I have great admiration for women who travel around the world on their own long term. I’ve taken a few solo trips, of varying lengths, but have yet to go on a year-long (or multi-year!) RTW trip. Some of my solo trips have been more successful than others. Yet, each time I learn something new about myself and what I am capable of. Each time it gets easier and more enjoyable as I gain confidence in my own abilities.
I encourage everyone to travel on their own at least once.
Travelling on your own the first time can be challenging, but definitely worth it. Here are a few ideas to make travelling on your own a little easier.
Opt for hostels over hotels
Stay in hostels whenever possible. Hostels are great places for meeting people. Often as soon as you arrive you’ll strike up a conversation with a dorm mate. Even if you prefer a private room, most hostels will have common areas for guests.
If you’re not comfortable staying in mixed-gender dorm, most hostels have women-only rooms. Over the past few years, a number of hostels have created women-only floors – even entire women-only hostels! Often they include a few extras, such as free toiletries and towels.
Participate in group activities
Joining group activities is a great way to meet other travellers. The prospect of joining a group tour or activity may be daunting at first, but travellers are a jovial lot and you’ll soon settle in. A good first step is to go on a walking tour when you arrive in a new city. Many big cities, particularly in Europe, have free walking tours that are run by either a hostel or an independent group. They usually start the tour off with a quick meet and greet, where everyone stands in a circle and each person can introduce themselves. There’s usually quite a lot of solo travellers taking walking tours, as it’s easy to meet people and you learn much more about a city than you would exploring on your own.
Seek out other independent travellers
Online travel forums, such as Lonely Planet’s Thorntree, have boards where people can find travel companions, or just find someone to have a coffee and a chat with in particular city.
Once you’ve been travelling for a little bit and seen how easy it is to meet people on the road, you’ll gain more confidence in yourself and find it easier to strike up a conversation. Often if you’re visiting an attraction you’ll see others wandering on their own. Say hello, ask them where they’re from. You’ll soon find chatting with strangers becomes second nature.
Always be aware of your surroundings. Going out on the town with your new friends is awesome and an unforgettable experience, but don’t overdo it. Try not to get drunk. Don’t go wandering around the streets alone at night – you wouldn’t do it at home, so don’t do it in a strange place. Let you hostel or family back home know where you are and what you’re doing.
Some final thoughts
Try to learn a few basic greetings, numbers and phrases in the local language, to make it easier to get around on your own.
Be prepared – read up on your destination so you know what to expect when you arrive. Find out about any local scams so you’ll know what to look out for.
Getting lost in a new city where no-one knows who you are can be liberating. Just go with it and enjoy yourself!