Imagine a holiday without compromise. What does that look like to you?
Maybe you sleep in until 11, have an elaborate brunch and spend the afternoon shopping up a storm. Perhaps you rise with the sun, do some yoga and spend time away from technology.
You spend the entire holiday doing exactly what you want to do. No arguing about where to have lunch, or which direction you should walk in. No obligation to cut your time at a museum short so you can make an afternoon matinee. Just day after day of doing exactly what you want to do.
Sound impossible? It doesn’t need to be. The answer is solo travel.
I started travelling solo when I was 20. I was young, full of optimism and getting out there on my own was the best thing that could have happened to me. I learned to rely on myself, to navigate the streets of a foreign city safely, to budget and to laugh my way through the hard times.
Travel can be challenging and can force you to get out of your comfort zone. But the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
Planning your first solo sojourn doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Here are some hints to help along the way.
When planning your solo trip, be sure to book accommodation in a safe and central location. You may consider finding a hotel or apartment that is walking distance from places you want to go, or close to reliable public transport. Consider if you will be walking around by yourself at night, and make sure your accommodation is in a well-lit and safe neighbourhood.
Apartments are great if you really want to feel independent and cook your own meals, but if you are travelling solo for the first time the comfort of having reception staff you can call on for guidance will make a difference.
Solo but not alone
Just because you’ve travelled somewhere on your own doesn’t mean you need to be lonely. Sign up for walking tours of cities or guided tours of museums or monuments. It’s a great way to get the lay of the land and meet like-minded people.
Consider taking a cooking class, dance class or art class. You’ll be able to pick up a new skill you can use back home and it’s a great way to experience a new place.
Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with other solo travellers you encounter. Share a table with them at lunch or help each other take photos; you don’t need to be best friends, but you may just find a friend for life!
The hard times
It’s true, solo travel is not without its challenges. You may feel lonely, you may get lost and you might struggle lugging a suitcase down a train platform. You can’t prevent every bad thing from happening but a bit of planning can make the solo travel experience easier.
If you’re worried about feeling lonely, sign up for tours and classes ahead of time and consider buying tickets for shows or museums you want to see before you arrive. It will help keep you busy once you arrive at your destination.
If you’re worried about directions, download maps to your phone you can view outside wifi zones and without using data. Familiarise yourself with street names and carry a card for your hotel in case you forget where it is. If you really become lost, just jump in a taxi and show them the card for your hotel. Don’t be afraid to ask shop owners or a hotel concierge for directions, they can also point you in the direction of restaurants and cafes off the tourist trail.
As for your suitcase, learn from my experience as a 20 year old and don’t over-pack. If you can’t comfortably lift your suitcase up the stairs by yourself, it’s too heavy. If you’re travelling solo, no one is going to notice if you wear the same clothes over and over again, so limit the amount of clothes and shoes you pack.
But do leave room for a few souvenirs. When you’re back at home you’ll want to remember the blissful freedom of travelling solo.