Get ready To Strike Out On Your Own
Solo travel: it sounds daunting to most of us. Leaving friends, habits and familiarity and just striking out on your own. Who would do that? The usual response when I talk about travelling alone is, “You’re so brave”, (foolish) ” Aren’t you scared?” It’s a strange question, I think, one that says more about the questioner’s unwillingness to leave their sofa, than any real danger in travelling. You’ll be fine. If in doubt, there’s a host of sites telling you how to do it: a few minutes on the net should calm your qualms.
Here’s five reasons you’ll love solo travel:
The world at your feet
Go anywhere and everywhere you want to go, without consulting anyone. All day with Da Vinci in the Louvre? Check. Rodeo Drive till your credit card bleeds? Why not? Diving in Koh Tao/Bali/Newquay, bungee jumping in Vietnam, Thai/Burmese/Indian/French cooking classes? Sure. Or just lazing about all day, doing nothing. Who can stop you? No one can tell you your ideas are strange or, horrors, boring. Geek out on silk fabrics in Asian markets all you want. We feel you!
Crazy schedules are cool
Party all night in Paris or get up to meet the dawn.. just about everywhere in the world. There’s always some mountain/hiking trail/whale watching/whatever that requires a 4AM start to see dawn’s beauty. It’s a travel staple. No need to apologise for geeking out all night on your laptop, or your back to back Netflix marathon. Every hostel and guesthouse caters to the jet-lagged, or even bus lagged traveller. Long journeys, lead to midnight wakefulness and afternoon napping. It’s fine. No one cares. (Great for the already-insomniac solo traveller. Who knows the difference?)
The new friend magnet
Best way to make friends and influence people? Solo travel, really. Try hosteling, even for a few days of your trip. It’s a great way to meet people and you can always get a private room if you need space. Some of the best times come from casual questions about your itinerary. people can invite you along on the spur of the moment, for the day, or even longer. I once travelled from Bangkok to Chiang Mai with a girl I’d just met in a cafe. I was headed in that direction anyway, so the long journey together made time fly. I’ve seen whole groups of people trekking round Asia together from a chance encounter, met a girl who met her future husband in India, seen people who stopped to volunteer in out of the way places because of new friends they met. The list is endless. If you’re a 5 star all the way babe, at least chat with people in the spa, even the girls who work there: they’ll know everything. It pays to ask advice, always.
Assertiveness training on the fly
Speaking of advice, you’ll get it inspires if you speak up. Every shop, restaurant, spa, souk has a bored employee who’d love to help you. Tips on where to go, whether your butt really looks big in that, how to get the best prices/to the next city/into a greta club, you name it. Who needs assertiveness classes? Just speak up, be nice to everyone and firm with anyone who needs it. Try choosing from a row of eager stallholders in a Vietnamese market: I’ve been the rope in a tug of war. Not easy, always, but just stand your ground and be polite.. and definite. No is a pretty universal word: just say it with conviction.Solo travellers see more
Solo Travellers see more
The details of life won’t escape you when you don’t have to chat all day and please someone else. Take pictures if you like (I can’t help myself) but also take the time to look the kind stallholder in the eye, haggle (in the right places), take in the details of people’s dress, speech patterns, customs. There’s a thousand million sunsets put there waiting to be snapped… and even more tiny micro-encounters you’ll recall long after your trip. The wonderful strangeness of people and the kindness of strangers are even more acute and thrilling with solo travel.
As you dip a croissant in your latte or curl up with a book in some tiny cafe, think of it as a romance with yourself.
Think of it as a romance with yourself.
Photo Credits: Main Photo: At Venice Beach, by Martina | Second Photo Collage: In Palma, by Rob Homewood