Solo travel can be tough.
You have nobody but yourself to rely on, you risk bouts of loneliness and often you end up squeezing your entire backpack and hand luggage into an airport toilet cubicle because you’ve got no one to watch your bags while you pee.
The advantages however, in my opinion, far outweigh the disadvantages.
Travelling alone gives you the ultimate freedom to do as you wish; you can make a decision and act on it instantly, rather than having to wait for a companion to get on board with the idea/pack their rucksack/finish the chapter they’re reading.
The positive effect on one’s self esteem can be considerable and social skills are dramatically increased. Socialising with new people is easier; you appear more approachable as a solo traveller than say a couple or a large group, and you often become the new adoptive member of a travel crew. You can join them for as long as you like...you’re free as a bird.
On the road, people told me I was brave, especially as I was a girl (still am, actually), which I took as a compliment. That said, there really isn’t much too it. Obviously it depends where you go, but most well-trodden backpacker routes are completely safe for solo (female or male) travellers. You just need to be a little streetwise, willing to make the effort with people and happy to occasionally talk to yourself in order to steer clear of boredom.
Here are my top 5 tips for successful solo travel:
Perfect your Poker Face
The last thing you want to do is stand out like a sore thumb when exploring a new city. You definitely don’t want to be one of those people who stops dead in the middle of a path to check a map, creating a domino effect, disgruntling busy locals one after another as they bump into your idiotic backside. Just don’t do it. Walking around gawping - no matter how beautiful or exotic the scenery – is not a good look. I like to set my features to a confident, unphased expression with just a hint of bitch; it wards off the tourist trap touts and even though I might be walking in the complete wrong direction with my skirt tucked into my pants, I feel like I can take on anything this new destination gives me.
Always Have a Plan (but never stick to it)
This is a difficult one. Before you depart, the thought of travelling alone is so daunting that planning can become obsessive, a way of controlling the fear of the unknown. It’s understandable. The joy of solo travel (unless you’re on an organised tour) is that you are free to wander as you wish. That said, it is important you are a little organised – no one else is going to remind you to catch that train or schedule that activity. So sure, book your flights and have a vague itinerary, but try not to plan it down to the last minute, as you never know where your trip will take you. This is your chance to take on every new opportunity that comes your way. I promise that once you are on the road and getting to grips with solo travel, you’ll wish you’d only booked a one-way flight.
Be the Third Wheel
It’s a common sight – the travel companions who have been stuck together for too long are bickering over where to go for dinner or which route to take from here. You might think avoiding these people is your best option (if they’ve resorted to throwing things at each other it probably is), but you might just be the breath of fresh air they’re looking for. In a third wheel situation like this, all parties benefit. You have someone to talk to and they get some much-needed respite from each other. If you get them on their own they will most likely have a moan to you about the absentee – smile and act neutral and you may relieve them of their stress: I do love a good gossip.
Keep a Diary
Sometimes, you will be on your own. There’s no escaping it, so embrace it. Remind yourself constantly how brave and independent you are being, and if you have too many thoughts whizzing around your head, write them down! It’s much better than talking to yourself out loud, believe me. You will look back over your jottings with pride. You did it. You travelled solo and you survived.
Keep Your Eyes Open
About that whole ‘surviving’ thing. Your parents and friends will have already told you this, so you don’t need me preaching to you (there’s nothing worse!) – but remember that the world isn’t all fluffy bunnies and love hearts. You do need your wits about you at all times. Don’t be over-cautious, and don’t let fear prevent you from living the dream. I always give people the benefit of the doubt; we all have an inner radar, sensing the danger potential of any give situation. Trust your instincts, don’t get too drunk (unless you’re with people you absolutely trust) and keep a grip on your valuables.
But always, ALWAYS talk to strangers. They’re the best.
Travel tip shared by Emma