For someone who always traveled with friends, family or his/her partner and is used to having people around at home and on the road it will be difficult at first to imagine that traveling alone can be a really great alternative.
Loneliness, fear and disorientation!
These are just some of the fears you will be facing when thinking about going for a trip on your own. For most people traveling alone means leaving one’s comfort zone and rushing head first into the unknown. And not everyone is able to defy his/her own feelings and do his/her thing. But it is worth it!
The first suggestion for getting started with traveling alone is to do an organized tour. This way you don’t have to worry about planning a proper trip when off on your own for the first time and can concentrate on your environment. You don’t have to think about what you will be doing the next day but can relax thoroughly. Take the time to get to know your fellow travelers and see how you feel about traveling with other people who at this point are still strangers to you!
On that note: I would not really call other travelers strangers. I like to think of them as friends I have not gotten to know yet. That feels so much better to me!
I too had to travel alone!
I have to admit that I have quite a few years of traveling on my back by now. For almost 10 years I have been backpacking through the world. But not always alone and not in the beginning.
With 14 and 15 I went to Malta for language study trips. A great experience that gave me a lot. I was lucky that pretty much everything around me was organized and I just had to focus on getting along with the other participants and making new friends.
This trip showed me how easy it is to reach out to other travelers and some of the friends I made there I was still in touch with for years!
After that I still traveled a lot but always with friends, be it class mates from boarding school that I went to Portugal with or my family with whom I did a cruise on the Mediterranean. I was constantly on the road but only seldom was I alone on those trips!
With 18 years I managed to cut myself loose and summoned the courage to strap on my much too large backpack and take off. My destination: Australia!
When I landed in Brisbane the company that I was going to work for hooked me up with a hotel room so there I was, on the bed in my room, with a view of the city, not knowing what to do with myself.
I had landed in the morning, was completely jetlagged and still had the entire day ahead of me. The company had booked the room for 5 nights. That is how much time I had to find my own place and set up a life in this new and still foreign country.
So I did what I usually do when I don’t know what to do with myself. I wandered off without knowing where to!
I walked through the CBD (Central Business District) of Brisbane, crossed bridges, poked around the Kangaroo Cliffs and enjoyed the view of the city, I passed Southbank and let my feet dangle in the city pool and then, slowly, I grew less nervous and new friends came along. I quickly got to know Maja, another traveler that was in Brisbane as an Aupair and on the very same day, my first day in Brisbane, we planned a trip to the Gold Coast!
And a little later after I had moved from the hotel and was alone in a little flat in Kangaroo Point (the worst thing you can do as a lone traveler!) I got to know four girls when I was out partying and even now I still hear from them once in a while. We did so much together while I was in Brisbane.
When I finally had some time off after many months of working I packed my backpak, tossed it into an old Holden Jackaroo 4×4 and toured the country. From Brisbane to Cairns, from Cairns to Uluru, from Uluru to Adelaide and on to Melbourne and Sydney.
I constantly got to know new people on this trip, gave some of them rides, partied until daybreak and took hour long walks on the beach with virtual strangers after only a few minutes of knowing them!
After this first trip alone traveling was never the same again. For the 5 years that followed I almost always traveled alone. Once in a while I dragged along a friend. But it never took me longer than a day till I had new friends.
Today I have a few tips for you that will make your holiday alone just as great as any other. Let me tell you why you should definitely try traveling on your own, I promise it will be a life-changing experience!
1. Stick to your routines and hobbies!
If you like sitting on the couch at home and reading a good book then you should do that regularly when traveling as well. Loneliness only comes when you allow it to, I will elaborate on that later.
If at some point you don’t know what to do with yourself, grab a Kindle or tablet and read a book just like you would do at home.
This applies to any hobby you enjoy. Being on the road does not mean that you have to give that up, be it martial arts, jogging or hitting the gym. You can maintain your hobbies when traveling and you really should do so!
2. Hostels or flat shares!
Most people recommend staying at a hostel when traveling alone because you meet other travelers there. But in the long run you will find yourself freqeuently having the same conversations when at a hostel. Anybody who has spent a little time traveling will know how horrible it is to hear the same conversation starters over and over again (Where are you from? Where have you been to so far? Where are you heading next? What was your greatest moment so far?…).
When doing AirBnB, don’t book a place where you can stay for yourself and hide from the world, get a simple room in a flat share. This way you immediately get to know other people, locals most likely, that can show you around and have the best insider information. You will get to know the country and its people so much better!
3. Go off the path and avoid tourist hot spots!
Guess why I recommed that. Not only because of the name of my blog but because you will quickly become one of many in the tourist hot spots and drown in the masses. This makes it harder to get in touch with other people.
This doesn’t mean that you have to wander off the grid entirely to get to know other travelers. But the slightly hidden places are not just special because they are lesser known, they also make it really easy to get to know other travelers you meet. Because most of them are looking to meet other travelers, just like you!
4. Get active!
Are you in for an adventure? Let’s go then. Nothing creates bonds like experiencing something crazy together. Sing up for a canyoning tour where you spend several hours with other travelers or go white water rafting. I bet you will toast to the great time with a cool beer. And who knows, it wouldn’t be the first time that travel buddies found each other that way!
5. Try the Couchsurfing community!
Couchsurfing is not just great for finding a free couch with a local to crash on, it is also pretty helpful with getting to know other travelers. For every city there is a forum where locals and travelers alike organize meet ups and events.
I have used the forum a lot myself and got to know a whole other side of Vienna by night!
6. Take your friends and family along!
Nowadays we all travel with a smartphone. Make use of the time when you are alone to catch up with family and friends. Thanks to Skype, Facebook, What’sApp etc. we are never really alone, even when traveling!
Just because you are at the other end of the world does not mean you suddenly have to be on your own!
7. Facebook groups
More and more travelers are starting to form groups on facebook and making new traveler friends this way. If you are planning a trip but are not sure whether to go alone, to find a fellow traveler or to join a group of people doing a trip – Facebook will help you. Every day tens of thousands of backpackers find each other and make new travel friendships in groups like Work & Travel or Backpacking New Zealand.
And maybe make the online friendship an offline one?
8. Travelbuddy apps
Apart from Facebook there are several travelbuddy apps by now. They let you meet likeminded people wherever you are.
Many of these apps have not made it to the mainstream yet but they are worth trying!
9. You did it!
Once you are on the road and see how easy it is to meet other people and hang out together remember that other travelers might have had the same fears you did before they set out on their trips. For some it is easy to rid themselves of their fear and approach others. Some may be more introverted and can’t handle it as well as you do. So make the first step!
If you see someone sitting at a table alone ask nicely if he or she wants to come over and sit with you. Many simply will not ask on their own accord – be a good traveler!
To sum up:
Traveling on your own is not as bad as everyone says. If you are still worried about your safety when on the road you should read this post. Otherwise just face the unknown and take on your next adventure alone, because you will not really be alone unless you want to!
What are your tips to when traveling alone?