Everything You Need to Know About Solo Travel
Compiled by Shafiya Nawzer
These days, an increasing number of modern explorers are taking vacations by themselves. People who have never travelled alone often describe their first solo trip as an almost religious experience. To take in new surroundings unfiltered by the prejudices, tastes, or preferences of a travelling companion can be heady stuff. Solo travel gives you the chance to indulge yourself fully. There's nothing quite like discovering a new place on your own, taking it all in without anyone but yourself. Anyone who's done it can tell you that the benefits of solo travel are endless.
Of course, travelling alone has its perils too such as safety concerns, loneliness, and the dreaded single supplement. But a little preparation and common sense can save you money and get you through the rough spots.
Why travel alone?
Solo travel can be the ultimate in self-indulgence; you can rest when you want and pour it on when you’re feeling ambitious. Another benefit is that your mistakes are your own, and your triumphs all the more exciting. There’s no worrying that your insistence on trekking across town to a museum that was closed ruined your partner’s day; it’s your day to salvage or chalk up to a learning experience. Also, you can do exactly what you want to do all the time.
How to travel alone safely
It’s perhaps the foremost question of the solo or single traveller, “Is solo travel safe?” Without a companion to watch your back, you are more vulnerable to criminals and scam artists, as well as simple health worries. But the saying ‘safety in numbers’ isn’t always true - a solo traveller can blend in more easily than a group, and not drawing attention to yourself as a tourist is one way to stay secure.
Here are a few safety tips for travelling alone
Do your homework before you arrive. Know how long it takes and how much it costs to get from the airport to your hotel or the city centre. Solo travellers are more likely to be ‘taken for a ride,’ so asks the taxi driver for an estimated fare before you leave. If it’s considerably different from what you know to be true, take a different cab.
Choose the right accommodations. Book a hotel with a 24-hour front desk if you’ll be arriving late. Trust yourself. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
Carry good identification—in more than one place. If you choose to wear a money belt, use it for storage and not as a purse. Constantly reaching under your shirt for money draws attention to it and defeats the purpose. Instead, keep your passport, extra stores of money, and other important documents tucked away, and use a theft-resistant bag or purse for carrying daily spending money.
Stick to open and public places, especially at night. Check your maps and transportation schedules before leaving your hotel/train/rental car/tourist office. A solo traveller who’s too absorbed in her phone can be a mark for unsavoury types. Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member at home, and stay in touch regularly via phone, text, video chat, or email.
Benefits of solo travel
Travelling itself is so beneficial for all of us because it simply expands our horizons and makes us realise the importance of exploring and not living in one place all the time. Travelling on your own has also great advantages for you. If you want to go and travel alone at least once in your life, here are the top reasons why you need to do it:
You can be completely selfish
This may be the only context in which selfishness isn't a bad thing. Travelling with others means making plans with others. Checking out local landmarks, museums, restaurants and attractions can be challenging when each traveller has something different in mind. But what if you could spend each day any way you like? Fancy spending six hours in a single museum or trekking for miles in chilly conditions? Go right ahead.
You meet interesting people
When you travel with others, you typically stick together. In other words, you're less likely to wander away from your group. But travelling alone brings something truly valuable to the table – you'll be more likely to chat with locals, meet new friends and generally be more sociable.
You can devour as many books as you want
Two major perks of escaping day-to-day life while on vacation include sleeping in and reading as much as you like. But when you're travelling with others, you're usually nudged to put your book down and come back to the group. Solo travel allows you to read to your heart's content.
You come to know yourself more intimately
These days, we're constantly bombarded by stimulation – relentless connectivity to others, as well as the Internet. Rarely do we get the chance to sit with ourselves and simply be. Solo travel provides the opportunity to do just that. Being on your own in a new place serves as a permission slip to slow down, without the distractions you'd feel buzzing around you when travelling with companions. Being alone, and embracing it, is a wonderful part of solo travel.
You can rest without feeling guilty
Feeling wiped out from a long flight? Or from exploring a new city on foot? Let's face it, there's only so much running around you can do. But when you're travelling with friends, the pressure to keep going can be intense. When travelling alone, on the other hand, you can head back to your room for a guilt-free mid-afternoon nap.
You step outside your comfort zone
When travelling with friends, you often troubles-hoot travel hiccups together. Can't find your way around? The solution usually comes by talking it over. Taking a trip on your means you have to get out of any tricky trip situations by yourself, which can help with problem-solving, dealing with pressure and developing self-belief.
You're less likely to feel stressed out
When you're out and about with your usual friends from home, it's easy for old routines and group dynamics to creep up on you. Not so when you're on your own. You’re there for you and you alone – the only drama you’re going to experience is the drama you make yourself.
You'll have the time and inspiration to work on creative projects
Been dying to delve into a creative project? Whether it's writing poetry, developing a new business plan, or playing the guitar, travelling alone provides the opportunity and inspiration – to tap into these desires. When you're untethered to the demands of others you'll probably find it easier to nurture your creativity.
It might make you happier in the long term
Research suggests that getting into vacation mode has the potential to increase our happiness levels. And spending time alone has also been shown to stave off depression. The takeaway? Heading off on a solo adventure just might be good for your overall well-being.
You'll probably improve your language skills
What better way to learn a new language than to throw yourself in headfirst? Full immersion in a foreign culture is possibly the best way to dismantle the language barrier. When travelling with others, you're more likely to rely on them for help with translating. And, let's face it; chances are high that you'll communicate with one another in your native language.
When you're alone, on the other hand, you're forced to constantly practice the new language.