Traveling alone has countless benefits. For once, you have the time to order your thoughts, and reflect on who you really are. Friends, partners, children, and family — none of them are there to disrupt your journey, both mental and physical.
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However, solo travel has its disadvantages. Loneliness, in particular, can creep up on you and wear you down. But no need to break a sweat. If you really are having a bad day, feeling homesick or just not loving the “alone time” anymore, here’s how to beat the solo traveler’s blues:
Tip #1: Simply Don’t Spend Time Alone
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Meeting new people and making friends can be a quick fix to your despair. Hostels in particular are a great way to meet fellow travelers. Hang out in the kitchen or the lobby, and strike up a conversion about things to do or where else they have traveled. You will see, you are not the only one traveling alone, and people are usually very open about sharing tips. You may end up cooking dinner with a few strangers and having the time of your life.
Tip #2: Find a Travel Companion
No need to tell me that the heading reads “solo travel.” Sometimes, however, joining up with another person or group can enrich your experience. Ask around at the hostel to see who is heading where.
If that fails, feel free to go online, too. Leyla of Women on the Road has compiled a list of “Best Travel Forums” for men and women alike. Log in, punch in a country or city, and chat with like-minded people to figure out whether you can travel together.
Tip #3: Go Explore
When you’re feeling down, staying curled up in bed isn’t going to help. Take advantage of being abroad and go for a walk. If you need it, take a map with you. Discover the place that you’re in. Wander off the beaten track, if it’s safe to do so. Whether you choose to see the tourist sites or simply people-watch, being out and about will take your mind off being lonely. Cherish the fact that you are far from home.
If you’re afraid of sitting down in a café by yourself, just carry a book or journal with you. There is nothing wrong with dining alone, and a good read or meaningful diary entry can sweep you away to (even more) foreign lands.
Tip #4: Challenge Yourself
Have you always wanted to sky dive? Learn Chinese? Take a tango class with the pros? Now is the time to do it. Being abroad often helps to overcome your fears.
In Argentina, I tested my fear of heights, and went on a canopy tour. Confiding in the cable might not be easy at first, but in the end, can be incredibly liberating. If you’re lucky, you just might get addicted to your new passion.
Tip #5: Treat Yourself
Think about what you love. A delicious meal? A day at a spa? A night in a feather bed? Sure, traveling as a backpacker almost always means traveling on a budget. But once in while, reward yourself by staying at an upscale hotel after camping for two weeks straight. I don’t consider myself materialistic, but a steaming bath and a hot cup of gourmet tea or coffee can make all the difference.
Tip #6: Savor a Little Taste of Home
Being abroad can make you miss the most minute details from back home. In fact, you probably never even realized that you like Oreos so much when you can’t get them for an extended period of time. In some places, you may be able to find your favorites at a specialty store.
If not, attempt to find an equivalent of things that you value. Why not try fresh Lebkuchen if you’re in Munich? Or homemade Torrijas in Spain? You may like them more than the packaged sweets you can always get back home.
Tip #7: Read Your Favorite Book or Watch Your Much-loved TV Show
Here, you might have to plan ahead a bit. I know, traveling is all about immersing oneself in the local culture. Sometimes, however, you might not be in the mood for practicing your French. This is when your treasures from home come in. Before you go, pack your preferred books and DVDs, and take them out when you need some comfort.
Tip #8: Connect With Friends and Family
Again, traveling is all about getting to know another way of life. Talking or writing to people you know and trust, however, can work miracles when you are down. Open up, and tell your loved ones that you miss them
Tip #9: Travel Slower
Those going abroad for the first time often treat travel as a checklist. The Vatican Palace, the Louvre, the Oktoberfest … and better yet, “do” all of them in a day. However, there is much more to travel than hitting the tourist sites, and hitting them fast. Take a moment to reflect on your surroundings.
When people travel quickly, they don’t even have time to process everything that they have seen. Making friends, and meeting locals in particular, gets lost along the way. By staying a bit longer, you can really get to know the place and the people in it. You may even hang about, and become an expat sooner than you know it.
Tip #10: Don’t Despair!
Shedding a tear or two is normal, and can even help. Spending days on end depressed, however, is neither necessary nor healthy. The important thing is to make an effort to overcome those blue moments. Opt to be positive, because what goes around comes around!