I’ve never really had travel buddies and I won’t hesitate to go wherever I can, whenever I can. So it truly amazes me how many people won’t travel alone since it’s pretty much the only way I know how to travel. After returning from my 37 day AYCJ journey around the US, I was surprised that the most common question I was asked was not “what’d you see? What’d you do?” but rather “weren’t you scared?”
I think the fear to travel alone comes from the fact that people are afraid of the unfamiliar—what they don’t know. Here are some tips to get you over that fear and psyched up to enjoy just how amazing solitary traveling can be.
If this is your first time traveling alone:
- Choose a destination you’re comfortable exploring on your own.
- Learn how to enjoy your own company. Personally I look forward to me-time on the road so that I can reflect on the experience and absorb it all in my own way.
- If you’re afraid that you’ll get lonely don’t worry, you won’t be alone for long. In fact you’ll probably end up meeting more people than you would traveling with others, assuming you’re engaging in friendly conversations with those around you. Locals love to take an out-of-towner to their favorite spots, you just have to hint that you’re interested.
- Get over your fear of eating alone. Seriously. Just enjoy the food, enjoy the atmosphere, and enjoy yourself. Quit worrying if people are looking at you.
- Many times the price of traveling solo can be daunting because there’s no one to split the price of the hotel room and meals with. But a little creativity can make the trip affordable on a single budget. For starters, you can set your exact dates and travel times without accommodating for anyone else, so you’re more likely to get the cheapest flight possible. For lodging just break it up a little. Instead of booking a hotel room for a week, stay there just a few of the less expensive nights (usually during the week) and check into a budget place or a friend’s house the rest of the week. Also you’ll probably spend less on food since you won’t be dining out as often. (Don’t miss out on the food though! Saving money while experiencing the local cuisine is an entirely different topic in itself.)
- Look on sites like craigslist or CouchSurfing for free to cheap lodging with random people. Always have a backup plan in case that doesn’t work out, that way you won’t get suckered into dropping a ton of money on the first place you see if the situation arises.
- As always, do your research to find the cheapest accommodations. Even if you’re not interested in a hostel, searching for them will bring up deals on cozy bed & breakfast-style accommodations as well.
- If you’re still a little skittish, it never hurts to leave your itinerary and contact information with someone back home should there be any any problems.
And a few reasons why traveling alone is awesome:
- You’ll enjoy 100% of your vacation because you can spend it doing your own thing at your own pace.
- You’re free to change up the itinerary as much as you want, even at the last minute.
- There’ll be no one to mandate a pit-stop back at the hotel because their feet hurt, no one leaving their stuff scattered around the room, and no one forcing you to skip over a great restaurant because it doesn’t sound good to them. You’re on your own watch and what you do is entirely up to you.
- You’re more likely to explore even further outside of your comfort zone, and possibly experience more spontaneous spur-of-the-moment decisions since you won’t be locked into any plans. In my experience those decisions have always led to the most memorable stories.
- Let’s face it—a night out with a bunch of people you just met can be way more fun than a night out with the same friends, hearing the same stories over and over.
- There’s nobody to limit your travel plans, dates and times. I’m a huge fan of getting the most out of my vacation time (even if that means taking a red-eye that lands at 7am when I have to be to work at 930), but most people I know need an entire day to recoup.
- If you do choose to reach out to a friend, or a friend of a friend for a place to crash, it’s definitely more appropriate if it’s just you.
- You can use transit time to study up on something you don’t have time for at home— brush up on a foreign language, read a book, organize files on your laptop, or just catch up on sleep. For the music lover, an MP3 player is crucial in transit.
- You can literally leave everything behind while on the road. That shouldn’t be intimidating, but extremely liberating.
But perhaps the number one best tip for traveling alone, just do it, as Nike would say. The thing to remember is that traveling in itself gives you both options and freedom. After all, isn’t that what travel is all about?