I believe solo travel is something that everyone should try at least once, even just for a short time, it puts you outside your comfort zone yet you are in control of what happens (well, most of the time).
The combination of fear and bravery that comes with being 100% responsible for everything that happens is like a real life choose your own adventure book! Sometimes the journey that you imagined turns out completely different in the end – the places you go, the accommodation you choose, the food you eat, the people you meet, the experiences you have may be totally opposite to what you had planned or envisaged because of opportunities and interventions that are unpredictable and the decisions you make.
Check out these tips that can help you navigate some of the challenges of solo travel and get the best from your ‘me’ time.
- Room for one
Choosing accommodation can make a huge impact on a solo travel experience. You will often weigh up cost versus comfort because travelling solo means no splitting the hotel room charge with a travel companion which can add up on a long trip. You may want to consider hostels which have certainly come a long way over the past few years – most are no longer dingy, damp rooms with a dozen squeaky bunk beds but contemporary spaces with free wifi and social events. You may still be sharing a dorm room with multiple strangers but you will save plenty of money to spend on the rest of your trip.
Consider a mixture of types of accommodation that suit your budget, for short overnight stays you will just need a basic bed as you will literally be there for sleeping choose a hostel to save dollars. On a longer stay you might want a little more space and privacy, try jumping online for a hotel deal. Airbnb is also fantastic to find accommodation that suits your needs and budget and you get the benefit of living like a local in a local home.
- Reading at the dining table is allowed
Eating out alone is probably the biggest challenge for most solo travellers, at times you will feel like everyone is staring at you wondering why you may be alone – the actual truth is they aren’t, in fact they probably don’t even notice. My solution is to read – a guide book, map, novel, ebook – in my mind it’s kind of like if I can’t see them looking at me then they can’t see me! Another way of avoiding this awkward feeling is to sit at the bar – many restaurants have bench seating along the kitchen so you can see the food being prepared and even chat with the chef or bar tender – if you are lucky they may even offer you a tasting or two!
- Put yourself in the picture
I have returned from many a solo trip with photos of the spectacular scenery, beautiful sunsets, incredible architecture but not one shot of myself having the time of my life – was I really even there? The selfie can give you a great head and shoulders shot and the selfie stick is great if you have wifi but a fun piece of equipment I have added to my travel kit is the gorilla pod. This little bendy tripod means you can take some fun shots of yourself using your phone or camera on a timer.
- Say ‘Yes’
Some of the best experiences I’ve had have been from taking a chance and saying ‘yes’ to an invite or an opportunity. I was in a hostel in Munich, a city famous for beer, and full of beer halls – which aren’t that enjoyable on your own. I was staying in a hostel and was invited to join a group of travellers to try to taste every beer made in Munich on a ‘beer hall tour’ of sorts – I said ‘yes’. To be honest, at this point I didn’t even drink beer but I was quickly trained in the finer points of stein swilling and managed to make my way around the city trying beer after beer with my new found friends from all over the world. I was so glad I said ‘yes’, I made some great friends and had a fun experience I wouldn’t have had alone.
This tip comes with a disclaimer that you need to feel safe and comfortable with what you are saying ‘yes’ to and always have a plan B.
It’s amazing what a smile can do – start a conversation, meet a local, get the best table with a view at a famous restaurant, taste a local delicacy at the market – the options are endless. It also exudes confidence even if you are not sure what may be happening or where you are going just smile who knows what might happen…
Have you solo travelled? What are you top tips? Share in the comments below: