I travel alone most of the time, mainly because I like to go to far-flung places and spend a bit of money on it, which isn’t the kind of travel a lot of people want to do. But I’m cool with that – ever since I studied in Japan I’ve been able to cope in new places alone and have picked up the skills that means I don’t feel sad or lonely when I’m traveling…not most of the time, anyway!
Here are some of my tips for people wanting or needing to travel alone.
1. No one is pitying you when you eat alone.
Here’s a hard truth. 99% of the time, no one is even noticing you. No one cares. Unless, of course, there is something obvious making you stand out. Something like being the only white person in a restaurant full of, say, Indian people. Or you wearing something very revealing in a country known for conservative dress codes.
Not once – not even once – in my history of eating alone, has anyone bothered me or said anything that made me feel like a loner for wanting to eat alone.
The only trouble with eating by oneself is that you need to entertain yourself. Always come armed with reading material or perhaps a games console or your laptop, so that you are kept occupied and even IF someone looks your way and wonders what’s up, you look like the fabulously busy reader/writer/blogger/business person/gamer.
2. Plan things that are easy to do alone.
I much prefer city trips when I’m alone because there are so many more things to do there. Like when I went to the spice plantation in India last year, it was nice and I did enjoy myself but it’s the kind of place that really is better enjoyed as a group.
You also have to think of safety. If you’re at the beach and want to take a dip, it’s much harder to find someone/some place to guard your stuff while you’re in the water.
On city trips it’s much easier to go to museums, do sightseeing etc while you’re by yourself.
3. It’s possible to meet people there.
But even though you go on your trip alone there are still ways you can find people out there. In India (which has been my most challenging solo trip to date) I found it easy to make friends when I went out diving, and in Dublin it was easy to pick up new friends from the walking tour.
If you’re in a place where there aren’t many group activities around then you could always try Be Welcome, which is similar to Couchsurfing but is more of a community and less money grabbing, so the people are much nicer. I used Couchsurfing a lot when I was in Paris and met up with some great people also visiting at the same time as me.
4. Plan some quiet time.
When you’re traveling with other people, there are times when you’re out sightseeing and then there are times when you’re just relaxing and chatting, right? When you’re by yourself it’s easy to just DO ALL THE THINGS 100% of the time. Unless this is how you like it, I recommend planning some downtime each day. Whether it’s planning to visit a cool shop you heard about, or finding a cafe to chill out in or even going to the cinema, I think it’s good to have a little “me” time, even when you’re alone.
5. Keep your mind busy.
When I was in Paris I bought something amazing – this travel journal. Inside there are loads of things to do while you’re traveling, from asking random people what they eat for breakfast, to space to draw and describe people you meet. In mine I have a drawing of an old woman who smelled of wee who sat next to me and told me about her grandchildren, a map of the Anjuna area drawn for me by a great guy I met through Couchsurfing and a drawing of an aircon machine with “onida” written on the side. Onida in Japanese would mean “it’s a demon!”
I think that keeping this on me all the time not only gives me a reason to speak to people around me and to make new friends, but also is a great way to remember those bits of my trips that I would have forgotten otherwise.
Do you enjoy traveling alone? What are your solo travel tips?