The reason for this somewhat random post is to give some insight to those travellers and friends I know who are debating whether to embark on their first solo adventure this year.
Speaking from experience, I am a huge fan of solo travel. It’s rewarding, liberating and such a confidence booster. I know the feeling of hovering over the ‘Buy Ticket Now’ button not knowing what is out there waiting for you and what you may come across and the hurdles you may face. Once you’ve done it and you’ve done your first trip though, you’ll want to do it again and again!
I’ve compiled a list of the pros and some cons of solo travel and things you should consider prior to embarking on your solo trip.
You can do what you like, when you like and at your own pace – Going solo gives you the total freedom in going where you want, choosing where you want to stay and what it is you wish to see and do there.
Time – Funnily enough, it actually feels as though you have more time on your trip when going solo. You’re not having to spend time on your trip debating with the other person/people you’re with about what the itinerary is for the day, where to eat 3 times a day and waiting for everyone to get ready in the mornings (and evenings!)
You will easily learn to budget – Once you’ve done your first solo trip you will not want to stop. People ask me how I manage to go away so often and it’s all down to with budgeting (and fitting trips in between shifts). When I go away I stay in hostels, I eat food from supermarkets and make the most of the deals for the local attractions in tourist leaflets and hostel kitchens to help keep costs down. I fly with the likes of Ryanair, Wizzair and Easyjet and while it’s by any means luxury – it does the same job as other airlines – it gets you from A to B. It’s amazing how cheap some flights actually are. Mid-week flights tend to be cheapest and also goes for when you actually BOOK them too. The same goes for hostel/hotel accomadation – so if you do shift work like me and work weekends, you’re actually better off and sure makes working lots of weekends a little easier to handle! Also sign up to mailing lists from the likes of Wowcher, Lastminute.com, Ryanair, Easyjet, Hostelbookers, Expedia – the list is endless.
Using your initiative – Travelling alone involves making every decision along the way by yourself through using your judgement and trusting your instincts. This may be easier for some than others, but it sure can take a while adjusting to when you’re mid-breakdown in a ‘what the hell do I do now!?’ situation, but by using your brain and getting through and out of sticky situations are so rewarding, knowing that you did it yourself.
Improves social skills – Staying in hostels will improve your social skills dramatically, even if you’re the shyest of people. If you don’t talk to them first, people will talk to you instead to get things flowing and there’s usually SOME common ground between you seeing as your in the same place, same time, usually both on YOLO solo trip also. Plus I always find it more comfortable if I know a little bit about the people I’m sharing a room and bathroom with. I also find walking tours a great way of meeting new people – plus a cheap option of knocking the must-see sights out in one go! If you like a drink/party then nights out arranged by the hostel staff are another way of throwing yourself out there and mingling with people you’ve just met. Again, usually a cheaper option with drink/entry offers available if you go as part of a group from the hostel as opposed to off your own back.
More time to reflect – I feel solo travel sometimes puts me in such a reflective mindset – not on what I want to see/do and get out of my trip – but on my life back home and who I am becoming as a person. It can be hard to do this when you’re stuck in the routine of things at home and equally as hard when travelling with a companion (especially if you’re like me and actually talk to yourself quite a lot. Weirdo.) Yeah, it really helps put your life into perspective is what I’m trying to get at here.
Money – Some things are just cheaper done as a two or as a group. Cab journeys, hotel rooms, luggage (sharing cases) to name a few.
Safety – is a pretty big one to consider here. If you’re alone and get attacked, no one will know about it but you. If you get mugged or your property stolen, there’s no one with you to help you out. With this in mind, my advice to you is this. Be extra vigilant. Don’t travel alone at night. Keep your belongings hidden and bags closed and in sight (in front of you) and lock your property away when leaving hostel rooms. Always note the emergency services number when you arrive in the country should you encounter a problem and its handy to keep the hostel business card (telephone number and address) should you need to contact them or to give the police an address of where your staying of need be. If you can, keep your passport and driving license separate from each other and same goes for the money you have with you. That way if you do get things stolen – you will have SOME backup ID and money.
Loneliness – I haven’t really experienced real said ‘loneliness’ when on a solo trip, however I have fallen ill on a trip to the point where I didn’t have the strength to leave my hotel room. We needed to catch a 4 hour long bus ridein just 5 hours time and after being up all night ill – it just seemed impossible. I was fortunate that I had my best friend with me this time round who went and spoke to our host and explained the situation who then let me stay in our room past checkout to let me sleep, went to the pharmacy and tried to explain my symptoms to which she brought me back medicine for and just generally picked me back up and helped me carry on. Really grateful for that. So yes, a friend along the way definitely had its advantages!
Sharing experiences with someone – I tend to be quite a reserved person when it comes to talking about my trips after I’ve been on them and only tend to tell people about it who ask and even then don’t go into too much detail as I don’t want to seem as though I’m bragging. Sharing experiences with someone not only helps eliminate that sense of bragging as it’ll becoming from both of us just how awesome our trip was, but experiencing something amazing with friends just adds another depth to the experience. In December me and 3 friends went to Iceland to which we were super lucky to experience the Aurora Bouralis in all their glory. Sharing that experience with friends just made the experience just even more special and something we can all look back on in years to come. Priceless.
If you’re new to solo travel I would start small and do a short 3 day city trip. Say Dublin, Budapest or Copenhagen for example. Many of the locals will speak good English here should you encounter any problems along the way – be it accomadation issues, directions or even just being able to ask someone where the nearest loo is!
Always do some research before embarking on your trip – emergency phone numbers, how much things should cost so you don’t get ripped off, things to avoid or scams to look out for. What may be normal back home may offend people in another country so a getting a small pocket guide book is a good shout and will tell you some dos/dont’s of your destination.
I hope some of this information was useful and if you’re debating whether solo travel still – just go for it! Then obviously come back and tell me about it!
Are you a fan of solo travel? Do you have more tips or experiences you’d love to share? – I’d love to hear them in the comments below!
Till next time!