Many bloggers have talked about the joys and disappointments of solo travel.
While traveling alone can have a lot of advantages, sometimes it can also be very lonely. Constantly having to ask strangers to take photographs of you becomes a regular routine. Having to answer questions about why you are not traveling with your friends also becomes routine, and you will have an immediate response ready.
While there are both advantages and disadvantages to traveling solo, I believe that there are two main advantages to traveling by yourself:
- While traveling alone, you can make your own itinerary and do and see what you want in your own time
- You can meet many new and interesting people (i.e. through programs like Couch Surfing)
Combatting Loneliness as a Solo Traveler
The loneliness aspect of traveling solo is often a deterrent for people thinking of hitting the road on their own.
Not being able to share an experience with someone you care about or constantly having to take pictures of oneself can definitely make a person feel lonely.
Sometimes you don’t want to explain to strangers why you are alone on your travels and sometimes you just want someone to talk to.
A great way to combat loneliness and get to know people is by taking a tour. Personally, I love taking walking tours, as they are a great way to meet other travelers. I have met many solo travelers through walking tours, who were also looking for a temporary travel buddy, and it helps make being on the road alone a little bit easier.
If taking tours to meet people is not your thing, there are also other ways to combat your loneliness, such as joining different events through websites like Couchsurfing, where you can attend events happening in the area with other travelers and locals. If you are staying in a hostel, you could also meet travelers that you are sharing a room with or that are in the common areas.
Getting Lost as a Solo Traveler
“Getting lost will help you find yourself” -Holstee Manifesto
Once in a while traveling in an unfamiliar area, you will get lost; it is inevitable, but there is no need to fear.
As a solo traveler, what do you do when you do not know how to get around in an unknown place? The same thing you would do in any unfamiliar place: either rely on the kindness of strangers to help you figure out where you are going, or use a GPS service, such as Google Maps.
Dining Out as a Solo Traveler
As a solo traveler, you might dine out alone (unless you make friends with someone), and although it can sometimes be a tad uncomfortable, your body still needs nourishment.
When I first started my solo travel adventures, I was always self-conscious about eating by myself. I always felt like people were staring at me, and probably taking pity on me because I had no one to eat with. These days I am a lot more confident in eating alone, but sometimes I do wish that I had someone to share a conversation with. Generally, when I am eating by myself I strike up a conversation with employees or other solo travelers at nearby tables.
Still a little bit nervous about dining alone? Check out this article by Indiana Jo entitled “20 Tips for Eating Out Alone – From A Seasoned Solo Diner”
Taking Photos as a Solo Traveler
When you are on your solo trip, you might want photographs of yourself in your destination. So how do you go about getting photographs of yourself when you do not have a travel companion? Well, you have a few options: ask someone to take a photograph of you, use a tripod, or use a selfie stick.
Over the years I have learned that you have to be selective when asking strangers to take your photograph. There are some people who are just not skilled in taking photographs, even with basic point and shoot cameras. On numerous occasions, I have asked people to take photographs of me only to get my camera back with blurry pictures. These days, I generally tend to look out for people who are carrying a professional camera or who are looking for an amazing shot.
There are times that you might be in a remote location or a location with no one around, and you might want a photograph of yourself at that very moment. At those times, you might opt to use a tripod or a selfie-stick.
Staying Safe as a Solo Traveler
When it comes to safety, I generally follow the same rules all of the time, whether I am at home in New York City or in an unfamiliar country.
- Keep an eye on your purse (or backpack). In New York, I do not necessarily worry about this that often, but when traveling to other countries, particularly countries in Europe where pickpocketing occurs frequently, I always make sure I keep an eye on the zipper of my bag.
- Avoid desolate places after dusk. One way to minimize the risk of being involved in dangerous situations is to avoid places where there are not many people around, particularly after dusk.
- Party like it is your birthday – safely. It is fine to go out and have a couple of drinks, but make sure you stay alert enough to know how to get back to where you are staying during your trip.
- Let people know where you are. Whether it is a friend or a family member, at all times, someone should know where you are (even if it is just a general location). Whenever I travel, I keep my family updated on what hotels/hostels I will be staying at or I give them the address of the location of the apartment rental I will be staying in.
Make sure to check out my article about avoiding travel scams so that you can avoid getting put in a sticky situation.
Solo travel is an exciting adventure that you can make up as you go.
While at times it can be very lonely and frustrating, in the end, it helps you to get to know yourself better. You also learn more about what you like, dislike, and won’t tolerate, and what truly makes you happy.