There are both pros and cons to travelling alone as I found out on a recent 3 month freedom searching mission. I was finished with claustrophobic air-conditioned offices, cramped shopping malls and the usual over committed lifestyle we tend to get caught up in. So without having anyone I could travel with, I packed up and headed off…alone. I learnt a lot about a lot (as one is supposed to do when travelling alone, soul searching and all) but mainly about what works, what doesn’t and how I should have packed much lighter.
Here are a few tips I would give to anyone, girl or guy, when choosing to go solo.
Take your camera and notebook everywhere with you.
This will come in handy when you are sharing your incredible journey months later. Take pictures of everything, your food, street signs or your waiter’s name badge. Without having a partner in crime to fill in the missing bits in your epic tale you will be happy for all these little reminders.
Carry a good book.
Whether it is your guidebook or the latest Ken Follet, having a book to read can save you from a certain amount of loneliness. I found eating out alone was less painful when I could just lose myself in a good book. It also helps you avoid making eye contact with the uncomfortable looking, staring loner in the corner booth(which is me when I have forgotten my book).
Act confident and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and meet new people. It is much easier to meet people when you travel alone as you are often forced to make conversation or risk sitting in the corner talking to yourself. Not the best way to attract new pals.
Have a plan.
Every day plan your day. Where you want to go and how you are going to get there. If not you will find yourself ambling about getting distracted and you might run out of time. Yes the benefits of travelling alone do mean you can change your mind willy nilly and spend an entire afternoon searching for the right lunch spot without having to put up with travel companion eye rolling. The more I planned in each day, the more I did.
Pack light and then pack lighter.
When on your own you have no one to watch your luggage while you pop to the loo or dash into a shop to buy a t-shirt so take this into account. Also struggling along with many bags when trying to catch a train or bus is not fun and can attract unwelcome attention from unsavory characters.
Have a handful of short interesting stories or a few good jokes up your sleeve.
This will make you a hit in any situation helping you make new friends for evenings out. If that fails invent a new personality or life story. “Yes I really did grow up with the bushmen in Botswana hunting for my supper”.
Stay in touch back home.
Wherever you are and especially if you are changing locations, make sure you keep your support crew at home informed so at least someone knows where you are in the world.