Have you ever found yourself planning for that trip of a lifetime – you know exactly where you want to go, you’ve scrimped and saved and you are ready to book those flights at a drop of a hat! But there is one thing that’s not going according to the plan … you have no one to travel with. You may find yourself in a situation where your friends are either not financial to travel or they simply have other responsibilities and priorities that prevent them from being able to travel at that point in time.
So where does that leave you? All those dreams you had about sailing a yacht through the Greek Islands or driving your way through France’s wine regions or walking the Great Wall of China are sinking faster than the Titanic. Sometimes the timing just isn’t right and your circle of family and friends maybe at different stages in their lives or on different paths. This is especially so the older we get, the friendship circle gets smaller and people’s responsibilities increase.
But what about that burning desire you have to see Europe or to sit in that hammock overlooking a tropical paradise? Don’t let it be something that is destined to sit on your bucket list for an eternity. What is stopping you from making it into a reality? There are lot’s of reasons people are afraid to travel solo, all of which are completely understandable. More than ever people are choosing to travel solo and the biggest rise is with females taking on the challenge. If you have never considered solo travel, ask yourself have you been putting it off for the following reasons?
1. Fear of the unknown
The first thing we think of when we contemplate travelling solo is the fear of the unknown. All the “what ifs” come into play and the self doubts begin to seep in. You may be asking yourself whether you are capable of making all the right decisions, will it be lonely, is it safe to travel by yourself and how does one go about coordinating travelling from one end of the world to the other? Well it’s time to replace fear of the unknown with curiosity!
2. Being alone
Being alone with no one to share the day’s adventures with or to reminisce about it later on is one aspect of solo travel that is hard to escape from. Now this is all a matter of perspective and how you choose to look at an experience is purely subjective.
You may be alone but you have the absolute freedom to do whatever you like, whenever you like and you can change your plans to suit yourself without ever having to consult with others. So if you want to get up before sunrise to photograph the Eiffel Tower before the crowds, you most certainly can!
How many times have you been on holiday or even a weekend away where everyone seems to have different ideas on what to do and when to do it? Overseas holidays can be a very testing time on friendships as you are constantly living in each other’s pockets and at some point you will inevitably go off and do your own thing anyway.
During the day you will be too busy taking in the sights to think about the fact you are by yourself and the key here is to keep busy, fill your itinerary with purpose each day.
Night time is probably the single most time when being alone can really hit home. Ways to combat this is to keep a journal and write down all your thoughts and experiences for the day.
Pre-arrange with family and friends a scheduled time that you will be available to give them a phone call or to Skype.
Post your photos on social media with a brief description and read the comments later on at night when you are back in your accommodation.
3. The awkwardness of eating alone
Eating alone is probably one of the most dreaded aspects of solo travel. Your mind immediately wanders to those times when waiting on a friend to arrive at a bar or restaurant and those awkward five to ten minutes until they turn up may feel like an eternity. It may have you questioning how you will cope by yourself for the whole meal and possibly an hour with your own company! Worse still will you feel judged for eating alone?
Yes it will become pretty obvious that you are alone, but really is it a big deal if you are? It’s not like you are going to be best friends with the married couple on the table next to you. They are probably not even thinking about you as most diners are out for a good meal and that is what they will be concerned with. You will probably just get a glance and thought about for all of five seconds.
If you are still not convinced about eating alone, there are some strategies you can implement to ease the awkwardness you may feel.
When dining for breakfast and lunch, bring along a newspaper. You will look busy and it will certainly pass the time whilst you are waiting for your meal to arrive.
Look for alfresco dining on the street. There is nothing better than having an ever changing view right in front of your eyes. People watching and admiring the street scene is a great way to pass the time. You will see many people in Europe sitting at tiny little tables facing the street watching the world go by.
Take a travel book and read up on your next destination or have a notepad and plan what you are going to do for the next day.
Find restaurants that have communal tables. I’ve sat in many restaurants where we have had to share our table with others and it’s a good way to have a conversation or just general chit chat with others. The last time this happened to me was in Paris with my son, we were seated on a table set for four at a very busy restaurant and in order not to waste a chair at our table we were joined by a French man on his own, we had a lovely conversation about what I thought of Paris and where he was from and what he did.
If all else fails, you can always order room service!
4. Staying Safe
The feeling of being unsafe in a foreign country may be another obstacle to solo travel and that old saying that there is safety in numbers is said for a reason. Without the company of others for support, you will need to look out for and keep yourself safe.
Whilst it is important to be sensible when travelling you should always stick to the rule that you don’t do what you wouldn’t do in your own country.
If in a foreign country that is significantly different to your own, then you must research the culture of that country before you go. Find out what is culturally acceptable, the basic laws of that country, and dress modestly. Check for any travel alerts within that country before you leave and register online with your government’s traveller website and document your travel plans.
Do most of your sightseeing during the day when there are more people or other tourists around.
Try to arrive at your destination during the day and to allow yourself plenty of time to find your hotel rather than at night where they may be limited transport services available.
If you are out at night stick to where the crowds are or stay within walking distance of your accommodation.
Always carry a map but study it before you head out, as looking lost could attract some unwanted attention.
Most importantly go with your gut feeling, if you feel that a situation is not safe then listen to that inner voice, it’s there for a reason.
You may be wondering whether or not you can pull off organising your own travel or even whether you are confident enough to make the decisions all the time.
The trick is to build your confidence up stage by stage. Once you have made the decision to travel solo, begin researching destinations that you would like to see and where you would feel comfortable. Even if you start by travelling somewhere in your own country first, this will give you an insight into what it is like to travel solo. Think of it as a trial run without going too far from your home and a way to build your confidence.
Other options are to visit your local travel agent who will help you out with booking and advice or even organise some tour groups you can join if you don’t want to be alone for the whole trip.
So there you have it, there are lots of positive aspects to solo travel. Travelling solo will give you the total freedom to decide on what you want to see and do without having to compromise with anyone else. Your travel experience will be entirely yours and will give you the feeling of accomplishment and self reliance. Now all there is to do is book your flight!