Single Travel: 6 Tips To Enjoy Travelling Alone
A major constraint many people face when wanting to travel more, is the lack of a traveling companion. So my question is – do you need one?
Traveling with someone else is great – you have “back up” should you get overwhelmed or something goes wrong, you rarely feel awkward or out of place, there’s always someone to take pictures and split the costs, and more importantly, you have someone to share amazing moments with which definitely increases your own enjoyment.
That said, traveling with someone can also be a huge constraint. You have to align your schedules, you need to norm preferences, they have their own personality, etc.
Though I’ve been blessed in the last couple of years to do a lot of both, traveling alone and enjoying it was definitely something I had to ease into. Other than a weekend in Edinburgh when I studied abroad, my first major solo trip was going to Singapore for my 30th birthday in order to make United 1K. In both instances I had a wonderful trip with some very awkward moments. With each successive trip I’ve had more fun and less weirdness.
If you’re debating whether to try travelling alone, here are my tips and observations:
1. Don’t start with a “couples” destination.
If you haven’t done much travelling alone, don’t pick a destination geared towards pairs like Hawaii or Aruba or something. If you have an insecurity about being alone (whatever the reason) seeing everyone paired off with significant others or friends is not going to build confidence. Save it for later – once you’ve taken a couple of trips on your own, it will barely register, if at all.
2. Ease into it and build in additional costs.
Don’t go for the biggest challenge right away. If you’ve rarely/barely traveled internationally, don’t choose a 3 week trip to India as your first destination. Start with a short trip weekend trip to Canada or London, or some place safe in Mexico so you can get used to different currency, immigration, (in some cases language) etc. Also budget for little extras that might make you feel more comfortable – like a private vs shared room (hostel), taking a cab at night instead of public transportation, room service instead of eating out, or international data costs so you can connect with friends/family on your phone at any time.
3. Build in “friends” by taking group tours.
I’m not very social when I travel alone – believe it or not, I’m shy, and a concern that friendliness might be interpreted as something more. That’s why I find day tours to be a great way to meet folks and enjoy some of the comraderie you get when traveling with a friend. I met a wonderful couple on my tour of Barrow that I hope to visit this year and often get “adopted” by families who invite me to join them on excursions after the tour.
4. Ask people to take pictures
. A big downside to traveling alone is the pictures. You either wind up with a bunch of establishing shots and/or a bunch of selfies. And of course we’ve all been warned about strangers running off with your camera if you ask them to take a picture. My approach is to look for a family or couple who are taking pictures of each other and offer to take a picture of both/all of them!
That’s a perfect lead in to then ask them to take a picture of you. You don’t annoy anyone and they’re not likely to steal your electronics since they just entrusted you with theirs. Taking a group tour or getting a guide is also a great way of addressing this.
5. Eat alone with impudence!
For years I dreaded eating alone in restaurants, not wanting to appear an object of pity. And yet, have you observed anyone eating alone in a restaurant and pitied them for having no friends? I haven’t, and in fact, have observed many solo travelers being envied for their “confidence.” One friend dining at a fancy restaurant prior to an opera performance had a glass of nice dessert wine sent to her table from a nearby couple who applauded her elegant appearance and apparent good taste in food.So bring a book or iPad to read if it makes you feel more comfortable, but don’t be afraid to just observe. I usually ask for a good view (if there is one) and spend my time taking the scenery, fellow diners, or reflecting on great things I’ll be seeing the next day.
And for the nights when I’m just not feeling a meal alone, I splurge on room service or grab food on my way back to the hotel.
6. Be friendly but sensible.
Most of my site-seeing preferences are for daytime activities, so I rarely feel unsafe. But for the times I decide to catch a ghost tour or other late night attraction – I use greater caution. I’ll take a cab or private car late at night rather than public transportation. I make sure I know where I’m going if I’ll be walking, and I definitely don’t talk to strangers! I also ask the concierge before I leave the hotel if I should be cautious any where I plan to go. Its in their best interest that nothing happens to me, so they’re usually even more conservative than I am!
Don’t let anxiety of traveling alone be the thing that holds you back! You won’t have the same experience you would if you had someone else traveling with you, but sometimes different is better.
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