Ah! Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Today, I thought about sharing some of our favourite Goway destinations for a romantic getaway, where you can take your soulmate and make Globetrotting memories to last a lifetime.
And then I thought, “No,” because we did that last month, and why should couples have all the fun?
Instead, today’s installment of our Globetrotting blog is dedicated to that friend. You know the one. The friend who talked over a bottle of wine about going to Peru with you that time. Then two months later talked about going to South Africa. Then talked about Australia. Then talked about Peru again. The friend who had to “wait and see what March looks like” or swore they’d “let you know soon.”
Notice a theme? Or that this friend still doesn’t have a Peru, South Africa, or Australia stamp in their passport? Luckily, this friend doesn’t have to stop you.
Taking the plunge and turning a Globetrotting dream into a real, upcoming trip can be almost as thrilling as waking up in a new country. Your heart sinks just a little as the payment goes through, then leaps for joy when that all-important confirmation lands in your inbox.
Ticket to another Globetrotting adventure confirmed… for one!
Yes, one. And to that friend I shared a bottle of wine with? Sorry, not sorry. Because really, how long am I meant to wait for my supposed travel companion to make up their mind?
This is just one reason you might choose to leap into the world of solo travel. Many would-be travellers are hesitant to go it alone, whether they’re concerned about safety or just not having someone along to share the journey. Those are legitimate questions, but they shouldn’t mean putting off your travel plans.
The Bad News: What You Can’t Avoid as a Solo Traveller
To get the cons out of the way, I’m not saying there aren’t drawbacks to solo travel. For one thing, you’re shouldering the cost all alone, most significantly the cost of hire cars, cabs, and hotel rooms. Don’t forget the dreaded “single supplement” that, while fading, still applies to many trips. Unfortunately, costs tend to be costs, and unless you’re prepared to really shop around for a solo room (which can still be a lot more expensive than splitting a twin), there’s little avoiding them unless you opt for a trip that specifically has no single supplement.
Then, there’s the support a wingperson provides. Flying solo means flying solo, without a fellow traveller to watch your back, or your belongings if you need to put them down (hello, Rio beaches). There’s also nobody to help shoulder those situations that require a little extra patience. Then, there are those surprise discoveries travelling in tandem can inspire. Hopefully if you’re travelling together you have some similar interests, but it can be your differences that make the trip really interesting, as your companion prompts you to try new experiences, or even destinations you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
As a solo traveller? Not so much. Those “honeymoon” offers to the Maldives or the Islands of Tahiti can also start to set your teeth grinding after the first 5 or 6. Not that I’m bitter.
But oh, the Freedom!
The biggest, most obvious advantage of solo travel is the ability to create your perfect trip that reaches the destinations you want and takes in your ideal travel experiences at your own pace. Want to plan a packed itinerary without worrying if someone else can keep up? Easy to do. Need a day of “nothing” to catch your breath without worrying about “wasting time?” Done. Want the flexibility to join a walking tour or skip it on a day you’re just not feeling it? No problem. Need more control over your meals or budget, or to take time out for some exercise each day? Done and done! When you’re travelling with another person, it’s natural to think about their needs and perhaps worry about how much they’re enjoying themselves. But we get precious few opportunities in our lives to focus on ourselves, our own interests, and our own needs in a healthily selfish way. Solo travel is definitely one of those opportunities!
Down Time Can Be Your Time
Oscar Wilde said that a bore is someone who deprives you of solitude without providing you with company. If you’re travelling with someone, we hope it’s because you find them good company. But sometimes, you just want to shut out the world and relax with a book. Or a cocktail. Or just a nap. And you don’t want to be a bore! Travelling solo removes the stress of worrying if you’re boring your companion, so use the time as you see fit.
Open More Local Doors and Meet New People
This is one big difference many solo travellers don’t anticipate at first. Travelling alone can radically alter the way local people react to you. Assuming communication isn’t a barrier, solo travel can open up your destination in an extremely rewarding way. While locals probably won’t want to interrupt your time with a friend or family member, solo travellers are often seen as more approachable, not to mention adaptable if they’re lucky enough to make a new friend. People also tend to be more curious about you. What takes you so far from home, especially alone?
I’ve been extremely fortunate in my solo travels, meeting kind people who’ve given me local tips, taken me to out-of-the-way sights, restaurants, and watering holes I never would have found on my own. Some have even invited me to their homes. It’s no sure thing, but as a solo traveller you can at least adjust your plans if you’re lucky enough to receive such an invitation.
I’ve also narrowly avoided the odd scam, and potentially worse. Remember, safety first! Always trust your instincts when you meet someone new, particularly in a country where social norms and customs may be different to yours, and be wary if someone tries to isolate you, or feels overly insistent. Definitely don’t broadcast the fact that you’re travelling alone until you’re confident about someone’s motives.
You Won’t Scream “Tourist”
Speaking of touts and scams, it may seem counter-intuitive, but these people tend to go for travellers in pairs or groups (particularly if they can momentarily break you off from the group). It might be because they hear you talking in your own language, or spot the way you exchange little expressions… whatever it is, the more of you there are, the more “touristy” you look. As a solo traveller, even if you can’t pass for a local, you can project an air of knowing exactly where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, which can help keep the scammers away. Of course, the safety tips above still apply.
Push Your Own Boundaries
This might be the best one of all. Whether it’s your language skills, or the willingness to expand your horizons and take care of situations, solo travel can be a hugely enjoyable growth experience. This is the flipside to having no wingperson to help you along the way. You quickly learn self-sufficiency in a foreign environment, usually in ways that don’t compromise your vacation experience – though they might make it more memorable.
Travelling solo means being less accountable to tight schedules and structures, but it can also mean rolling with a few punches. Perhaps more than anything, it’s an opportunity for self-discovery. This comes not just through conquering unexpected challenges but by grabbing hold of opportunities – and knowing which ones to take and which to let go. You’ll find where your limits are, what kind of travel you really prefer, and boost your confidence as you adapt to any necessary changes. It’s a healthy way to focus on yourself while on vacation.
Just Book It and GO
Remember my wine-loving friend with no stamps in their passport? If you’re travelling solo, there’s no need to wait. Once you know where you want to go and when, the plunge is yours to take. You can grab the best deals when they come up and not worry about rising fares, jump on that great hotel deal (Double? Twin? Who cares? It’s all the more bed!), and bypass the endless back and forth about what to do and when.
All this isn’t to say that I always prefer to travel alone, or that such an approach is ideal for every destination. In some countries – China springs to mind – I’ve been extremely grateful for the support and assistance of a group and a professional local tour leader. Even there, however, I had plenty of time to explore on my own, which yielded its own memorable experiences (and a chance to discover how useless my feeble Mandarin was on the streets of Shanghai). A few years later, I found Japan to be a solo traveller’s dream, enjoying unique experiences such as a stay in a pod hotel, and many interesting interactions with locals – and other travellers – that wouldn’t have been possible or nearly as enjoyable travelling with a friend or group.
You might also embark on your first solo travel adventure and decide it isn’t for you. That’s equally valid. A nice compromise between solo and partnered travel is a small group tour that gives you plenty of downtime (such as the China trip I took). But if you’re willing to take the chance, you might just discover a whole new way to travel that opens up a world of Globetrotting opportunities. And maybe you’ll have that friend to thank for this.
Tips for Solo Travel: How to Conquer the World on Your Own
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