If you have ever:
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- Been frustrated by whiny travel companions.
- Resented being dragged places you don’t want to go.
- Felt guilty for dragging others places you do want to go.
- Been rushed when you wanted to linger longer.
- Struggled to find friends who are ready and eager to travel when you are.
- Hungered for more time to yourself to discover you …
… then it’s time you traveled solo.
I’ve traveled alone down the Blues Highway from Chicago to New Orleans going to as many blues bars as I could fit into my journey. I’ve wandered India, hiked Patagonia, learned to Salsa dance in Havana and RV’d through the national parks of the American southwest. And I’ve done it all solo.
When I tell some people about traveling alone I often see their breathing tighten with concern. I’ve received many emails from people anxiously contemplating their first solo trip. But traveling alone needn’t cause such reactions.
My purpose here is simple: to break a few myths and offer a few tips about solo travel. With thousands of solo miles under my belt I’ve had plenty of time to explore what works and what doesn’t. With over 800 posts about solo travel on my blog and having written The Solo Traveler’s Handbook I’ve had time to process its meaning and clarify best practices. So, as promised, here’s what you absolutely must know about solo travel.
#1: Safety Is Your Top Priority But It’s Not Really that Difficult
Let’s get the priorities straight first. When you’re traveling what’s important is your person, your documents, your money and your stuff — in that order. Yes, have a padlock for your locker at the hostel, divide your money into multiple places, keep your passport and other important documents safe and hold copies of them in the cloud. There are thousands of tips of this nature but really, the most important thing is you.
To keep yourself safe, stay in public. Don’t go to people’s homes when you don’t know them. Recruit others in your safety. If you’re feeling unsure about a situation, choose whose help you want, don’t let someone else choose you. Stay well rested and sober so that you have your wits about you. Use the same common sense that you use at home. Follow your instincts.
And, be rude if someone is causing you a problem. Draw attention to you and them. I have written oodles on this subject but these basics really do keep you safe.
#2: You’ll Meet More People — Locals + Other Travelers — Going Solo
When you’re traveling with someone else, you spend a considerable amount of time focused on them. When you’re traveling solo you are open to the world. And, as a result, the world is open to you. Eager to help and ensure that you have a good time, people talk to solo travelers more.
As a solo traveler, tours are also an option, which will mean that you meet new people in the group. In many cases, tours charge what’s called a “single supplement” for those traveling alone. It’s a frustrating surcharge for solo travelers. However, some companies are coming around to the idea that solo travelers are an important market.
I send out a free Solo Traveler Advisory on the third Monday of every month with links to companies who have tours, cruises and travel packages specifically for solo travelers.
#3: Boredom Need Not Be an Issue
When you’re traveling alone you are totally free to pursue what really interests you. Take courses or classes, spend hours in museums, climb mountains, go to the opera ”¦ do whatever you want.
Don’t miss the free greeter programs that are in many cities. When you book, tell them what interests you and they can usually find a greeter to match. Do you like music, architecture, cycling, sports … ? Just ask!
#4: Eating Alone Is a Good Thing
Eating alone is no problem for many and a deal breaker for some. But really, eating alone is a good thing. It’s a time to:
- Stop moving, narrow your focus, enjoy your food and reflect.
- Make notes on your day, write post cards or plan your next day’s itinerary.
- Meet new people by going to a restaurant with a communal table or sitting at the bar in the restaurant or pub.
Reframe dining solo into a good thing. It’s up to you how you do it.
#5: It’s a Time for Personal Development. Go for It!
Whether things are going well or you’re in a transition phase, whether you’re in your twenties and wondering what your career should be or in your fifties and really need to reassess the choices you’ve made, traveling alone gives you the space to gain perspective, evaluate options, reconsider your position and develop personally.
#6: You Can Go Anywhere Solo
There is no destination that’s off limits to solo travelers. You can go anywhere in the world that other travelers go, however, you may want to know in advance what the destination is like for solo travelers. The Solo Travel Society on Facebook is a forum of over 12,000 solo travelers who have a wealth of experience. Every Monday and Thursday member questions are posted and other members to answer.