In 2015, by chance and not by choice, I took my first ever solo trip around some parts of Europe. I never planned to do so but my travel partner couldn’t get a visa and we had paid upfront for train tickets (because they were cheaper at the time we booked them).
I was faced with two choices. Cancel the entire thing, return home to my regular routine, lose half the money for our bookings and try to recover anything we could. OR, lose half the money anyway, go solo and have a life changing experience. Needless to say, I chose the latter and I have never looked back since.
Prior to that trip, I was this extremely introverted, shy and perhaps awkward fellow (I still am in some ways, lol) but travelling on my own in Europe helped me to improve and very rapidly too. So now, I want to encourage you to take the bold step and overcome any fears you have regarding solo travel.
First, let’s demystify this thing called ‘solo travel’
It doesn’t mean traveling alone
Technically, that’s what it is. Packing up your bags and daring to venture out into a different world on your own. But as you travel, you’ll get to meet so many people, locals and tourists alike that you’re hardly ever alone if you don’t want to be. You’ll also find that making friends comes naturally, even if you’re shy.
Oh and for the picture lovers, there are so many other solo travellers looking for someone to take their pictures too! In Rome, I met ‘M’ through a ‘can-you-please-take-my-picture’ moment. We wound up being each other’s picture buddy for the entire day and have remained friends since.
Solo travel is boring
There’s hardly any time to be bored if you have a packed holiday planned. There may be a few times when you feel lonely and homesick – especially for longer trips – but fret not, it only lasts a moment. I wrote this article here about how you can deal with loneliness on the road. Be rest assured, you will have fun – maybe too much even.
Is solo travel safe?
Safety is one of the major reasons why a lot of people wouldn’t welcome the idea of traveling solo and this is definitely a valid concern. Accidents can happen anywhere, including in one’s home country but being somewhere foreign just triples the effect.
The key thing to note is that you have to be careful wherever you go. Some places require a higher level of caution than others but wherever you are, it’s important to be self conscious and aware. If you’re still worried about being all alone or harassed, consider taking an organized tour where you always have someone (either a driver or a guide) with you most of the time.
If you’re considering a trip within West Africa, you can use a standard transport companies which are more expensive than using regular public transportation for example but are generally safer.
Now that we have dealt with these myths, let’s talk about tips to help you overcome your fears…
5 tips to overcome your fear of travelling solo
Know that it is okay to be nervous
No matter how much I travel, every time I have trip coming up, I get extremely nervous. The first time I tried couchsurfing in Benin Republic, I literally fought against the will to run back home every time I had to change buses. The key takeaway here is to learn to rise above the fear.
Taking steps to research about your destination or perhaps the people you’re going to meet (e.g if you’re couchsurfing) can help with any feelings of nervousness. When you have an idea of what to expect, the less nervous you’d feel.
Go somewhere around you alone. Go to the movies, a bar or a restaurant. Get comfortable with your own company.
Plan your budget and expenses in advance
That’s one way to avoid being stranded. When planning, consider solo traveller friendly destinations – budget-wise (the single supplement in some places could kill ya!) Use public transport where available and try recording everything you spend – even when you’re not travelling. This is a good way to stay on budget.
I understand that sometimes, life happens. Your wallet could get missing or stolen or in my case, get caught up in new (overnight) bank policies that restricts access to your account. (Read: Solo Travel Horror Stories: A corporate beggar in Rome). Stay calm, there is always a way out.
Visit solo friendly destinations
Europe is a great start. During my tour, I stayed in hostels for the most part and shared train berths with strangers. Prior to the trip, I would never have considered doing that. The very thought of it seemed crazy to me. But solo travelling in Europe made all the difference. I’ve also heard good things about South East Asia. I hope to visit soon – solo or not.
Find support groups
Know someone who’s been to where you’re planning to visit? Talk to them, get their insights and stay positive! Solo travel is not as bad or scary as it seems. And you too can fall in love with it!
So, let me know, did I manage to convince you? Still scared? Or are you all fired up to plan the next trip on your own? Have any more tips to share? Please leave them in the comment section below.
Oh, and there was this guy!
I’m sorry but I don’t think I can help him. Can someone try? haha!