10 ways to be a smarter solo traveller
Thinking of taking your first solo travel adventure? You wouldn't, ironically enough, be alone.
Rising Google searches on the subject, ever more singles-oriented tours and proliferating books on the theme point to a steady growth in lone journeys – for women and men.
But how to make the experiment of single travel all about joy and personal enrichment, rather than loneliness or risk?
These 10 solo travel suggestions should put you on the right road.
- Get to know your travelling buddy (that'll be you)
There's possibly no better way to get to know yourself than when travelling solo – but a little foreknowledge helps, too.
Fess up to yourself: how much solitude can you really handle? How will you deal with confronting – possibly risky – situations alone?
Among the travel skills of communication, budgeting and planning, where do you shine and where could you brush up?
- Enjoy being self-indulgent
Ignore that naysayer whispering in every solo traveller's ear: "Aren't you being selfishgoing solo? Surely, travelling is an experience best shared."
Guilty as charged. Solo travel is, by definition, self-indulgent. You get to do, see and spend what you want – for once in your life.
- Just don't shut yourself off
A little self-indulgence is fine but avoid solipsism: retreating within.
Instead, look outwards and gobble down the feast of new sights, smells and sensations travel serves up every day.
- Shed the hayseed look
Gorge on the sensory smorgasbord of a new country or city but don't make it too obvious.
Few things better attract the attention of dodgier types than a solo traveller wandering around like a wide-eyed rube who's just seen traffic lights for the first time.
- Go social with your accommodation
Forget vast, anonymous chain hotels, however cheap or convenient: they're no friend of solo travellers.
Opt instead small hotels or even hostels. Here you'll find a warmer ambience and bustling communal areas to meet new friends.
You could try social networking apps such as SoloTraveller to kick things off.
- Embrace your inner party-pooper
Once you've found that friendly little family-run hotel, try this to avoid the awkward experience of going out in the evening alone: don't.
Instead hit the sack soon after dinner (on which subject, see below) and rise with the sun.
Then go exploring, and you'll find a largely people-less morning landscape to discover on your own.
- Get snap happy
That so-called magic hour after dawn is – along with dusk – one of the best times of day for photography. Indeed, travelling solo is an excellent chance to refine that great travel skill: making memorable images.
With a little technical knowledge and plenty of practice, your pics should look increasingly impressive.
- Swallow your dining fear
The biggest dread of lone travel for many people – dining alone – even has a name: solomangarephobia.
One trick to overcoming it? Cultivate an aura of mystery. Who is that self-possessed person sitting over there, you want people to think. (That it's Denise, an adventurous junior account manager from Scunthorpe, is irrelevant.)
Try this, and a surprising number of your fellow diners being bored by – and boring – their travel partner will probably long to be in your place.
- Know the dangers
You're your own bodyguard, travelling alone. If you're going anywhere a little risky for the day, leave a note in your accommodation or a post on social media saying you'll report back later, when all's well.
Plan to arrive somewhere new before nightfall, if you can. When you get there, your hotel reception or home-sharing host should be able to advise on the seamier sides of town.
And that hoary piece of travel advice – dress modestly? What, when I've just rocked up in this sensual tropical paradise and I've got a tan to cultivate?
Put it this way: few travellers – singles especially – have got into trouble abroad from covering up too much.
But, as you'll probably agree if you take the plunge, the biggest risk of solo travel is being put off the potentially life-transforming experience of doing it.