“You’re so brave, travelling alone!”
“I couldn’t do it.”
“I’m so jealous, I wish I could do what you do!”
“I really need a holiday but I’ve got no one to go with, and I’m not a solo traveller.”
These are fairly common comments and responses that I receive when chatting about solo travel to friends, family, colleagues, or randomers in the pub. I think this is the usual experience of others who travel solo too. When I talk to people about it, I always try to dispel this myth that solo travel is just for certain types of people. There’s nothing special about me – I’m not particularly brave, and I wasn’t born with the confidence and wanderlust that I have now – if you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be going by myself to foreign countries and staying in hostel dorms and taking public transport alone in places where I don’t speak the language, I would have laughed in disbelief! I fully believe that anyone has the potential to travel solo, and in this post I’m going to tackle some of the perceived barriers, and suggest why and how they can be overcome.
I have commitments at home; I can’t take off for six months to wander around Asia with a backpack!
Right, let’s start with this perception of what constitutes travel, and what makes a trip “solo travel” rather than “going on vacation alone”. In my view, it doesn’t matter where you go, what you do there, or how long you stay for – if you go away by yourself somewhere, you’re doing solo travel. I consider my weekend alone in the English seaside resort of Bournemouth just as valid a solo trip as the week I spent tearing round New York City by myself on the other side of the world, or my seven solo days attempting to speak Catalan in Barcelona. If you want to try travelling by yourself, taking yourself off for a few days in a hotel somewhere else in your country is just as good a way to do it as grabbing a backpack and heading to Thailand. If you can get away from home and work for a long weekend, give it a go!
It’s too expensive
I”m not going to lie; solo travel can be expensive. In hotels you’ll often have to pay full whack for a double room with no one to split the cost with. Tours and cruises usually demand a single supplement payment. There’s no one to share the taxi fare from the airport. The trick here is to do things a bit differently. Sack off the organised tour and book the various elements of your trip yourself (don’t forget travel insurance). Use a site like Booking.com to find hotels which offer single rooms (often with shared bathrooms, which makes it even cheaper), or give hostels a go (they’re really not that bad!) or look into whether booking an apartment or another option might be cheaper in your chosen destination. Use public transport, or search for airport minibus transfers where you travel with others so the fare goes down. Or even choose a location based on its cost; Budapest would be a much cheaper European city break than Paris or Barcelona, for example. Do some research, and you may be surprised at how cheap you can travel!
Urgh…staying in a smelly hostel dorm isn’t my idea of fun!
As I said above – they’re really not that bad…in my experience anyway! They have moved on from the stereotype and I’ve found the beds to be comfortable, the bathrooms clean, the other guests pleasant and considerate, the WiFi good, and extras like free breakfast and social events are a great plus point. Many offer private rooms too (although as a solo traveller these can end up being as pricey as hotel rooms). If you really don’t fancy giving them a go, there are other accommodation options as I suggested above. It’s all about the research!
Surely it’s dangerous?
Look around you – the whole world is potentially dangerous, even your home town. If we kept ourselves away from any source of possible danger, we’d never go outside! Of course, there are different risks in different places, and you need to be aware of what to look out for where you’re going, but I have never felt any more unsafe alone than with others when travelling. Keep your wits about you, don’t drink so much that you don’t know how to get home, and walk confidently – but isn’t that what you do at home when out and about alone anyway?
I’m too old
Bollocks. Life is about learning new things, enjoying new experiences and making the most of our short time on this planet, however old we are. Like I said above; solo travel doesn’t have to be an extended trip. Take a week off work and go somewhere and take some time for yourself.
I’m too young
OK, yes, if you’re under 18 you’ll probably encounter problems trying to book flights or stay in accommodation. But if you’re a fully-fledged adult? See advice above. Life is short: don’t hang around waiting to start making the most of it.
Isn’t it just for single people?
Not at all! As much as I love going away with my (very patient!) boyfriend, I haven’t stopped solo travelling since we got together, and it won’t stop me doing so in the future. I’m not the only one either.
Won’t I get bored/lonely?
This is one that I can’t really answer, because this really depends on you. I am happy being alone, and in fact I need plenty of time by myself to stay mentally balanced, so solo travel is a welcome break from everyday life for me. I appreciate that not everyone feels like this however. All I can suggest is that you give it a go on a short initial trip – you won’t know until you try it! If you stay in hostels you’ll most likely get the chance to meet and socialise with other travellers, so you may well find you don’t have to be alone much if you choose not to be.
Of course you are! I’ll let you into a secret… anyone who says that they weren’t scared before their first solo trip is fibbing. I’d go as far as to suggest that any experienced solo traveller who says they don’t get even a tiny bit nervous or anxious before a new adventure is also fibbing. It’s natural to feel apprehensive. Again, all I can suggest is to just give it a try!
I tried it and I hated it. Will you stop pestering me now?
Of course. That’s why I’ve chosen the title for this post of “can” be for anyone – not “is” for everyone. I hope to encourage anyone to give it a go, but I don’t expect everyone to enjoy it. I’m really pleased that you gave it a go, and I hope you’ll still find things of interest in my blog posts!
Anyone could potentially become a solo traveller
I have health issues, food intolerances, am terrified of spiders, and had nightmares at least once a week for an entire year after watching 28 Days Later. I’m just a regular person who decided to go to Spain alone for a few days once because it was the first time in years that she could afford a holiday and no one else was able to come with her, and then got hooked on solo travel. Maybe some of you will too…
Did you try solo travel and surprise yourself? Or do you have any tips for those thinking about taking the plunge? Share your thoughts in the comments!