I’m not going to lie. The first time I booked a flight ticket for just me, I wasn’t thinking of the benefits of travelling alone. I was thinking ‘what the heck am I doing!’. Other than moving to a new country by myself for work, I had never travelled alone before.
But I did it. And it was empowering. My first solo trip was to Hong Kong and the first thing I did after checking into my hotel was visit Disneyland. I bought the Minnie ears, I skipped along Main Street eating candy floss. I took 10 million selfies and I watched the parade at the end of the night. All. By. Myself. I left Disneyland smiling to myself (and to others, cos that’s who I am) feeling like I had done the most incredible thing ever. And to me at that time, it was.
Solo travel is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
I understand, you have some concerns. I did too! You’ve never travelled alone before and you’re not sure what to expect. Let’s squash those concerns now. And after you’ve seen the benefits of travelling alone, you’ll be packing your bags in a jiffy!
What if I've never travelled alone before?
Don’t worry. Everyone’s got to start somewhere, haven’t they? If the idea of doing anything on your own terrifies you, why not try these ideas out to wet your feet:
Go to a restaurant or coffee shop on your own – have you ever been in a restaurant, looked at someone else and thought ‘Wow, that person is eating alone!’? No? I hate to tell you, but they’re not that bothered about you either. Bring something to read, talk to the wait staff and enjoy the time by yourself.
Sit in the park and read a book by yourself – enjoy your own company. If you take a glance around, you’ll notice that others are doing exactly the same as you. On their own.
Take a staycation in your own country for a couple of nights to get the feel for what it would be like to travel alone.
What's holding you back?
I have rarely felt lonely while travelling alone. Of course, it can happen. For me it’s usually when dining out on my own and the wait staff say ‘is it just you?’, to which I respond ‘You’ll be glad it’s just me, I’m more than enough!’.
But there are ways around this if you’d rather not sit in a restaurant alone. Order room service instead and snuggle up to watch a movie. Or grab some food on the go so you can keep sightseeing.
I’ve gotten used to eating in restaurants alone and, more often than not, you get chatting to the wait staff or a nearby table. Once I was asked by wait staff if they could seat someone else at my table as they were fully booked. I’m sure they wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t dining alone. And I’m still in contact with my Jordanian friend to this day!
Afraid for your safety
Before I moved to Dubai. a male friend of mine told me I needed to be careful moving to a ‘place like that’, especially as a woman. I asked why and his response was ‘because I’ve heard some stuff’.
Please, please, please don’t ever let people who have ‘heard some stuff’ talk you out of travelling alone! Do you own research (and I don’t mean reading the Daily Mail) on the country you’re planning to travel to, find other solo travellers who have been there, reach out to them if you have concerns. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I didn’t listen to that friend.
Safety will always be an issue when travelling to a country you’ve never been to, whether it’s with a group or by yourself. But something to remember is that, for the majority of countries you want to travel to, the crime rate will be the same (if not lower) then your home country. Here are some safety travel tips for solo travellers:
- Research your hotel / hostel location and try to arrive during the day so you can scope out the area.
- Try not to look too touristy when out and about on your own. I’ve been to places on my own where people have asked me for directions, thinking I’m a resident!
- Don’t keep all your money in the one place. I usually leave some in the hotel safe, have some in my bag, and some in my pocket so I don’t have to take my wallet out too much.
- Check out how you can get around an area if it’s getting late – do they have Uber, are taxis frequent is public transport safe?
Not sure what to see or do?
As a solo traveller, you can do everything that group travellers can do! And more. There are no restrictions. I love checking out other travel blogs for tips and tricks on what to do when I’m planning a trip.
If I’ve got a few days in an area, I’ll join a day excursion. It’s a great way of meeting others if you’re not into staying at hostels (like me!).
Related: 24 Hours in Helsinki
If solo travel is something you’ve always been thinking about but you weren’t sure just what you could gain from it, here are some (but not all) of the benefits of travelling alone.
The benefits of solo travel
#1 Pushes you out of your comfort zone
You will always come across some challenges while travelling alone, whether it’s a language barrier or getting lost, and there’s nobody there but you to overcome those challenges. It forces you out of your comfort zone and to think in a different way in order to problem solve.
#2 Grows your confidence
Doing all of this by yourself really boosts your self-confidence. Heading out into the big world without anyone holding your hand. I often think ‘If I can travel around a country by myself, imagine what else I can do’.
#3 Get to know yourself
These days, we are constantly on the go, working, socialising, catching up on social media. There’s not a lot of time where we just enjoy our own company. When travelling alone, you have the opportunity to disengage from everyday life and start to get to know yourself.
Also, when we’re part of a group, we just go along with the flow. We don’t like to cause a ruckus or disagree with ideas, so we step in line with the plans. When you’re travelling alone, you get the opportunity to learn more about how you like to travel, what you actually like to do when travelling.
#4 You can be spontaneous
All the decisions rest with you when you’re travelling alone. You can create your own itinerary and even change it at the last minute if you find something else to do. This can be pretty difficult in a group setting if others have their hearts set on something in particular.
If you stayed out late the night before, you can choose to have a lie in the next morning without messing up anyone else’s plans. You can even decide to stay longer in an area if you really love it or leave a few days earlier.
#5 No drama
I count myself incredibly lucky that any of the group trips I’ve been on with my friends, there hasn’t been any drama. But boy do they have stories! To be fair, when you’re spending 24/7 with the same people day in, day out, it would be tough not to have a little squabble every now and again. But when you’re when you’re travelling alone, there’s no-one to squabble with!
#6 Meet new people
This has got to be one of my favourite reasons for travelling alone. In the few short years I have been travelling alone, I have met some of the most wonderful people, people who I still keep in contact with today.
While travelling alone in Vietnam, I met a South Korean family on one of the tours I signed up for. I ended up spending the whole day with them after the tour.
And recently I did a solo trip with Flashpack where I met a bunch of like minded solo travellers. We have a group chat and are in touch every couple of weeks. We’re even hoping to plan a trip together next year! I know I have made friends for life.
#7 You can indulge
Travelling with a bunch of friends, you are more likely to stick to a budget. When travelling alone, you don’t need to worry about anyone else’s finances when making decisions. Fancy a luxury hotel room? Or prefer to stick to cheaper meals on the go? The choice is yours, and only yours.
#8 Easier to get an upgrade
You might laugh, but it’s true! If you think about it, you are much more likely to get offered an upgrade if you’re travelling alone than as a family of four. Often, they will only have one or two seats left in business class. And I’m one of those cheeky people who always asks. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
Are there disadvantages?
For sure, there are always going to be disadvantages. But now that we are problem-solving, confident travellers, we can find a way around them:
- The dreaded single supplement – only stay in places who don’t require you to pay a single supplement, or go on a tour who don’t charge a single supplement
- Minimum number required for booking – when the minimum number required for booking a tour is 2 people, call the tour operator instead of booking online. They will more than likely have the space for one person. Alternatively, if you’ve met people along the way, join a tour with them!
- Being targeted for being a lone tourist – once you use your common sense and have your wits about you, this will be less of an issue.
So, as you can see, the benefits of travelling alone greatly outnumber the disadvantages.
I hope you can see the benefits of travelling alone and commit to embarking on your own solo trip. I promise, it will lead to an extraordinary travel experience you won’t regret. I have yet to meet someone on my travels who said that they regretted travelling alone.
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