I've heard it over and over again: "I want to travel, but I don't have anybody to travel with. "
Many people wouldn't dream of traveling by themselves, citing safety as their primary concern. Secretly, they also feel that traveling alone wouldn't be any fun and would get too lonely. What's the point if you don't have someone to share the experience with?
My guest writer, Emma James of AnythingToDeclare.com, is going to dispel some myths and discomforts around solo travel, and show you how you can make it happen. Maybe that trip isn't so out of reach after all! Enjoy the post!
You are a teacher and you want to travel. The only time you can is during school break, but no one else wants to go with you or can afford to go with you. What do you do?
Your answer: Go solo!
If that idea scares you a little, stick with me and you’ll learn why it is a fabulous way to travel, and how to get around the trickier aspects of it.
Four things travelling solo over the past 15 years has given me:
Growing up I lacked a lot of self-confidence. I was shy, I was scared to make friends, and at times doubted myself a lot.
Travel has helped my confidence soar. Every tricky situation I find myself in has nudged it higher and helped me understand I can do anything.
From getting “un-lost” on the outskirts of Florence (I don’t speak Italian, and I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English); to traversing some tricky border crossings in the Middle East, and spending time in immigration back rooms; to driving on the “wrong” side of the road.
As scared and/or worried as I may have been in those moments, I came out of them all unscathed, feeling stronger and more capable. For me that general boost in confidence means it is now a lot easier to break out of my shell to speak to new people and make friends. And it’s often easier to make new friends when you are alone.
Confidence is vital for teachers, at least the impression of it, and the more you have, the easier your job will be.
How to Make Decisions
As a teacher you have to make decisions all the time, but generally you have a school of staff to call on to bounce ideas off before you make them.
When you’re out travelling solo, you have to make all the decisions, from where you’re going to have breakfast, to whether to take a tour that day, to whether to spend an extra night where you are, to how to get to the next city.
There are a lot of decisions to be made when travelling and it can be quite painful if you are a bit of an indecisive person. But if you have to do it every day, you get very good at picking an option and going with it, often on your feet. This is a fantastic skill that helps in all aspects of life, especially your career.
And the best way to get started on making decisions quicker is to remember that whatever you decide is the right thing to do.
A Sense of Freedom
This goes hand in hand with all those decisions you’re making when traveling solo. You have the freedom to decide to do whatever you want, how you want, when you want.
If you want to turn down the interesting looking alley, you can.
If you want to stop to eat, you can. You don’t have to check with anyone else first.
Solo travel means you have the freedom to make your trip yours, and see and do the things you want to. You can stop and soak up the moment for as long as you like. And if you’re like me and take a lot of photos, you don’t have to worry about holding anyone up.
The liberation is highly addictive in my experience, so you do need to remember to keep it in check and be patient at those times when you do travel with others.
A Greater Sense of Safety
Being alone can sometimes make you more of a target for the more nefarious people in the world. That of course is true whether we’re at home or abroad.
At home we tend to be more innately conscious of the dangers. We know which streets not to walk down, where the crime hotspots are and what to keep an eye out for.
In a foreign place we don’t always have that knowledge and we also tend to be a lot more relaxed, less focused on where we are. That can make us a little lax when it comes to safety and security.
I have had a few run-ins with some of those nefarious characters over my years of solo travel, I am lucky that none of them have been serious. They have made me more conscious of my safety and made me remember that I have to be a little bit more vigilant about my surroundings and belongings. Something that helps in my everyday life as well.
Make sure your bags can’t be easily accessed by someone, keep your belongings on you when you can, and remember that if a situation doesn’t feel right, then it might be best to get out of it.
The key though is not to let those concerns become worries. Worries take over and you stop enjoying the moment.
After all, travel should be fun and enriching.
If you’re ready to take the leap into solo travel, but you want to ease yourself into it, here’s four things you can do to get started.
Go on a Tour
Group tours aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you don’t have a travel partner, but you’re not quite ready to go “full solo” they are a great way to take the pressure off.
You will be with other people which means you will always have company, and they take the pressure of navigating yourself around.
Most tour companies have a singles supplement if you want your own room, but otherwise you’ll be paired up with someone on the tour – instant roommate.
Join a local tour
If you’re happy to make your own way around, but feel like you want to be with others, then booking a local tour can be a good way of meeting others and possibly building new friendships.
And they’re also a great way of seeing a new place and learning more about it.
Stay in accommodation with communal spaces
Like local tours, communal spaces can be a great way of meeting other travelers, especially other solo travelers. So try and pick accommodation that has a communal space.
Hostels and traditional guest houses usually have a communal space and are a great way to meet others who you can possibly spend a day with. Even hotels with a breakfast room are great places to meet others.
Start small if you’re unsure
If you are completely new to solo travel and you are still really unsure, don’t plan a big trip to a far flung place. Start small, maybe go somewhere where you speak the language and then build up.
Becoming overwhelmed right off the bat can be a huge confidence crusher, and then you’ll lose out on all the benefits of solo travel.
Solo travel can be one of the most empowering things you can do, with benefits flowing into all aspects of your life. So the next time school break rolls around and you don’t have anyone to travel with, go solo.
Emma is the traveler and journalist behind Anything to Declare? She’s often found in the Middle East, but has ambitions to travel to every country. She mostly travels solo these days, finding the freedom of it too addictive to give up. She’s also addicted to coffee.