There are all sorts of reasons to go it alone, and lots of benefits to solo travel. You are free to see and do whatever you like, whenever you like, and you won’t run into the nasty revelation that your best buddy doesn’t share your travel style. But, while all the choices are yours, so are all the conversations, complications, and costs. Luckily, there a few good approaches to solo travel that will ease discomfort and keep you in control of your own safety and happiness en route.
1. Choose Cheap and Communal Over Luxurious
The best way to fight loneliness is to meet lots of new people, and the easiest way to do that is to stay in a hostel. Hostels are cheap and laid back, and most have a decent common area where you can hang out and talk to other wide-eyed travelers. And despite popular belief, hostels aren’t just for young backpackers – in fact, many are happy to house families or older travelers. The other bonus to hosteling is the savings, especially if there is a communal kitchen and fridge to store and prepare your own food.
If hostels are a bit too communal for your taste, look for a B&B or small inn where you can speak directly with the owner. They typically know their city well, and you can count on a warm and welcoming demeanor.
2. Take Trains Instead of Planes
Traveling from city to city on a train is another great way to meet people, especially on longer rides, but it’s also a comfortable and efficient way to soak in your surroundings and get in touch with your thoughts. These days, cheap airlines tempt travelers with quick and affordable flights between all their points of interest, but the train is more comfortable, plus it’s a nice time-out from busy airports and attractions. You’ll probably find that people are easier to approach and conversations are more happy and relaxed on a train. If you don’t run into any English speakers, you can simply enjoy the passing landscape.
3.Make Lunchtime Count
The general demeanor of a sunny afternoon is different than in the evening, where formality can replace fun-loving energy. Whether you decide to buy a few deli items for a picnic in the park or drop into a little café to read or write, you’ll probably see more happy travelers and have better service. Lunch is often cheaper than dinner, so you can treat yourself to a nice sit-down meal without spending a fortune on a four-course menu. Since you’ll have more energy and focus earlier in the day, lunch time is a great opportunity to catch up on postcard correspondence, or to learn some more of the local language.
4. Stay Connected to Friends and Family
Meeting new people is great, but homesickness can hit hard. Make use of wireless hot spots and cheap international phone cards to connect easily and as often as you need. Sometimes, writing the email or postcard is enough to leave you with the comfort of connection, even before you get a response. Also, it’s good to check in once in a while, so somebody knows where you are and how you’re doing.
5. Stay Safe
There can be a fine line between friendly curiosity and naïveté – and the latter can get you into trouble. First, rely on your own preparations and common sense as much as possible, so you don’t have to turn to strangers for help all the time. Do your research of the city, know some important words or phrases in the local language, and stay alert when you’re walking around. Women who travel alone can have a separate set of issues, but confidence, a firm response, and extra caution will normally save you from uncomfortable or unsafe situations.
Traveling alone doesn’t have to be lonely, as long as you can get past your fears and in touch with your new community. You might be surprised at the number of solo travelers you meet, and since new friends can mean new ideas and adventures, try to stay flexible with your schedule so you don’t have to turn down many enticing excursions.