Does one really need courage to solo travel?
Solo travel is often the result of a person getting fed up and tired of friends and family members canceling on him or her last minute. The fated solo traveller is often the one who starts off planning a trip to his or her dream destination. A friend or family member gets whiff of the plans and joins in verbally. As the deadline approaches this person starts making excuses and often cancels on the cusp of the trip. If you are someone who hasn’t travelled alone, especially abroad, this can be daunting. For women travelling alone there may be additional dangers. The result of everyone backing out of a trip means that the person who is all in has to give up his or her plans momentarily or sometimes forever.
Have you ever planned a trip with family or friends and had to cancel because of this scenario?
What can you do if this happens? I high suggest that you proceed with your plans and solo travel. Yes, at first it is scary to go exploring a new destination by yourself, but you can do it and enjoy it too. It builds courage and over time you learn that with a bit of planning and research, you can enjoy all your dream destinations solo dolo if necessary.
Many of us start our solo travels off less than confident. In my case, I just wanted to see all these places now, but the people in my life either did not share this passion for travel or could not afford it. Also, when a friend hijacked my first solo trip and messed it up, I was ready to go off exploring on my own thereafter. Doesn’t it just bug you when someone joins in on your trip last minute and behave as if you are a tour guide or travel agent – to much stress. Solo travel is where peace is at.
How Solo Travel Builds One’s Courage
- You have only yourself to rely on, so you learn to get around new places and look out for your safety. When you know that you have only yourself to rely on, you are more attentive and take the necessary steps to ensure that you stay safe. You are never truly alone when you travel, remember there are others travelling and you will meet people who live in the areas you are visiting. I have made many friends when I solo travel, by being open to opportunities to interact with people like I do at home.
- Once you have done solo travel once you are embolden to do so again and again. There is something about going off by yourself and returning home safely that gets into your psyche. You learn a bit more about how capable you are and your ability to manage yourself in a new environment and do this well. Naturally, you will transfer much of what you learn to execute other solo adventures. You may gradually find yourself addicted to solo travel. This happened to me.
- You meet other travellers and know that you are not truly alone but you can choose to interact or not. A great way of doing this is to stay at hostels. Many hostels have communal areas where guests mill around. You can also join local tours and meet other fellow travellers and locals. I remember staying at a hostel in Cape Town and I actually ending up having some great conversations with the staff and being shown around town by them on their day off. There are cases where locals will embrace you and show you their city.
- You will gradually go to places that you never thought of visiting all by yourself. Yes, this is true. As you solo travel to more and more places you start developing the confidence to navigate different settings and your tolerance grows as well.
- You come to know that you are able to enjoy visiting different places all on your own. You do learn to sightsee on your own and revel in being able to go at your own pace and switch things up when needed. This is especially true if you already enjoy being alone. It is really nice to get back to my lodgings after a day of sightseeing, crash and sleep in. You can’t always do this when travelling with others who may want to keep going going like an energizer bunny. Solo travel allows you take it fast or slow or pause when you want.
- You learn to take your own pictures and become proficient at it (check out this post on how to take great pics as a solo traveller). Well some people do, I still struggle because I prioritize being in the moment over spending time to get perfect pics. You will see my lopsided outcomes on here from time to time LOL. Asking others to take your picture is also a good way to meet new people and chat them up. Build up your courage!
Some Major Benefits of Solo Travel
- You learn more about yourself in new environments as you grow on different trips you take. You learn how capable and resilient you are. You also learn to navigate your way around entirely new spaces and how to better scrutinize people and situations. Not every friendly face is after your best interest.
- Trips/travels are more rewarding since you go at your own pace and spend more time doing the things you enjoy without feeling rushed by others. You know, like sleeping in late or randomly deciding to lounge around reading a book all day instead of running around crossing sites off the ole bucket list.
- You meet more people(local and international) since you are not focused on interacting with friends or family while travelling. I said this before but will also add that when we travel with family and friends we focus only on our group for the most part. Since I solo travel mostly, I spend loads of time talking to staff at my lodgings, at the different places where I visit and other fellow travellers.
- You have a more flexible schedule since you are the only one depending on you – it’s nice to be able to move on quickly from a place where the vibes isn’t right since you are travelling solo. I remember a few years ago, for some reason when I got to Nairobi, I was over it after two days. It was nice to pack up, get on a bus and go to Kisumu, which was more low key and just what I needed then. Solo travel allowed me to do that because my itinerary was to be in Nairobi for 4 days.
- This is a bit selfish – but you don’t have to compromise on where to eat or sleep haha. This is important though. It can be a problem when you travel with picky eaters, no? I have a healthy appetite and I like to try most of the local foods when I travel. It is all a part of the experience after all.
Is there a place that you have been wanting to visit but no one else wants to go with you? Solo travel is great and may be worth trying. Research thoroughly where you want to go and make some plans. You may enjoy it beyond your wildest dreams…
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Research and Plan Your Solo Travel Adventures to Build your Courage
Where do you start you wonder? I am a big fan of reading wikitravel articles as a starting point, on a place I plan to visit. The detailed ones give much of the basic information you need and helps you to know some key things to search for in more detail: visa requirements, transportation, accommodations, popular sights and some basic historical facts. For example, when I started planning my upcoming trip to Peru that is what I did first. I knew I wanted to go to Macchu Picchu but I also wanted to know more about the country so I googled ‘Peru wikitravel’. Then I went on to read about specific cities as well.
Blogs are indispensable when researching and planning a trip. You can learn about a destination through the eyes of many people and shape your own expectations. Since the reality is that many bloggers do sponsored posts on locations they visit, I also do further research. Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor forums are two places where I spend much time combing through threads and reading a variety of postings. Many of the people on these forums share everything from their itineraries to things they were disappointed with. They are often different kinds of travellers sharing, so I find these to help with getting reliable information as well.
I dedicate on average about 6 months to doing research and taking notes. This helps me in my solo travels to prepare mentally. As I spend much time looking at pictures and reading trip reports about a location, when I arrive a that place it doesn’t feel as foreign as it would if I hadn’t done any research. For people just starting to solo travel I think this is a good practice. Also if you are visiting a location where you do not know the local language this is something you need to do.
I also like to arrange for my lodging to send someone to meet me at the airport and I try to arrive before night fall. As a woman travelling alone, I find starting off my travels in an unfamiliar destination this way helps me to ease in and make the most of my experience. I learnt my lesson from my trip to Bangkok where I arrived late at night. I took a taxi and mistakenly gave the driver a bigger bill than was necessary. He of course did not tell me this and did not give me back the right change. I learnt my lesson.
How to Start your Solo Travel Adventures
Start off with baby steps – in Jamaica, we say one must learn to crawl before he or she can walk. The same principle applies here. If you know you are a scaredy cat, then go at your own pace. Start your solo travel adventures at home. Choose a city or location in your country that interests you and go there to explore by yourself. Research about good accommodations within your budget, local transport, events and other things that interest you. Go to different places on ‘home turf’ until you feel comfortable venturing further afield. At home, people speak our language and we can understand the culture for the most part, even in different cities and such. We bloggers always talk about solo travel abroad but we can all solo travel in our own backyards as well.
For some people ‘semi solo travel may work’ (there I go making up terms again). By this, I mean visiting a new city or area where you may have family or friends living. When they are at work you can go off exploring and have the comfort of knowing they are there if needed. I remember my first time in NYC at 19 doing this. My aunt who I was staying with was more flustered than I was, about me tromping all around Manhattan by my lonesome. Our fears about solo travel are sometimes borrowed from those around us. We have to balance settling their nerves with our desire to explore like Dora, and see new places sans a trusty companion like hers.
Gradually solo travel to other places as your confidence grows and you become more courageous. To start off your solo travels abroad – again especially for women– start off with a place that is known for being safe and/or has a language you know. Also consider places with well established travel routes where the tourist industry is robust and developed. This means that you will meet many other travellers and it will be easier to get around, even if you don’t speak the local language. Match these elements with your interests as you decide on where to start off your explorations abroad.
I have done solo travel trips all over Asia, some Middle Eastern countries, southern and eastern Africa. All the things I have mentioned above are what I do and my trips have been enjoyable. I will also say one other key thing I do as a solo female traveller, is that I do not go out partying at night. I ensure that I do not knowingly put myself in dangerous situations while travelling. I use day light hours to my advantage and enjoy having a nice dinner somewhere then go back to my lodgings before everything closes up.
I am not one who is into night entertainment so this works for me. If you are, then I would suggest teaming up with people from your lodgings to go out at night. This is why staying at a hostel is good. Most hostels actually organize such groups. I see you making that face saying hostels aren’t your thing. Give it a try. Remember more and more hostels are starting to have rooms with ensuite so you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Who agrees that solo travel builds your courage over time? Please share your experiences with us.
Don’t let other people hold you back from living your travel dreams. The world is big, beautiful and has many enticing sites to explore. Try solo travel and live outside the box. Try it, you may fail but you may soar either way you will learn.