There’s no denying that travelling by yourself for the first time is intimidating.
My first solo trip was in January 2015, when I ventured to New York for five days (with a couple of days spent in Oslo either side). It had taken me 27 years to pluck up the courage to travel alone, and even then, I only booked the trip as the return flights from Oslo to New York were so absurdly cheap it would have been a crime not to.
Whenever I meet someone new and I mention that I like travelling, they’re almost always surprised to hear that I’ve been to such places by myself. I get comments such as: “Do you like travelling alone? Aren’t you scared when you travel by yourself? You must be so brave. I could never do that. I would love to travel more but I have nobody to go with and am too scared to do it alone. Don’t you get lonely when you travel on your own?”.
Well, in all honesty, while I enjoy trips away with friends and family, there’s something really exhilarating about travelling solo. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t gone away on their own before, but climbing the stairs of a plane, with my passport and boarding pass at the ready, knowing that when I disembark I’ll be completely alone in a foreign country, gives me a real buzz.
If you are in two minds about whether to book a trip by yourself for the first time, read on to see if I can convince you to take the plunge and join thousands of other solo travellers around the world…
Do you like travelling alone?
Absolutely. For starters, there’s a sense of freedom that comes with travelling independently that you just don’t get when you’re travelling with someone else. The trip is completely yours, so you get to do what you want, visit the places you want and see what you want, all at your own pace.
You won’t end up missing out on something that you really want to do because someone else wants to do something else (which in my experience, can cause friction between friends travelling together).
I’ve also found that travelling somewhere on your own encourages you to meet the locals, try new things, make new friends and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
There will be times you feel homesick when travelling alone – that is to be expected. I’ll unashamedly admit that two weeks into my trip to Colombia I really found myself missing my cats. Sad but true.
But it’s important to remember why you went traveling in the first place: you wanted to see a new place, try new things and meet new people. It was meant to be different and far away. Being homesick is just a temporary bump in the road. You’ll be home eventually and everything will still be there, more or less as it was.
I honestly believe that travelling will help you appreciate home so much more.
Aren’t you scared when you travel by yourself?
Travelling on your own can be scary, yep, especially the first time. But it’s only as scary as you allow it to be.
Before I started traveling solo I was scared of the idea of even eating by myself in a restaurant, let alone boarding a plane and heading off somewhere where I don’t speak the language.
Safety is obviously a big concern, and should always be at the front of mind. But you can ensure you’re safe by being prepared, being aware and being smart. Afterall, you’ve managed to survive this long because you’ve learnt how to keep yourself out of tricky situations. Just keep doing that when you travel.
I like to think I’m a pretty savvy person – I wouldn’t put myself in unnecessary danger or take needless risks.
Sure, you may get hopelessly lost, miss a connecting flight, lose your luggage, find out that your booking has magically unbooked itself, get pick-pocketed, hate the place you’ve travelled to, get lonely or end up at the totally wrong metro station. But all this could happen regardless of whether you travel alone or with someone else, so you shouldn’t be put off by the thought of scenarios like this.
And facing such difficulties by yourself can be incredibly rewarding. Learning to problem solve, face conflict and overcome obstacles alone will change you and your outlook, usually for the better.
Since starting my solo travel life last January, I have become more independent, more confident and have more faith in my ability to face whatever is thrown at me. And because of this, I’m no longer scared about travelling on my own.
Don’t you get lonely when you travel on your own?
Again, the answer to this question is ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
I’m a pretty sociable person and feel more than comfortable around new people, at home and abroad. Wherever I’ve been in the world I’ve found it fairly easily to chat to anyone I meet, which is great. In fact, some of the people I’ve met on my travels have become really good friends. I even ventured to Istanbul with one guy I made friends with when travelling in Colombia.
Travelling alone makes you a lot more approachable to other solo travellers too. You already share something in common: you want to see the world. But even if you never speak to your new acquaintances again, you had a friend for a day or a week, and people often end up being the highlight of the trip.
I like spending time with people and do enjoy the company of others. However, I can’t cope with being around someone 24/7. I find that after a certain amount of time with a person or group of people, it starts to wear on me. I need some alone time, some solitude to just chill out and recharge my batteries.
Being able to make new friends easily is great, but no matter how good you are at it, sometimes you will still end up feeling lonely.
You may be travelling out of season and find other travellers just aren’t around. You may only meet groups who aren’t really interested in adding a new person to their circle. You may struggle with the language and find making friends difficult if you can’t join in conversations.
Though the world is full of amazing places, you may find that some places just don’t suit travelling alone. So it’s important to find a destination that you not only have the desire to visit, but also feel comfortable with when it comes to the idea of travelling through it solo.
All the places I’ve been to alone (New York, Oslo, Sousse in Tunisa, Fez and Marakech in Morocco) have been fine. But I think travelling by myself when I went to the Czech Republic or The Gambia may have been a completely different experience.
I know that not everybody will love it as much as I do, but I would encourage anyone contemplating a trip alone to try it at least once, even if it is only to a new town or city in their home country. Just remember that it’s ok to be afraid to travel alone. Don’t let that fear stop you from booking a ticket and jetting off though.
There’s a big exciting world out there waiting to be explored.