On the eve of my second solo sojourn I thought it a good opportunity to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of independent travel, well at least what I’ve noted so far!
DRAWBACKS (AND SOLUTIONS)
1. TABLE FOR 1 – for a select few this can be quite a normal activity but for others eating alone seems like the most daunting thing EVER. “What do I do at the table? Do I just sit there or should I read a book? Are those people looking at me weird because i’m alone?” are some of the questions that may have crossed your mind when eating alone. So why are we worried about eating alone? The fear of being judged perhaps but fret not peeps! Eating alone is totally normal and the sooner you feel comfortable with it the better, it seriously makes your life so much easier when you do not give a crap about what other people are thinking. If you still haven’t yet managed to feel comfortable with the idea then why not pick a seat at the bar (bar tenders/baristas are usually quite friendly and will have a chat with you!), otherwise bring a book or laptop and keep yourself busy. Then before you know it you’ll be able to eat alone completely free of distractions and tools.
2. HELP – when you travel with friends or family they are often willing to watch your bags when you go to the bathroom, help out if you don’t have cash on hand to pay the bill at a cafe or help you with the 1221873918 other things that come up during travel. When you’re alone it’s all on you. Sometimes you have to cram yourself into a bathroom with your luggage, sometimes you need to run down the block to get cash out of an ATM to pay for a bill and often you alone need to figure out the solutions to all your travel problems (i.e. getting lost in a city and finding your way back). So to overcome these issues try thinking about when you’ll need to use the bathroom rather than waiting to the final moment and potentially forgetting about your belongings, ALWAYS have cash on hand ALWAYS, try downloading an offline map to help you find your way without wi-fi and the other stuff, welllll, just stay calm and work your way through it (don’t be afraid to ask for help from locals too – just make sure they look trustworthy so exercise your OWN judgement).
3. LONELY – you may experience bouts of loneliness, which is totally normal considering you may spend much of the day/night by yourself. At some point you’ll probably want some form of human interaction and this is why hostels are so fantastic for a solo traveller. On my first solo trip to Budapest I met a lovely lady from Surinam who informed me about a free scooter tour, we ended up spending the entire next day and night together before she embarked on her next stop. You’ll always meet people if you’re up for it! I personally like to spend a few days alone to just take a moment away from everything and really wind down – i’d like to think of myself as an ambivert so for me this is really nice but if you find being with people very enegerising then by all means pop down to the hostel bar, say hi to the people in your room and interact as much as possible with locals to get your daily interaction dose.
1. FREEFLEXTHANG – you as a solo traveller have the freedom and flexibility to do your own thang. Sure, traveling with friends is incredible but this often involves compromise when it comes to destinations, transportation options, daily itineraries and meals. So whilst you may want to eat a local speciality from a quaint bistro your travel companions may want a burger from Macca’s, which is fine but hey it might not be YOUR thing. When you’re alone you decide how many hours you want to walk in the day, what and where you want to eat and literally every decision revolves around you and your needs. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Well, let me tell you, it is!
2. INDEPENDENCE/CONFIDENCE – as aforementioned when you’re alone you don’t really have anyone to rely on so this means you have to develop a very high level of independence but… why is that a good thing? Well knowing that you can rely on yourself to get things done is pretty empowering. You can take this new found sense of confidence in yourself and apply it to other aspects of your life: work, friendships, relationships, university and hobbies. I never thought I would be able to travel alone, run 300m in the rain to get cash out for a meal, speak broken Italian to send postcards, bargain for fridge magnets in Prague or figure out how to make my way around a completely foreign city – but i did it, and if I can do any one of those things then I’m probably able to do a whole lot more! Woo girl ( and boy) power!
3. NEW PEOPLE – one of the nicest parts of solo travel is meeting a whole bunch of new people! Often when you travel in a group you don’t interact with “others” as much as you do (or are forced to do) when you’re alone. It’s always interesting for me when I learn about new places, ideas and perspectives so I take as many opportunities to chat with people as I can. If you’re really shy when it comes to talking to people just remember that most people are kind and would probably love to talk to you, but if on the flip side they’re rude and don’t want a bar of your friendship then remember you will probably never see that person ever again. So, the stakes aren’t that high – just be brave!
Have you travelled alone? If not what’s stopping you? If you have then what did YOU learn on your travels? Would love to share stories and hear about your reservations and/or adventures! 🙂
Until next time, arrivederci ragazzi!