In 2015, by chance and not by choice, I took my first-ever solo travel around some parts of Europe. I never planned to do so but I found myself in Paris for a month-long work trip and decided to put my Schengen visa to good use.
The plan was for my sister to join me at the end of the work trip but sadly, she wasn’t able to get a visa. We had paid upfront for train tickets (because they were cheaper at the time we booked them) and therefore, I was faced with two choices.
Cancel the entire trip, return home to my routine, lose half the costs for our bookings and try to recover anything we could. OR, lose half the costs anyway, solo travel and have a life-changing experience. Needless to say, I chose the latter and I have not looked back since.
Before that trip, I was extremely introverted, shy and perhaps awkward in many ways (I still am in some ways) 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 about solo travel.
First, let’s demystify this thing called ‘Solo Travel’: It does not mean travelling 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 and introverted.
Oh, and for 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 photo buddies for the entire day and remained friends for a long time.
If you still feel awkward asking strangers to help take your pictures, then consider investing in a tripod. Most tripods for mobile phones come with a remote shutter which you can use to shoot photos by yourself.
Solo travel is not boring
If you are worried about being bored while you solo travel, then consider planning out your itinerary in detail before you go. Be sure to leave room for spontaneity as some of the best travel experiences happen when they are unplanned.
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.
Solo travel can be safe
Safety is one of the major reasons why many people wouldn’t welcome the idea of travelling solo and this is 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. You should also consider investing in travel insurance for every trip.
Stay Safe While You Travel
Protect yourself from the unexpected while you travel by purchasing an Insurance Cover. I use SafetyWing, which is affordable and covers several travel-related risks, such as unexpected illness or injury, eligible hospital expenses, lost luggage and more. Click here to purchase a cover for your travel and visa application needs.
If you’re considering a trip within West Africa, you can use standard transport companies which are more expensive than using regular public transportation for example but are generally safer.
(PS: Mofe, Fola & I recently recorded a video about safety tips while travelling solo. They also apply to travel in general)
Now that we have dealt with these myths about solo travel, let’s talk about tips to help you overcome your fears.
7 tips to overcome your fear of solo travel
1. Know that it is okay to be nervous
No matter how much I travel, every time I have a trip coming up, I get extremely nervous. The first time I tried Couchsurfing in Benin Republic, I 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 fear.
Taking steps to research 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, you will feel less nervous.
2. Start small
One way to overcome your fears of solo travel is to start getting comfortable with your own company. This could mean going out to restaurants or cafes on your own or going to see a movie at the cinema alone.
And trust me, it is not as weird as it sounds!
3. Plan your budget and expenses in advance
While preparing for your trip, consider outlining your day-to-day plans against a budgeted amount. I usually do this using an Excel sheet and this also comes in handy when I apply for visas!
I list out my daily planned activities and the corresponding amounts for hotel accommodation, transportation, feeding and entertainment. Then I sum up and include a percentage of the total costs for spontaneous, impromptu or miscellaneous expenses.
This way, I am able to reduce the chances of being stranded in a foreign destination. These days, I have no issues with card transactions but when I only owned a Naira debit card, I would often try to pay off as many expenses as I could before leaving Nigeria.
I understand that sometimes, life happens – your wallet could get missing or stolen or in my case, you can get caught up in new (overnight) bank policies that restrict access to your account. (Read: Solo Travel Horror Stories: A corporate beggar in Rome). Stay calm, there is always a way out.
4. Track your expenses
If one of your fears is running out of money, after planning out your itinerary and expenses, you can also try recording everything you spend. This is a great way to stay on budget and is useful even when you are not travelling.
Budget travellers will also find that there are many ways to cut costs and stay on budget while travelling.
5. Start with solo-travel-friendly destinations
Some locations are generally ideal for solo travellers – and this could be in terms of safety and cost. During my first solo trip to Europe, I found the countries I visited to be very easy to navigate and stayed in hostels, for the most part, to save up on costs for accommodation.
Before 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 and I can certainly recommend it to anyone looking to travel solo for the first time.
6. Have a good logistic plan
If one of your solo travel fears is about getting lost or navigating your way around a new city, then consider having a good plan for logistics in place.
This may include choosing an earlier flight to arrive at your destination during daylight, getting a good map application that you can also use offline, arranging pickup to your hotel before your arrival or staying in a place close to the airport/bus station on your first night.
7. Find support groups
Know someone who’s been to where you’re planning to visit? Talk to them, get their insights and find out what to expect in the location. 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? 🙂