitely the best way to immerse yourself within a destination – nothing else comes close. There is nobody else to provide a buffer between you and the local culture. Solo travellers are given more opportunities than other travellers – for example, a local person is more likely to initiate a conversation with a solo traveller and even invite that solo traveller to their home than if they were travelling a couple or in a group.

Travelling solo gives you complete control over your itinerary including the standard of accommodation you wish to stay at, where to eat and what you will be doing during the day and night. It is probably why most long term travellers tend to be solo travellers for the longer you travel, the more particular you become about travel.

Finally, solo travel is the best exercise in personal development you can undertake. Solo travellers need to entirely self-reliant and as a result, become more assertive and confident. You can spend an enormous amount on courses to increase your confidence, but the money is better spent on a solo journey to a foreign land where you know nobody and where you cannot speak the language.

However, travelling solo is beset by misconceptions and here are the two most common.

Being Alone Doesn’t Mean Being Lonely
“Don’t you get lonely”, is the most commonly asked question of solo travellers. “No I don’t” is my reply. The reason for me is that at the end of every day I need to organise my photos and makes notes of the day’s travel for my blogs and social media. I never get the time to be lonely. For others, it is because there are always other travellers to meet, but more importantly, local people who are keen to befriend you.  I cannot count the instances when solo travellers have expressed concerns about feeling lonely when travelling solo, only to report within a week or so of their trip that they have made many new friends and were having a wonderful time.

Travelling Alone is Not Dangerous
Another common misconception. There are extra precautions to be taken when travelling alone, namely staying in control at all times (thus avoiding getting drunk or high) but apart from that, the travel precautions for two people is the same as for one.  Common sense is the key to not getting in danger – so if something does not feel right, than it usually is not.  I’ve met plenty of solo female travellers who have not had any serious safety issues when travelling – and that includes solo travel through the Middle East.

For more information on how to avoid dangers when travelling, please read Safe Travel.

What If I Feel Lonely?
Thankfully the Internet is a great saviour if feelings of loneliness come to the fore. Chatting via Facebook, or a video call via Skype can assist one to get through these difficult times. When I commenced travelling in the late 1980s none of this technology existed – one had to rely on either very expensive and poor phone lines or postcards and letters to communicate with home.

If relying on the Internet does not work, try finding another destination. If you are more comfortable with a place then the less lonely you will be. If a particularly city, town or beach is making you miss home more and more, than find somewhere else. Eventually, you will find people who connect with you and at that time, your feelings of loneliness will disappear.

The worst option if you feel lonely is to return home. Every person who I have met who has curtailed their travelling to return to their home country because they miss family and/or friends has regretted it. Continue with your journey for as long as your finances or free time allows, and then return. You will be the better and stronger person for doing so. If you don’t think you can spend another day on the road alone, see if you can convince a friend or family member to join you to undertake the rest of the journey together.