Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Solo travel is usually something that most people will consider to be a scary thought, but why do so many people do it?
There are so many benefits to solo travel, but it's usually the first step that's the hardest to take, which is completely natural. The thought of travelling to a new country alone, where there may be language barriers, cultural differences and all other types of problems, facing them alone sounds somewhat daunting and to sometimes terrifying.
To say I didn't have these feelings on my first solo trip would not be true, I think every solo traveller encounters them.
Why Solo Travel?
I love to travel solo, and there are so many reasons why!
Firstly you are not tied to anyone else, you can explore the new country you're in at your own pace. You have complete control over what you want to see and do and you can eat when and where you want to eat.
Solo travel makes you stronger. There may well be occasions where you face problems, and you will have to find a way to solve them. You could have trouble with communication, get lost, or even miss a flight or train. There are countless problems you could have on your travels, but you learn how to deal with them. The longer you solo travel, the better you get at solving such issues, and they no longer become worries during your travels or in every day life.
You'll learn a lot about what you're capable of, gaining confidence in difficult situations which you'll always carry with you throughout your life thereafter.
It doesn't matter what type of person you are, if you're confident, shy or even if you suffer from anxiety. You will be a different person after travelling solo, a stronger and more knowledgable person.
You'll encounter many people on your travels and make new connections which you'll never forget. If you're a solo traveller it doesn't mean you have to be alone throughout your travels, and meeting new people on my travels is one of the best parts about solo travel.
What if I Suffer from Anxiety?
The fist step may very well be harder, but once you're past that, I don't believe it will be harder for you. As I mentioned above, you will become stronger and learn how to deal with situations. If you do suffer from anxiety, or you consider yourself to be shy, I would implore you to try.
Plan your trip well so you're prepared for situations before they arise. I also think you need to discover what type of traveller you are before you begin, there are many different types.
What Type of Traveller am I?
I think there are several categories of solo travellers, each wanting different experiences from their travels. Although I've split them into different categories, people can fall into several, and I'm sure people travel for many more reasons, but these are the three most common I tend to encounter.
I'd consider backpackers to be the most common type of solo travellers. Backpackers will usually stay in hostels to meet other like-minded travellers. Which is without a doubt one of the best ways to meet people.
They are usually younger travellers, having taken gap years before or after university. They are often the easiest travellers to meet and usually always welcome to meeting fellow travellers. Backpacking is one of the best recommended ways to solo travel especially if it's your first time.
I'd consider myself to fall mostly into this category. A solo traveller who is open to exploring as much as they can, not just visiting famous sights, but lesser known sights too.
A traveller who wants to learn as much about the culture as possible. A traveller who prefers to meet the locals as opposed to fellow travellers in an effort to learn more about their way of life.
Someone who is happy to travel to a warm location and sit by the pool or on a beach all day. They will usually stay in a nice resort where everything is included and are not too fussed about visiting destinations that are too far, but they may spend a day here and there doing so. Their main goal being to relax and get a nice suntan.
Knowing what type of traveller you are, or plan to be, will help you decide what destinations to visit and how to spend your time there.
Of course you could be a mixture and your priorities may change as you travel, but it's good to have an idea as to what experience you're seeking beforehand.
Where do I Begin Solo Travelling?
Personally I'd suggest starting out in a destination popular for solo travel. This will ensure on your first trip you shouldn't encounter too many obstacles and will hopefully meet other travellers who can give you advice.
Australia, New Zealand and Thailand are typical destinations for many first time solo travellers. They are great starting points for first time backpackers.
If you're more of an explorer, then I'd suggest the same countries, but also many places in Europe are ideal for first time explorers. Especially the Scandinavian countries, which although pricey, are beautiful, friendly and safe destinations to visit for first timers.
As for a holiday maker looking for sun and relaxation, it doesn't matter too much which country you visit as long as there is hot weather and a nice resort, you should be well looked after.
How do I Meet People?
The key to meeting anyone when travelling is simply to talk to people. Don't be afraid, most people will be welcoming and be happy to talk with you. If they are not, don't take it to heart, just move onto someone else and strike up conversation with them.
As stated above, hostels are a great place to meet fellow travellers, and the way that most backpackers do so. If you're too scared to make the first move, then it's likely someone else will strike up conversation with you.
If you're not staying in a hostel or there's no real connection with the people at your hostel, which does happen, don't be distraught. You can try free walking tours or day trips visiting popular tourist sights. There will often be solo travellers on these trips who may be happy to talk and meet up with you later for company.
Another option is to join pub crawls. Alcohol is a great way to relax and get to know people, and you'll likely meet travellers from all over the world on such events.
I prefer to meet locals as opposed to fellow travellers, not that I don't also do so.
So I will usually just talk to people. In the evenings I try to visit bars where locals are strike up a conversation with them. As I perform magic, it's a very good ice breaker, and I've met so many wonderful people from most places I've visited.
It can be very nerve wracking to begin with, but once you make the first move and people are open to you, it'll be worth it. Most of the time the locals I meet are very welcoming and are very interested about where I'm from and why I'm visiting their country.
Sometimes you will make friends for life, and sometimes it will be just a brief encounter. But either way it will continue to shape you and give you numerous unforgettable memories. Some of the brief encounters have become some of my fondest travel memories.
How do I Deal with Obstacles?
It's possible you will encounter obstacles, but the first thing to do is stay calm, don't panic! One of the best things you can do to solve a problem is ask locals for advice, most will be more than happy to help. However this could vary depending on the country you're in. Although most people will be happy to help, there are some countries which may have scammers who will prey on tourists. So if you're in doubt I suggest asking citizens who work at popular tourist attractions, bars and restaurants, tour guides or even the police for help and advice.
Be sure to always keep a copy of your passport and visas on your phone and also printed out copies left safe at your place of accommodation.
Have all your accommodation, travel and tour information backed up on your phone and printed copies too.
Download offline google maps, and print out paper maps so you know your way around your destination. It's often good to get a feel for the city on google maps before you visit so you know where things are located ahead of time.
What are the Negative Sides to Solo Travel?
There are of course negatives to solo travelling, and it's likely you'll encounter these issues the longer you travel.
Most people I have spoken to think that eating alone is one of the most difficult things to do. But personally I've got used to this. Don't worry what others may think if they see you eating alone. No one cares, and no one is looking at you.
Usually I spend this down time to sort through photos I've taken during the day, update my travel journal, or go over my plan for the next day.
Another issue is having your photo taken. You may get to a nice location and want a picture of yourself.
You can of course ask a passer by, but their photography skills may not be all that good. If no one else is in the vicinity, you could try a self timer, but this may not always be easy. Unfortunately there have been some locations I've had to miss out on some good photos with myself in, as there was no one to take the photo and I was unable to position the camera to set a timer.
I think the biggest downside to travelling solo is that there there will be times you will feel lonely. Quite often you may need some time to yourself, which is fine, we all need this. Sometimes you won't make connections when you're travelling and you may be in need of some company. When this occurs I suggest contacting friends and family on social media as they can give some comfort.
Even if you do get lonely, it's usually not for long, and everyone has bad days. The positives of solo travelling far outweigh the negatives, but just make sure you're prepared for the negatives.
So, taking all of the above into account, I believe it will be one of the best things you can ever do.
When I first began to solo travel I was scared. I remember being sat in a bar in Luxembourg alone, too scared to approach and talk to anyone. Eventually I gave in and just went for it, and began talking to a group of people. They were so welcoming and friendly that they met me the following day to show me around their city.
Since then I have met so many people on my travels, both locals and fellow travellers. Some I have even met up with on different occasions since, sometimes in different countries. I've gradually made a network of friends and acquaintances across the world. A lot of places I visit I now have someone who I can meet up with, which is always a nice thing to do.
I've seen and explored some of the most beautiful places in the world at my own pace, not tied to time scales.
I've seen both happy and sombre sights. I've learnt about so many different cultures and ways of life I knew nothing about previously.
I've had good times and a few bad times, all of which have given me strength to be the person I am today, which continues to help me in every day life.
I have so many amazing memories, which I'd never have if I hadn't taken the first step to begin my solo travels.
So if you're thinking about it but you're nervous, just do it! You won't regret it!