You’ve always wanted to travel and see more of the world. But perhaps no one else in the family shares that wandering urge; maybe you’re still looking for a relationship partner serious enough to share a trip with, and your friends have young children and aren’t free to just pick up and go to the nearest hot spot with you. So do you hop in that plane/train/automobile and just go? Or have you seen too many movies like Brooklyn, where the protagonist takes a hideous solo sea voyage only to face a strange and sometimes frightening new land? It all works out in the end, but understandably, there are some fears around solo travelling that can prevent people from striking out on their own.
Here are 5 hurdles – we like to call them hurdles rather than fears, because while both can be surmounted, most everyone likes a challenge – that solo travellers can face, and our recommendations to get past those barriers.
- Safety. While safety in numbers is a myth, it’s true that a lone tourist can feel like a target to be picked off by the bad guys. But if you stay aware of cultural norms and expectations, and exercise a basic amount of caution, like respecting your surroundings enough not to venture into an iffy part of town at night while intoxicated, you should be fine. Extra concerned about safety? Choose a resort or cruise vacation where security will be high and the boundaries will be clearly marked.
- Loneliness. What’s the point of seeing awesome sights and experiencing new things without someone to share it with, right? When the people who love you unconditionally are not travelling with you, you share your adventures with strangers – it’s a lot easier than you think. Most cultures are warmer to travellers than ours, and locals and fellow tourists alike will think nothing of inviting you to share a table/drink/boat/cab with them. You’ll meet new people and make friendships that can last for a day or a lifetime. Extra worried about loneliness? Join a tour group.
- Boredom. Laying on the beach alone again? Won’t you find yourself going to bed at 8 pm since there’s really nothing to do but watch Law & Order reruns in your hotel room? Depending on what kind of adventure you’re on, there will be varying amounts of downtime. If you’re taking a bus tour of Vietnam’s sacred sites then no, you will not be bored, at all, ever. If you’re just lounging somewhere, bring the books, meditations, and sketches you’ve wanted to catch up on forever. Bored easily? Book a themed adventure tour. And remember – now’s your chance to spend time with the most important person: You.
- Lack of confidence. What if something goes wrong? What if no one speaks English, you can’t get bars, your checked baggage goes missing, the hotel address doesn’t exist? Well, you have solved and survived a lot worse – and the likelihood of these things happening is quite slim. Take precautions to prevent multiple disasters, like setting a budget and changing some smartly stashed money in advance, packing spare clothes and mini toiletries in a compact carry on, printing out a hard copy map… and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your confidence and self-esteem will experience a huge boost and if confidence is really problematic, do an online crash course in the language and prepare some phrases to get you through.
- Homesickness. Of course you’ll miss the folks back home, even if you’re absolutely loving your time in the new place; that’s part of the reason we travel, to appreciate what we have left behind and make the heart grow fonder. But heartache doesn’t have to cripple your solo travel adventure. Just make sure your phone is loaded with pictures of loved ones and purchase a special cell phone travel plan to avoid crazy roaming charges when you just have to hear their voices.
Travelling alone can be scary, but it’s also incredibly freeing and exhilarating. Solo travellers…share your best tips for overcoming the challenges of solo travel here!