Most people won’t travel unless they have at least one other person to go with. Many feel trepidations about being so far from home without a familiar face. But that line of thinking is very restrictive for the adventurous. What if your friends don’t want to go where you want to? What if they can’t afford it? What if they aren’t free at the same time? Are you really going to lose out on an opportunity to see more of the world just because of someone else’s issues? Going it alone is a great way to not only see and experience far more than you usually would, but it’s also a fantastic way to learn more about yourself. It’s much more enlightening than frightening. We understand, however, that not everyone feels equipped to undertake a journey all by their lonesome, or are just not comfortable with it, so here’s a few handy tips for jetting off solo.

Be prepared

Moreso than on a usual trip, you will need to make preparations when travelling alone so that you don’t get stuck in a bad situation. Firstly, learn the lay of the land before you depart, getting familiar with key areas on a map so that you don’t get lost if your phone loses charge. Whilst doing this research, find out what areas the locals consider to be less-than-friendly to tourists so you know where to avoid in order to stay safe. It would also be wise to draft up a list of places you’d like to go and then plan your routes for certain days. This way, you will know in advance how to get around and be efficient with your time. It also has the added bonus of making you look more confident and less noticeably like a tourist, which is always a good way to stay safe from ill-intending opportunists. Next, work out how much money you will need, and bring a suitable amount. Keep your backup money separate (as you can’t rely on anyone else bailing you out) and ensure that you’re not ever displaying a wad of cash lurking in your wallet whenever you go to buy a coffee. In a similar vein of backups and safety, ensure that those at home have an idea of where you will be on what day before you go, and keep them updated during the trip, preferably with photos. Keeping a couple of clear pieces of identification with you at all times is also advised. Possibly the most important bit of preparation is familiarisation with language and culture. It’s very important that you know certain customs and cultural norms when travelling alone. When you’re with another person, you don’t need to meet and rely on locals for social and practical purposes, so it’s okay to stay in your own bubble. But on a solo adventure, it’s important to interact with the locals to whatever degree you can, and as such, there’s an added necessity to prevent offence and appear amicable. Memorising key phrases is much more useful for lone wanderers, so brush up on the basics before take-off and carry around one or two fairly comprehensive phrase books to assure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Go with the flow

Although it is imperative that you plan and prepare, it’s arguably just as important to fully enjoy the freedom of being untethered from anyone you know. Remind yourself that you’re entirely free to do whatever you like, however you like – things that you can never do in your normal life. The best way to do this is by simply meeting people, and saying “yes” to anything that doesn’t sound dubious or unsafe. Go to that rooftop party, have a meal with that kind and helpful family, take those pictures for that happy couple, join that group of friendly fellow travellers at a bar. When you’re on your home turf, you might not ever feel inclined to spend your time in the company of strangers, but when you’re globetrotting alone, these experiences are ones that will live with you forever, and will define your experience. One of the best places to meet people is at a hostel. Select one with large and numerous facilities for socialising, and spend as much time in those areas as you can when at the hostel, avoiding your own room like the plague. It won’t take long before someone outgoing strikes up a conversation, and from there you can find out about other things that are happening, or join them for something you would have never thought to do. Staying with locals is also a good option, as they can give you great tips for getting around the area and seeing things in the best way, as well as potentially opening the door for invitations to the sort of things tourists usually never get to do. Do daring things that your friends would never want to, and spend time with people that you would never have met otherwise. It’s eye-opening experiences like this that broaden your horizons, which is the real core of the magic of travel.

Embrace the duality

This one may sound a bit vague, but what we mean by this is that you can present yourself in two totally different ways when you’re alone. You can go whole hog as an intrepid enthusiastic tourist, or you can blend in almost like a local. When you’re with a group, it can get tiring doing the tourist traps all the time, but it’s also impossible to mix effortlessly with the crowd, as your language during conversation and the way you act will give you away. But, when you’re on your own, you can be someone else, in a way. If you’re enjoying a meal in the outdoors street-side seating of a café, you won’t look like a tourist at all if you’re not wearing some gaudy branded t-shirt, and can enjoy finding out what it’s like to truly live in this place. People will be less likely to treat you differently, and you can have far more interesting interactions with people you encounter, appearing somewhat worldly and knowledgeable, and not like a clueless foreigner. On the flipside, you can go full tourist whenever you want, as you have no-one else there to put on the brakes. Want to spend your two weeks on an organised comprehensive tour of southern Japan, being taken to different towns and cities everyday? Do it. Want to take lengthy cooking classes and go to wine tastings in rural Italy? Go ahead, do that too. Want to change your mind every five minutes, hopping from museum to street show, and switching from lazing on the beach to photographing wildlife? Well just do all that as well! You can get through far more on your own, and you can probably get a lot more out of things when you’re not worrying about whether your companion(s) are enjoying themselves, or having them distract you from something interesting you really want to focus on.

Common sense, and just enjoying it!

As always, there’s far more to say, but most of them would be stating the obvious. You know, the usual things that can really apply to any traveller, but just so happen to be that bit more important when on your own. Packing light so you never have to leave much in your room. Bringing a book or tablet to keep entertained when there’s truly nothing else to do. Arriving during the day so that you don’t have to make your way through uncharted territory in the dark. That kind of thing, the standard stuff, just with a bit more emphasis. The most significant thing to remember though, is to just have fun with it. Let it be your adventure, doing what you want to do, how you want to do it. It may seem daunting, and there may be lots to think about sometimes, but it’s more than worth it. The unfettered, untethered, unrestrained joy you will discover from going it alone is an unfortunately rare occurrence in our modern society. Be bold, be brave, be brash – book that plane ticket for one.

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