You did what?
“You went all by yourself!?”asked so and so, with that ever so subtle note of surprise in their tone. No, it’s ok, its only the umpteenth time I’ve been asked that. Yes, if you must know. I did go…all by myself. Call the newspaper and put it on the list of craziest things they’ve heard this year. %$#%&#@!!!!
Ok, calm down Colleen. So and so doesn’t mean it. They just don’t understand. Seriously though, many people just can’t understand why a person would choose to travel alone. Myself, I can’t say as I necessary choose to travel alone. It doesn’t always happen, but actually the number 1 reason I travel alone so often is because I have no other alternative. I’m single. It’s a fact. The majority of my friends are not, so finding a travel buddy becomes harder and harder as the respective husbands/wives and babies come into the picture. I long for the good old days when my friends and I didn’t have our various commitments and we could just get away together! I travel alone because I refuse to allow my single status or the fact I couldn’t find anyone to go with me to hold me back.
The Solo Blues
I get it, really I do. There are a lot of reasons why a person might hesitate to travel alone.
1. It’s just not as fun by yourself. Hmmm…Yes and No. Certain experiences are meant to be shared. Somehow, taking tea in Harrods by yourself doesn’t have that same je ne sais quoi as if it were experienced with someone else. Or how about when you are the only person over Christmas holiday on a Jane Austen tour of Hampshire, England. If you know me, you know I am a huge Jane Austen fan. True story, I booked this tour a couple of weeks ahead of my solo trip to London, Christmas 2012 after a search of tours on the internet came up with Hidden Britain Tours. Showed up at the Basingstoke station for what turned out to be a private tour! Phil took me all over Austen’s ancestral haunts in Hampshire and I leaned so much about my favorite authoress. Couldn’t have been more fabulous for a Janeite like me, but I would have loved to have had some of my friends with me that I know would have loved it as much as I did.
Traveling to Venice, Italy was enhanced by the fact that I had two good friends with me, having a bunch of laughs as we traipsed around.
Bringing my brothers back to Spain with me in 2012 and getting a chance to show them my favorite places was an especially unique experience that I probably didn’t even appreciate as much at the time as I do now.
2. What if I get sick or hurt and I’m all by myself? Definitely a real concern people have. Nobody wants to be abroad and alone while they are sick or need medical attention. That same trip in London I had a terrible cold, and it put somewhat of a damper on things.
3. I’m just no good alone. Well, there you got me! Some people just aren’t good traveling by themselves. They get nervous, get lost easily, can’t navigate very well, or come off as easy targets because of how touristy and lost or alone they appear. It’s important to know this about yourself before traveling alone.
This is all true, but there are a couple of reasons I enjoy traveling alone. I can set my own agenda, which is a major plus. I don’t have to attend to anyone else’s special needs or wants, deal with their quirks or have them deal with mine (like my OCD dislike of getting wet in the rain, lol). It’s just me. It’s also something that is character building, at least for me. Stepping out on your own, whether in travel or otherwise, gives you a lot of confidence. It’s a great time to reflect and be alone with yourself and your thoughts, which we all need o be able to do from time to time. If you can’t stand a little alone time, as I know many people who can’t, solo travel is obviously not for you.
The silver-lining is, you do not have to travel alone if you don’t want to. There are a number of things you can do to avoid this.
1. If it is a business trip, take advantage of the fact you have other colleagues along on the trip and do some sightseeing.
2. Join a meet-up travel group. I’ve yet to do this myself, but know people who have had great success with this.
3. Meet new people, singles like you, who could be potential good travel buddies. This has been especially successful for me, as some of my good friends are people I met through our common love of travel.
4. Take a singles tour, or a guided group tour, of some place you have always wanted to go. May seem cheesy, but hey, it’s a way to avoid being alone. When I first arrived in Spain I took two different guided bus tours of Toleda, Segovia, and Avila, and it was great! I traveled to Ireland last March and will travel to Germany in 2017 with my school teacher friends on an EF tour, and they are always a blast!
If you do travel alone, here are some top things to consider.
1. Safety First. Know your limits. I know there are people who go to crazy extremes, and travel to crazy places alone. If you are traveling alone, I think you absolutely need to consider where you are traveling and is it a safe location. I’m not talking typical concerns of pick-pockets and what have you. As a single woman, I would never travel to certain areas in the middle east or places of unrest for example. It’s just common sense.
2. Don’t feel like you have to stay in unsafe areas or hostels. Many hostels can be very nice, but from my knowledge of them, most are in questionable areas and will upcharge you for everything, from a towel to internet. I have found that, particularly if you desire your own private room, by using search engines like booking.com you can find a decent budget or 3 star hotel for almost exactly the same price and in a much more desirable location. While you may have the attitude, hey, I’m only going to sleep there, I still maintain that the little time you do spend in your hotel you want to feel safe and be able to get a proper sleep to allow you to treck around during the day.
3. Make sure you have your medications and preferred remedies. That trip to London taught me to carry a dose or two of Nyquil with me, as most European countries don’t carry it.
4. Just lie. Never act like you are really alone. If you start to feel iffy about a situation, just make like you are expecting someone to join you any minute, start a fake phone call with someone…then make like a tree and leave.
5. Leave a basic itinerary with someone. Skype, text, whatsapp someone on a regular basis to let them know you are having a kick ass time! 🙂
6. Do some research ahead of time. Appearing lost of like a fish out of water when you arrive at your destination is not what you want to do, whether you are traveling alone or not. Don’t be inflexible, but have an idea of how you’re getting from point A to point B.
7. Most of all, have fun and enjoy your me time. Make the most of it, whether you wanted to travel alone or not. I’ve seen people go on even small trips alone and complain on Facebook the entire time that they were alone. Not what you want to do.
So now, where are we headed to next?!
Buen viaje, gnomies!
Have you ever traveled alone? Share your stories with the gnome in the comments.