There are some major benefits to travelling alone. But some people are too scared to do it, whilst others think it would be a lonely experience. As somebody that has travelled solo before, I can tell you that there are a lot of perks to it. You’ve just got to embrace the plus points and keep some key hacks in mind along the way.
Where have I been?
When I was 18 I worked in Canada during my GAP year. That was an adventure and a half. However, I found it really hard being alone at times and there were some tough moments where I wanted to run back home. I didn’t and I’m so glad that I did stick it out because those memories and friendships are still with me today.
More recently, I’ve travelled alone to New York, Boston, Vietnam and Cambodia. I also travel alone for work. I’ve been to various conferences abroad and UK travel is something I do regularly.
What are the benefits of travelling alone?
There are some key benefits to travelling alone. Here they are:
1) You’re embracing the opportunity
When I lived in Canada, on my GAP year, I wanted to make money whilst travelling, so I could spend it on new experiences. I did this and although I found it hard being away from home at such a young age, I’m so glad I embraced those opportunities as I made so many happy memories during that period of my life.
In my mid twenties, I got a job working for a travel company. This job came with some perks, such as a holiday each year. But shortly after starting work there, I split up with my long-term partner, meaning that I no longer had an automatic travel companion. I used the opportunity to go away with my sister, my mum and various friends, but there was no obligatory companion. I priced up a trip to America and I realised that by going alone and using youth hostels, I could potentially go to New York for a week and have a long weekend in Boston for just over £1,000. People questioned my decision to do this. “But New York is huge.” “Oh I’d never do that, I’d want to share those memories with somebody else,” are just a couple of the comments that were thrown my way. But I had the opportunity to go to New York and I took it. I can tell you that in this moment, writing this article, during a pandemic, as my toddler naps, I am really glad I took the opportunity to travel to America alone when it presented itself.
2) No compromise
If I went to New York next year, I’d go with my partner and I don’t doubt that we’d have an amazing time. But in a city with so many exciting things to do, would I really be able to justify half a day on the Sex And The City tour? Probably not. What about if you’re there on a solo trip? Absolutely.
There is something very freeing about doing exactly what you want to do and not having to justify your choices.
3) Being anonymous
In a world where you can feel exposed, due to social media and constantly having a phone to hand, there’s something quite liberating about being in a place where nobody knows you. There’s nobody to answer to and no expectations. You can blend in and be anonymous. When did you last do that? Can you even remember?
4) You can go with the flow
When you go somewhere alone, you don’t have to worry about letting anybody else down, so if you wake up one morning and you don’t fancy doing something, you can change your plan.
I can remember being in Hanoi and after 12 days straight of tours and travelling, I just wanted to chill out. I wanted to go and get my nails done and to visit a museum I’d spotted the day before. So I did exactly that. I cancelled the tour I was meant to be going on and I did my own thing.
5) You can seek out company if you want it
When you’re away and you’re on your own, you can always find somebody to talk to if that’s what you want. From the bar person, to the bus driver. If you’re after company you can seek it out.
You can also arrange to go on group tours, or you can stay in a hostel where there are activities you can join should you decide to. I know that some people refuse to entertain the idea of staying in a hostel, but I’ve stayed in some cracking ones over the years; HI Boston is better than a lot of hotels!
Travelling alone doesn’t have to equate to being lonely and in many ways I think it’s good for your mental health. I think that its possible for both extroverts and introverts to enjoy travelling alone too and you won’t truly know if its for you until you try it.
6) It’s great for your confidence
In my experience, we are capable for more than we credit ourselves for. You might think that you couldn’t go away alone, but if you decide to, you will realise that you can do it and your confidence will soar.
Sometimes, when everyday life gets tough, I remember certain situations I got through alone and I find it a comfort.
Hacks to get by:
Those are the benefits of travelling alone, but it isn’t always plain sailing. These are the hacks I’d recommend you keep in mind if you decide to fly solo.
1) Always have a book
Books; they’re brilliant aren’t they? But on a solo trip they are invaluable. Your book will occupy your mind if you find yourself bored, at a loose end, or feeling out of place. A book will also provide a sign that you’re not open to conversation and occasionally, when drinking coffee or eating dinner, may want that. And finally, reading a book allows you to blend into the background.
Oh and if you find you don’t want to put your book down because you’re enjoying it so much, guess what? You don’t have to! On a solo trip, it’s completely acceptable to cancel dinner reservations to sit and read.
2) Be open to change
If you’re travelling alone, you need to be open to change. Things might not go to plan, but you will find a way through. If you start getting stressed because your bus is running 20 minutes late then you’ll spend your trip on pins.
3) Every situation is a story
Sometimes things go wrong when you’re travelling. It’s the nature of the beast. But do I look back on the time where I travelled across Cambodia, in a taxi, alone, with awful food poisoning as a bad memory? Well it wasn’t the best situation, but I got through it and it’s an interesting story to tell. I often recall having to stop as some toilets (holes in the ground) to be sick and how, in that moment, I thought: how is this my life? I distracted myself on that journey by watching EastEnders on my tablet, swigging Pepto Bismol and chewing on Immodium. How I didn’t projectile vom all over the driver, I will never know.
4) Be cautious
You can have loads of fun on a solo trip, but you do need to be cautious. Don’t get drunk at the bar on your own, always know how you’re getting home and if your instinct tells you a situation is unsafe, presume it is and get out of there. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
5) Make life easy for yourself
There’s a time for going across Manhattan, on the The New York City Subway, pulling a suitcase and there’s a time for hailing a yellow cab and paying $40 more. When you’re on your own, it makes sense to make life as easy as possible and that might mean spending a couple of extra quid here and there.
6) Get a seat at the bar
There have been occasions where I’ve felt intimidated by eating alone in restaurants. So in those instances, I always ask if there’s a seat at the bar. I find it less formal eating there and often, there’s a bartender you can make conversation with.
If you would actually prefer to sit alone though, take a deep breath and do it. Nobody is looking at you. They are all too consumed with what’s going on in their own heads and lives.
7) Get a good night’s sleep
I remember my first experience of Asia. I was walking down a street in Siem Reap. Everybody was staring at me, I was boiling hot and I was stood next to a rubbish dump, so you can imagine the smell. In that moment I wondered what I was doing and I had a bit of a cry. But I’d also been awake for 30 hours and funnily enough, after a good night’s sleep, everything seemed a lot brighter. Always remember; a good night’s sleep can solve plenty of problems.
Is it worth it?
The benefits of travelling alone are plentiful and if you get the opportunity to, you should go for it. You have to take the opportunities that present themselves in this life, so don’t let self doubt get in the way and take each experience for all it has to offer.
Have you travelled alone? What were the benefits? And what’s the one tip you’d give to others? Let me know in the comments below.