Keeping in line with what’s becoming a tradition on this blog, here’s a music video that complements the theme of this post –
Nothing screams adventure more than a single plane ticket to an unknown destination with nothing but a backpack in hand! Travelling solo can be daunting to the uninitiated but it’s definitely something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. If you’re young and reading this, there is no better time than NOW to embark on a solo trip! Seize the opportunity before the burden of adulthood shackles you down. If you’re slightly older, this is a perfect chance to take a breather and rediscover your youth. In short, there are no age requirements when it comes to travel. Spread your wings and soar with the wind!
Taking the plunge
Once you’ve mustered up the courage to travel solo, be prepared for judgement.Your decision to travel solo will illicit a wide range of responses within your social circle. From derision, admiration(rarely) to concern(highly likely).
” What if you get robbed/raped/murdered/kidnapped? ”
” Wow such a loner. Travelling alone. You don’t have friends? ”
” Are you crazy?! ”
Take all the negative comments in your stride and more importantly with a pinch of salt. We are all guilty of commenting/judging on things we have no experience in(or we delude ourselves into thinking we do). At the end of the day, you’ll have the last laugh. You’ll have a damm good story to tell while the naysayers rue in regret and jealousy.
I would be a hypocrite if I did not practice what I preach. If you’ve been following this blog, you’d know that I embarked on a solo trip across Europe for close to a month. It was my FIRST time travelling alone anywhere. Here are 10 reasons why you should travel solo and a few other aspects you should be aware of :
10 Reasons Why You Should Travel Solo
*You could probably use this list to silence the naysayers*
Oh freedom, how I’ve missed the taste of it! Travelling solo gives you complete freedom, freedom of choice in particular.You get to choose where you go, when you go, how you get there and etc. The list is endless. Travelling on your own terms and pace can make for a rewarding trip!
The moment the plane/train/bus departs from the local terminus, you’re completely on your own. You’re well aware of this beforehand but it doesn’t really hit you until the plane/train/bus takes off. Travelling solo forces you to be independent. You’ll have to make decisions and see them through even if that means starving on a freezing cold morning because you spent all your money shopping. You’ll also need to attend to your immediate needs. Do your laundry, fix your meals etc. A steep learning curve perhaps but a vital quality you’ll need to pick up eventually.
3) Street smart
All those years spent in the education system has probably made you book smart by now. How about becoming street-smart? Often neglected, it’s a valuable skill set best developed when you’re alone, out of the classroom and errr on the… Street as the name implies. Being street smart entails resourcefulness, thinking on your feet, adapting to different situations/people and somewhat understanding what makes everything tick.
One of the skills commonly associated with being street smart. Travelling solo enables you to exercise your faculties of judgement at a whole other level. Well it’s true, we do judge everything possible from people to things on a daily basis back home but these are more often than not inconsequential. When you’re alone on the road, your life pretty much depends on your ability to judge people & situations accurately. Can I trust the stranger who’s offering to help me buy a ticket? Should I follow the stranger who’s offered to lead me down a dark alleyway to the bus stop?
A skill that preludes judgement and also associated with being street smart. Before you judge, you observe right? Travelling solo allows you to be more observant. Besides detecting danger, there are other benefits. Without the distraction of a companion, you notice even the most subtlest things. You learn about different cultures, their “quirks” and also about people.
6) Expand your social network internationally
I’m not referring to your virtual friends from different countries on Facebook. You know the fake unknown profiles which have absolutely nothing on the wall or the guy who lives next door that claims to be from Los Angeles,California on his profile. Well, you get the picture don’t you? Travelling solo is the perfect way to meet new people from all corners of the globe. You meet them in hostels, bars , tours etc. Get out of your hermit shell and strike up a conversation! More often than not, they’re very interesting people. Not many people can boast of having friends all around the world. Boasting aside, these new-found friends might be able to help you or show you around on one of your future trips!
7) Expert Navigator
Achievement unlocked! Never read a map before? Slept through geography class? It doesn’t matter! By the end of your solo trip, you’d attain the skills of a seasoned navigator. Your sharpened instincts and built in GPS puts you in good stead for the future.
We’ve all been in this situation back home – We need help but refuse to accept/seek it due to our own hubris. As a solo traveller in a foreign country, you’d need all the help you can possibly get. You’ll get lost, scammed and even mugged. During times like these in an unfamiliar environment, you’ll have to brush aside your pride and be humble. Ask for a stranger’s help. You’ll be surprised at the number of good samaritans living amongst us.
9) Haggle Master
Travelling solo will transform you into a haggle master. Haggling – Whether you love it or hate it, it’s an inescapable aspect of travelling. You have to buy unique souvenirs and shop without breaking the bank don’t you?
Let’s face it, you’re fresh meat. The locals know you’re a tourist, they can smell it in the air. To make matters worse, you’re on your own far away from the protection of the herd. Like a lion pouncing on its prey, the shopkeepers won’t hesitate to make a meal out of you and your wallet. You can say goodbye to your usual haggling tricks which often involve a partner in crime. No more plays such as when your partner feigns walking away to another shop in an attempt to lower the price or even the common two for a lower price deal. You’re on your own.
Be smart and don’t take anything at face value. A t-shirt in a foreign country is not going to cost 3 times more than a t-shirt back home. I don’t care if it has ” I LOVE (Insert)” or a picture of a tower printed on it! Make this clear to the shop owner. While it’s important to remain firm and stand your ground, do remember to be respectful and understand that these people are struggling to make a living most of the time. Don’t haggle for the sake of haggling. I did that once in Saigon when I was young and naive. Let’s just say it didn’t end well. I got somewhat accosted before my friend rescued me. Lesson learnt – only haggle if you’re interested in the product.
10) Solitude & Introspection
Well it’s actually two reasons but both solitude & introspection are actually intertwined. Travelling solo teaches you to embrace solitude. Solitude isn’t always negative as what most of us generally perceive it to be. More importantly, solitude shouldn’t be confused with loneliness. They are two different things. Every now and then, it’s important to take time off from our hectic lives and focus on ourselves. Solitude allows you to escape and do just that.
Intro….What? It’s cool if you have no idea what introspection is. I too was clueless the first time I came across the word. Introspection isn’t something new, we do it ourselves all the time unknowingly. Introspection refers to the examination of one’s own conscious thoughts and feelings. Solitude enables you to introspect and through understanding,accept who you really are. To be comfortable with solitude is to be comfortable with oneself.
Cons of Travelling Solo
Unlike all those “ten reasons why you should…” posts on thought catalog, I’m going to break away from the template and shed some light on the downside of travelling solo. A little heads up on what to expect. None of the following reasons should discourage you from travelling solo, they can be easily mitigated. But if you still choose not to, it’s understandable. Solo travel is not for everyone.
Unless you’re some martial arts expert, travelling solo undoubtedly translates to increased vulnerability. The world can be a dangerous place at times.
Tip: Make friends with other solo travellers and head out in a group. Get an international sim card and save the numbers of local authorities to your contacts. If available, you should also save the numbers of your embassy and the tourist police. For ladies who are concerned of travelling solo, here’s a comforting fact. Most of the solo travellers I met on my trip were actually WOMEN
2) Eating alone
” Table for one? ” says the waiter with a big smirk across his face. An all too familiar experience for most solo travellers dining out. Couple that with the occasional glance from the group at the table across you or worse being sandwiched between two tables with large groups, dining out is can be too much of a hassle to many. Due to the above reasons and the price of restaurants, most solo travellers prefer to eat takeaway.
Tip: Fret not, there is a wide variety of delicious takeaways and street food in most countries. But if you’re in a gastronomic capital such as Paris, do yourself a favour and endure dining alone in a restaurant. The food will more than make up for any inconvenience you’ve put yourself through.
3) Shared Experiences
One of the downsides of travelling alone is that most of your travel experiences will be shared with people from various corners of the globe. There’ll be no one back home whom you can roll back the good times with over a pint.
Tip: It’s the opinion of many that relationships formed while travelling are transient. It doesn’t always have to be the case. Keep in contact with your new-found friends and develop the relationship. There’s no excuse not to, social platforms has made it significantly easier to do just that! Who knows? Both of you might embark on a trip together in the future.
You’ll be inundated with boredom on long train/bus/plane journeys during a solo trip.
Tip: Seize this opportunity to hold a conversation with strangers. They’re probably as bored as you. If you grow tired of talking to people or you’re simply shy, bring a good book or download a few movies on your phone to help you get through the journey.
A night out hitting the clubs and bars is not exactly feasible if you’re travelling solo. The last thing you want is to be inebriated and alone in a foreign country. You don’t want to wake up in a drain on the other side of the city do you? And that’s the best case scenario.
Tip: Assuming you’ve no trust issues and really want to experience the local nightlife, make friends with like-minded solo travellers and head out together. Some cities have an organized pub crawl to make it easier and somewhat safer for all you party animals!
Travelling solo ultimately incurs higher costs. You can’t take advantage of economies of scale. 2 for 1 deals, splitting cab fare, shared toiletries and many other things are all out of the question. No cost savings for you 😦
Tip: Similar to the previous tips, make friends with fellow solo travellers and enjoy cost-savings!
A major pet peeve of solo travellers. Every traveller wants an awesome picture at that iconic building/structure/place to show everyone back home. When you travel alone, getting that picture is all the more difficult. There’s only so much you can capture with a hand held selfie.
Tip: Get a selfie stick. Too bad they weren’t readily available when I travelled solo across Europe! If you don’t want to look like a fool, ask a stranger to help you take the picture. Be warned their kindness only entitles you to a single shot. It’s take it or delete it.
8) Getting lost
Personally, I enjoy getting lost. It’s an adventure. I see it as a chance to discover hidden parts of a city/place. Without a second opinion, be prepared to get lost more often than not.
Tip: EMBRACE IT!
If you’re an impulsive shopper, you’ll find yourself with more stuff than your luggage can hold. Travelling solo means you can’t shove the excess stuff into your friend’s luggage.
Tip: Either fork out for added baggage or learn to pack more efficiently. Have you heard of packing squares and bags? Check them out!
In terms of costs and value for money, accommodation options for the solo traveller is mainly limited to the hostel dorm. Single board hotel rooms are rare and more expensive than double sharing hotel rooms per person generally. But hey, staying in a hostel dorm might turn out to be the defining moment of your trip!
Tip: Fork out the extra for a hotel room. A cheaper alternative would be booking a single room via *Airbnb* or a private room in a hostel/guesthouse.
*Get 25 USD credit when you book through this link*
Travelling solo remains the most exciting thing I’ve ever done! Would I do it again? YES DEFINITELY!
Featured image taken from http://www.readwave.com/why-travelling-alone-is-actually-great_s31045
Travel Quote taken from http://care365.tumblr.com/post/42335647012/311-365-i-always-wonder-why-birds-choose-to-stay
Travel Quote taken from http://www.lovethispic.com/image/50613/the-world-is-a-book
“Freedom” taken from http://emergingyouth.com/2014/07/23/real-freedom/
“Independence” taken from https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/12830500764/
“Streetsmart” taken from http://www.c21media.net/screenings/banijayinternational/street-smart
“Judgement” taken from http://bcrealestatelaw.com/2011/12/18/distress-property-judgements-liens-and-certificates-of-pending-litigation/
“Observation” taken from http://www.travelandescape.ca/2012/09/best-travel-quotes-of-all-time/
“Globe” taken from http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-social-network-people-global-growth-image26071841
Travel Quote taken from http://www.borntobeatourist.co.uk/2014/04/alone-but-not-lonely.html
“Jack Sparrow” taken from http://irevolution.net/tag/mapping/
“Humility” taken from http://nicole-forrester.blogspot.sg/2011/06/trouble-with-pride.html
“Haggling” taken from http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2012/11/price-haggling-in-china-far-more-than-you-bargained-for/
“Vulnerability” taken from http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/news/avg-slow-to-address-critical-security-flaws-145484
“Eating alone” taken from http://www.wanderplex.com/2011/09/19/how-to-dine-alone-without-feeling-awkward/
“Mountain Climbers” taken from http://www.gramicci.com/never_the_norm_blog/it’s_all_about_the_shared_experience
“Bored Baby” taken from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/jul/17/boredom-peter-toohey-andrew-anthony
“Nightlife” taken from http://doandroidsdance.com/features/the-10-biggest-misconceptions-about-edm/
“Costs” taken from http://nordagrar.com/prices
“Mr Bean Meme” taken from http://insidethelifeofmoi.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/but-first-let-me-take-a-selfie/
“Lost” taken from http://dccargomall.blogspot.sg/2013/08/the-5-unexpected-expectations.html
“Luggage” taken from http://bostonluggageshipping.com/about-us/
“Dorm” taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hostel