As a solo traveller there is something very self-satisfying about travelling on your own. I don’t always go away by myself but try to at least once a year. Mainly because when I travel on my own I feel like I see more and experience more, I feel like I get to switch off from the real world and make time for me. But even though I’ve travelled on my own since I was 19, there’s still something invigorating, liberating and somewhat scary about it. So I thought I’d come up with a few tips for other solo travellers.
Know the Lingo
Now this doesn’t mean you should swallow a phrase book (thought I’d find one just in case though) or become fluent over night, but you should always try to know enough to be polite – ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, ‘May I have another coffee?’ You get the drift. It will also give you a chance to speak to more people; you will find when travelling on your own that you will wake up, get ready, be an hour into your outing and may still not have used your voice. So why not say bonjourno to a passer-by?
Don’t be afraid to look like a tourist
We all remember the episode of friends when Joey visits London and gets in the map! You may be like Chandler and want to fit in with the locals instead of looking like a tourist, but do you know what? You are a tourist. You do not know your way around, you will need to ask for directions, you will need to stop for a coffee to take a look at your map. And that’s ok.
Be prepared to get lost
This will happen. Don’t worry about going off the beaten track and getting lost, sometimes the most amazing sights are found when you are not looking for them. I remember wandering off down a side street in Rome and stumbling upon a village carnival, obviously the locals wanted us to get involved. In Greece once, my mother was invited to a Romany Gypsy wedding because she just happened to get lost near that particular church.
If you get lost then just get your camera out and take some photos. At least it will look like you’re not too lost and you might just get some good snaps from the slight detour. Also, remember to ask someone to take a photo of you, you want to document where you were and it’s difficult to get a whole cathedral in a selfie.
Always use the loo
You never know when you might get lost and need the bathroom so always go when you have the chance! (You may see a running theme of getting lost here – it may just be me but I have hardly any sense of direction and quite often have no idea where I am!)
Enjoy your own company
Take this time to explore, to take photos, to read your favourite book, to write a journal… Travelling on your own will give you a chance to get some ‘me time’ in and escape the crazy life you just left at the airport. Enjoy your own company, enjoy the silence when there is silence, enjoy planning your own itinerary and most of all enjoy the new culture you’ve temporarily become part of.
If you are thinking of travelling by yourself then you should already be one of those people who have their wits about them. When in a foreign country on your own be sure to know where the ‘rough’ areas are and stay close to the hotel/hostel during the evening, so you are not walking home alone down some dark alley at night. You can never be too safe!
It might seem easier and more comfortable to stay very local each day whilst visiting a city but what if there is another amazing place only an hour away on a train? Most European cities have really good train links so take a look at the map and see where else you can explore. Be daring! I remember finding my way from Pisa to Florence, around the whole of Florence and back again and feeling super proud of myself. I got on the right train, got off at the right stop, only got lost three times and made it back before dark!
Remember to make friends
If you are staying in a hostel more often than not the other travellers are on their own too and would welcome a friendly smile and a ‘hello’, it’s always nice to make new friends from different corners the world. Hostel life in Australia taught me that if I go to a new friend’s country to visit I will always have a place to stay and if the friends I made came to my country, I would always offer up my spare room. It was like an unwritten rule of backpacker camaraderie. If you are in a hotel then try to get to know the waiters at the local restaurant; they will be able to be your local tour guide to direct you to the best places to visit. I once made friends with a waiter in Pisa and three years later we are still in touch and now I have a friend to visit in Italy! If ever you and I meet in another country be sure to say ‘Hi’.
So from one solo traveller to another – be safe, have fun and remember it’s ok to get lost!
I’d love to hear your solo travel stories, where have you been by yourself? Where would you recommend for travelling on your own? I’m always looking for new places to go.
Looking forward to hearing from you.