“You’re so brave to travel alone”…”It must be daunting to travel by yourself”…”You must get so lonely solo traveling”…”Just the thought of going somewhere by myself puts me off”…”I could never travel by myself” …”How do you do it?”…”It must be so hard!”
These are just some of the things that have been put to me about solo traveling over the years. The thing is, it’s not just me but every solo traveler I know has had the same or similar said to them.
Not another solo traveling post!
Since I dipped my toes into this world of blogging, I’ve been reading a lot more posts than I normally would and lot’s of them are about solo traveling. A lot of them are, ‘Why you should only solo travel.’, ‘Solo traveling is the only way to travel.’, ‘How awesome solo traveling is.’ ‘The ultimate guide to why solo travel is the best.’ or ‘5 reasons to solo travel!’…So on and so on…
Before I go any further let me say this – This is not one of them, nobody should tell you how to travel, you should travel how you feel best to. There is no right or wrong way to travel. At the end of the day solo traveling isn’t for everybody, some prefer to travel in groups, with friends or even with family. And that is just fine.
This post is not me saying my way is the best, I’m just writing why and how it works for me…That’s the beauty of traveling, you do it your way.
Why solo traveling suits me.
Since I first packed my backpack way back in 2010, over the years I’ve traveled with friends and in groups but for me traveling solo just suits me better. Don’t get me wrong now, It’s not like I don’t like people or that I just love my own company that much. Well, I do amuse myself most of the time but I also have some demons so I can’t be alone to for too long or they like to come out.
I prefer solo traveling but I’m barely alone. I’m a bit weird like that, I like my own company but I don’t, I don’t have to be around people but I do. I’m quite a closed off and private person but I’m not. Only the people that really know me will understand what I mean.
The reason I solo travel is that I can do everything on my own terms, in my own time and how I want to. – The only person I need to compromise with is myself and that’s hard enough at times!
If you’re looking to solo travel and have questions spinning in your head but no answers, check out my solo traveling F.A.Q’s.
Is is hard?
At times, yes; it can be. Like with all types of traveling there is going to be ups and downs. Traveling is very rarely a 100% smooth ride (It’s half the fun). Traveling in general is as hard or easy as you make it out; when problems occur it’s how you tackle them, or how you personally deal with situations.
There’s a few thing’s I like to do, which might not be the case for every solo traveler but these are things that help me.
- Simple research (not to be confused with over planning)
- Learn a few basic words in local language (It helps a lot)
- Find out best transport options before hand, how to get from A to B easiest.
- Where are the backpacker areas, where travelers hang out.
- Where easy to get to hostels are located.
Simple things like this will make it so much easier for your first time traveling solo. If you would like more info on how I research and plan my trips take a peek at this post Planning solo budget travel.
As a solo traveler, of course my safety is always my priority. I’ve been fortunate enough that since I started to travel in 2010, I’ve only had one problem but I take responsibility for that. I was very drunk, wasn’t paying attention and got pick-pocketed by a little kid in Bali.
I’ve traveled and lived all over the world, I’ve been in dodgy areas, I’ve stayed in somewhat questionable hostels but that is the only incident I have had. It’s not that I’ve been lucky it’s just that I’ve used a little thing called common sense.
Ok I know that just made me sound massively arrogant but I’ve seen and met so many travelers that have got themselves into situations and wonder why it’s happened. Well it’s because they didn’t use any common sense. I come from a background where I’ve had to be pretty street smart but as I’ve traveled I’ve learnt to be more visualant. I’ve learnt to pay attention to my surroundings and be more observant more than usual.
It’s things like not acting like a tourist, not flashing money or my belongings around. I don’t act like I’m better than anybody in poorer countries. Things like keeping my personal belonging close to me, making sure I know where my bag is on a bus. If there are warning signs not to go into certain areas; I won’t go, or at least not alone.
This all sounds like simple application but you’ll be surprised at people who think to do the opposite and end up in trouble.
Here’s the thing, ‘solo traveling’ doesn’t mean ‘lonely traveling’…I think it’s a common misconception that if you’re traveling solo, you’re going to be on your own all the way through your trip. This is not the case. Sure, there will be times when you are alone, there will be times you just want to be alone (It’s bliss at times) and sometimes you might just feel lonely even if there are people around.
I’ve had down days where I’ve felt lonely, questioned why I’m doing this, felt sorry for myself. It happens, it’s a part of solo traveling but there is some solace. When I do fall into these kinds of slumps I remind myself I’m surrounded by other travelers, I just need to be sociable.
For me, hostels are my choice of accommodation as a solo traveler. Other travelers will have their own opinions on hostels, the types of hostels they prefer and or the location of the hostel. Personally If I’m arriving in a new place and don’t know my surroundings, I tend to go for the central backpacker areas. There’s a couple of reasons for this – 1, they are easy to get to, and 2, hostels are generally sociable places so I can make friends.
Of course the longer I stay in one place and get to know my surroundings, I’m more likely to move away into quieter areas. (Check out my post Hostels – getting used to them.)
I mentioned above that solo traveling doesn’t mean lonely traveling, backpackers are everywhere. You just have to look around, in hostels, on excursions and activities, on bus rides, or even just walking around and this makes making friends fairly simple.
For me making friends while traveling is probably one of the easiest things to do – If I want it do be. I say this because as a solo traveler it’s down to choice; make friends or not. For example – I want to be sociable and want to make friends I put myself out there, If I don’t then I step away.
Take for instance my very first trip, I was a solo traveler in a brand new country on the other side of the world. I knew not a soul but having booked myself into a very sociable (party) hostel within minutes I started to make new friends. The people I made friends with in that hostel I am still in contact with to this day and some are closer than family.
Wherever I’ve traveled, in all the hostels I’ve stayed in over the years, it’s always been fairly simple to make friends.
Mix it up.
Just a word of advice though, hostels are generally sociable places, (I’ve encountered a few that were not) but in my opinion the easiest way to break the ice with another backpacker is to share a beer…Get drunk or high with them and you’re best friends by day two.
Note from experience and being a long-term backpacker – When trying to make friends with fellow backpackers, try mixing up the conversation. Try something different to the usual, “How long you traveling for?”, “Where you going next?”, “What route you taking?” …Sorry if this sounds harsh or pretentious but the same questions ware thin. Look at it from their perspective; it might be all new to you and you’re full of excitement. You’ve never asked these questions before, but the person you’re asking has probably heard it hundreds of times before. Cracking open a beer and talking about general things or having a laugh goes a lot further; trust me.
Solo traveling freedom.
Like I said at the top of this post, you should travel how feel best for you, for me above all the reason, I like traveling solo is because of the freedom it gives me.
I’ve been part of group dynamics, I’ve been on tour groups, traveled with friends but it’s always thrown up problems. And not just with me I’ve seen it with other groups too; the amount of times I’ve heard “I wish i just traveled by myself it would be so much easier.”
Being part of a group might be perfect for you but for me there’s always been issues, arguments and unwanted stress I just don’t need.
In a group everybody has an opinion and time to time they will differ, there are compromises to be made, disagreements on what excursion to do, one person wants to go here, another over there. Sometimes when you’re traveling in a group you budget together and that throws up problems, even things like what to eat. Sometimes activities and excursions have to be gone as a group even if you don’t want to.
However being the solo traveler I get to pick and chose what I want to do, when I want to do it. (Being forced to go somewhere at 6 am when hungover because it was a group activity is not acceptable…see picture below)
Ups and Downs.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always roses; there have been places I’ve been to and not got that same vibe as I did in the previous place. I’ve sat in hostels wishing I had waited a couple of days or gone a few days earlier with the people I met in the previous place. Sometimes I miss people from my life and wish they were there with me but then those moments pass.
Solo Traveling has it’s downs but for me the up’s outweigh the lows; the freedom is priceless. One of my favorite things about solo traveling is waking up in a new town or city, finding a cafe with a great view and sitting there sipping my coffee. That’s when I stare out at the view and just smile while having a moment of solace, soaking in how lucky I am to do what I do and I have nobody there to rush me.
What about you, do you prefer group or solo travel?
Are you planning on going on your first solo trip?
Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.