Pack your bags, grab your ticket and head off on your next adventure. Seems simple enough right?…… well it can be, but traveling unprepared and uneducated can also be dangerous.
While the thought of traveling alone can seem daunting, it can be an incredibly liberating experience. So much so that once you have experienced it, you may never want to travel with a companion again. Starting off solo does not necessarily mean that you will travel alone. There are many travelers on the road, traveling by themselves for the same reasons you are, which makes it easy to connect.
Traveling alone exposes travelers to people they may never have encountered had they been traveling in a twosome yet it can also be significantly more dangerous than traveling with another person. Below are the pitfalls and joys of solo travel.
All the good stuff
1. You are your own boss
The very reason you decided to embark on this trip is to see the world on your own terms, so why have someone holding you back from crafting the very best possible trip for you? Traveling solo affords travelers with total flexibility.
Some backpackers prefer to stick to a regimented itinerary while others like to go with the flow. Traveling solo is the ultimate form of self – indulgence as it allows you to do what you want when you want without worrying about the needs of anyone else but you.
2. Get exposed to new experiences
Traveling in a group, even in a twosome, can often close oneself off to new experiences and people. As a solo traveler, you are more open to meeting new people along the road and chatting up the locals. Not only will you encounter new and interesting people that you may never have met traveling in a pack but these people will also expose you to some new experiences.
For instance, while traveling solo in Spain I met some Swedish guys who were playing in a beach volleyball tournament and one of their players was injured. I ended up filling in and later flew to Sweden to meet up with them again. I likely would never have gone there had I not been traveling on my own.
3. Moments of solitude
Depending on the type of traveler you are, this may be either a positive or negative aspect of traveling on your own. As a solo traveler, you will have long stretches of time where you have no one to talk to.
This is always a good time to reflect upon your life, trip and what you hope to accomplish once you return home. For some, this may lead to feelings of loneliness while others relish in the time away from others.
All the bad stuff
1. No one there to watch your back
It’s always nice to have a sounding board to bounce ideas off of; for instance, is this travel agent trying to scam me, is this a good price or is getting into this sketchy car a good idea? When you are traveling alone you need to rely solely on your own instincts.
2. Safety issues
When traveling alone you always need to be more cognizant of your safety this includes: from indulging in sketchy food; to having one too many drinks; to traveling to remote regions where there are little to no other travelers. Women should be particularly careful when traveling alone. Some ways to stay safe are:
- To elude the tourist mark, avoid wearing touristy clothes (i.e. leave your Hawaiian tees at home) and flashy jewelry.
- Women should dress modestly especially at religious sites or in Arabic countries.
- To avoid unwanted male attention, women might consider wearing a silver ringer on their wedding finger and insist that they are married en route to meet their husband.
- Spread your money and credit/bank cards amongst your various bags just in case one is stolen you won’t be left washing the hostel’s floors.
- It’s a good idea to have a rough itinerary, which you should pass onto your family (inform them of any major changes) so that they can keep track of you. In addition, stay in touch with friends or family at home either by e-mail or international cell phone so they can keep tabs on your whereabouts. It’s also a wise to inform your home country consulate regarding your dates of travel.
- Do not indulge in any heavy drugs or alcohol (especially solo female travelers) as there is no one to watch out for you just in case you become ill or are taken advantage of.
While it may be exhilarating to meet new people, at the end of the day you return to an empty room and are ultimately by yourself. Undoubtedly, even the most independent travelers have moments where they wish they could share an experience with another individual; whether it’s a mesmerizing sunset or a lonely meal. But don’t sweat it, these moments are few and far between and you will likely have company whether you like it or not.
Since single rooms are generally more expensive that double rooms, solo travelers should be prepared to pay a few extra bucks. Solo travelers can reduce the cost of their accommodation either by finding a roommate or sleeping in a dorm. Generally, sharing the price of a room brings your cost down by half.
It’s always a good idea to negotiate the price of your room beforehand and see if the hostel owner is willing to give you a break.
HOW TO MEET PEOPLE ON THE ROAD
Make friends for the journey, or for life
- Some destinations are better for meeting other solo travelers than others. For instance, due to the hostel culture and abundance of travelers in Europe and Australia, nine times out of ten you won’t be on your own. Whereas traveling to remote regions of Africa, it may be hard to find other backpackers.
- Go to a travel-friendly place – this means checking into a hostel and not a five-star hotel.
- While it’s sometimes a corny way to see a city, day tours are a great way to meet new people and an easy and relaxing way to spend your day.
- If you are in an area where there aren’t many travelers, it’s always a good idea to check travel forums to see if anyone else is heading in the same direction as you.
Don’t let you fear of the unknown keep you from the open road. For more tips on meeting people, see – How to Make New Connections on the Road.