A guide to travelling solo
FOR some the thought of solo travel can be daunting. But for Emma Lovell the freedom, the flexibility and the sense of adventure are all so enticing.
I’ve travelled to 57 countries around the world and the majority of the time, I’ve travelled alone. At times I’ve met up with friends or family in a destination. Many times I visited my loved ones in their home town, reaping the benefits of local knowledge. And other times I’ve just really wanted to take on an adventure, like my recent trek along the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, so I book it and go. But the bulk of getting to and from destinations has been as a solo traveller. And I’ve loved it.
When travelling solo you get the benefits of going at your own pace, changing your plans if and when you please and meeting new people from totally different walks of life. With the world as your oyster and the freedom to do what you want, when you want, it is a thrill like no other.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to visit a destination but can never find a travel buddy, or maybe you’ve had one too many bad group travel experiences? Solo travel can open a world of opportunity full of exploration, discovery and even new connections.
I’ve learnt over the years that even when you want to be, you’re never really alone. The world is full of people and we’re seeking connection. So unless you’re planning to trek out into the wilderness with just your backpack, some rations and a map (Into the Wild-style), your journey will be filled with interesting encounters and fascinating stories from locals and fellow travellers alike.
However, for many the idea of solo travel can still be confronting. It’s something you might not have considered, yet you yearn to visit incredible places around the world and perhaps even destinations in your home country. If the concept of travelling solo is holding you back, here are some ways to approach it and make the most of exploring new horizons solo.
Include a group class or trip
Whether it’s a cooking class, a walking tour through a city or an overnight excursion, booking a group experience as part of your solo journey will enhance your trip. It might just be connecting with others for a few hours during the activity but it will make the idea of trying something new and different a whole lot easier.
Stay in hostels
You don’t have to be a 20-year-old intrepid backpacker to have the hostel experience. There’s a wide range of properties on offer in this category and some are more like hotels in many ways, while still being affordable for solo travellers. The greatest benefit is the common areas such as the kitchen, lounge room and bustling reception area. They provide an opportunity to connect with other travellers and share your experiences. You can even pick up some great tips from the guests or the helpful and generally well-travelled reception staff. Private rooms as well as dorm rooms are often available if you want to ease into the shared experience.
Always carry a book
Although it can be lovely meeting others, sometimes it’s the pleasure of your own company you desire. Like-minded solo travellers may spot you a mile off. Having a book means you’ve always got something to do when you’re feeling isolated but it can also ward off a chatty companion if you’re after some down time.
Arrange to meet or visit friends
Why not make a plan to meet a friend in a destination you’ve both always wanted to visit? I once travelled to Finland and joined my best friend’s family to see Santa in Lapland. It was a magical experience that really had to be shared. We were both on our own trips, mine solo, but meeting up to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience was truly memorable.
Get good at taking selfies
The downside of travelling alone is not having someone to take pictures of you or with you. So either start practicing the long arm extension for a classic selfie or invest in a selfie stick. You don’t want to come home with an album full of pictures without a single one of yourself. You can also ask a friendly passer-by to take a quick snap. There’s no need to miss out on photos when you travel solo, you just have to get creative.
However you choose to explore the world of solo travel, I encourage you to give it a go. Some of my most memorable travel experiences over the past 14 years of travel have happened when going it alone. Who knows, you might even discover how wonderful your own company can be.