Shopping, eating in a restaurant, watching a movie. In theory, these are all things that can be done alone. But, let’s face it: most people freak out at the thought of it. Solo travel takes this fear to the next level. Sure, in certain destinations and situations there are valid safety concerns. But if you can work around those, travelling by yourself can be amazing. Need some convincing? Consider these benefits before deciding if you want to venture out on your own.
You get to call the shots on everything
There’s nothing is worse than being dragged to something you have zero enthusiasm for when you’re on vacation. Want to museum-hop all day and then bar-hop all night? Fine. Or maybe you want to do absolutely nothing by the beach. It’s your trip, so you get to make all the decisions without having to worry about what anyone else wants to do.
You have more control over spending
We all know that solo travel generally isn’t cheaper on a per person basis (think about all the single supplement fees and not being able to split costs for things like meals). However, because you’re on your own, it does make it easier to monitor how much money you’re spending, and you won’t have to spend money on things you’re really not interested in.
You don’t have to deal with drama
You know how they say you only truly know your friends and loved ones when you travel with them? It’s not far from the truth. When you explore the world on your own, you don’t have to worry about getting into fights or awkward personality clashes with the people you thought you knew well. With solo travel, you can leave the drama at home.
You meet new, interesting people
When you’re travelling with people you’re familiar with, the chances are you won’t step out of your comfort zone and interact with others. Don’t feel bad: it’s human nature. That’s why going solo is great for making new friends from all over the world. It might sometimes be difficult but when you’re by yourself in a foreign country, either you or those around you will find it easier to strike up a conversation. Speaking of which…
You’ll get to know yourself more intimately
… if you do get lonely, consider it an opportunity to get to really know yourself. In fact, a little bit of loneliness can do you a world of good. It’s your opportunity to do things you wouldn’t normally be able to, like meditate or reflect. Learn to be comfortable with the things that would typically make you uncomfortable. That could be silence or it might be talking to strangers. Either way, solo travel enables you – and your confidence – to grow in many ways.
You’ll be able to problem-solve better and watch out for yourself
When you’re by yourself in a new place, and you face challenges or need to make a decision, you have no choice but to rely on, well, yourself. Whether you’re figuring out how to get to a certain place or deciphering dish names on a menu in a local restaurant, you’ll get to the point where you take a deep breath and tell yourself, “I’ve got this!”
Solo travel also teaches you to be vigilant. Without wanting to be so paranoid you miss out on all the good stuff, you should develop a good grasp of being cautious and looking out for yourself. It’s all about staying alert and being mindful of your surroundings and the people around you.
If you’re on Team ‘Go Solo’ and are wondering how to do it – or even how to get started – here are some of the things you need to consider.
The type of trip you’ll take
For solo travel, ideally, you’d want to organise every aspect of the trip yourself (after all, it’s part of the experience of setting out on your own). But that can be tough for even seasoned travellers, particularly if you’re thinking about visiting off-the-beaten-track destinations or places that don’t have much information available online. If going the DIY route is not possible, you can start by looking at companies like Intrepid Tours that organise tours specifically for solo travellers. There are also companies like Anywhr that plan surprise trips for you based on your preferences and travel style.
On the other hand, if you’re toying with the idea of solo travel but aren’t quite brave enough yet, another thing you could do is tag along with some mates of yours who are travelling (if they don’t mind, of course) and go out on your own once you’ve arrived at your destination. You could get a room in the same hotel as them, or share the same apartment, but do your own thing all day. The options are endless, and as long as you push yourself to be alone at some point, you’re one step closer to being able to do that solo trip.
Being prepared when you solo travel
It’s important to be very well prepared. You’re not in the company of people you know very well (or at all), and safety should be your top priority, especially if you’re a female traveller. Even if you’re not a fan of staying connected while on vacation, this is the one time you should actually consider getting a local SIM card so you can easily send messages out and make phone calls should anything happen. As a backup, also remember to let family members and friends know where you’re going when you’re out of town. If possible, share your full itinerary with them.
You should also make sure you have extra copies of everything, from your passport to your medicine (i.e. take photos of labels so the local doctors know what to prescribe should you lose your medication or need more).
Before you even arrive at your destination, do your research so you know what to expect, at least as much as possible. One good way to do this is to speak to people who’ve “been there, done that”. You can use Facebook groups, forums and websites like TripAdvisor to tap into a wealth of knowledge, courtesy of locals, experienced travellers and solo adventurers like yourself.
Coming back to spending and budgeting, do keep in mind that solo travel has its pros and cons when it comes to this department. One con, as some may see it, is that instead of playing by ear and showing up at your destination to look for a place to stay (some say it’s cheaper this way), you’re better off making early bookings and paying for your accommodation before your arrival. This helps to prevent any unpleasant surprises, like dodgy rooms in a city with hotels that are booked out, and it can further help you tighten your budget since you won’t have to worry about spending more than what you already have in your wallet.
Also, it’s good to note the basics, like ensuring you have enough local currency on you (in certain places, like Bali, you might want to avoid the local money changers because of the high number of scams reported by tourists). Be sure to contact your bank before you leave town so your card works properly while you’re overseas.
In a nutshell, be an absolute boy (or girl) scout when it comes to solo travel, and you’ll be good to go. Of course, even after all that planning, researching and budgeting, if things don’t go as planned, fret not. Stay calm and you’ll soon find solutions to your problems. After all, if there’s a will, there’s a way!