In praise of solo travel

Having spent so much time feeling as if I were merely a guest on other people’s holiday, it is a relief to get to a place in life where I feel happy to travel on my own.

Friends often say ‘oh I couldn’t travel on my own; I’d just feel so sad’ but it’s better this way than some of the nightmare holidays I can remember with other people.  Being expected to traipse around museum after museum reading every single display with precision, for example, or sitting in an English pub in the middle of St Lucia drinking English beer and watching football for two weeks, or measuring the success of a holiday on who had the darkest tan.

I'm not anti museum.  This is the Dali museum in Barcelona.  I just don't find it necessary to visit every museum in a city

I’m not anti museum. This is the Dali museum in Barcelona. I just don’t find it necessary to visit every museum in a city

Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, if that’s what you enjoy, but it never felt like it was ‘my’ holiday.  Maybe I should also say that I have had some good trips with other people too (really, I’m not that difficult; no really) but I just feel strongly that you shouldn’t miss out on doing what you really want to do, just because there is nobody suitable to travel with.

For my first ever solo trip, planned and organized entirely by myself, I travelled to India.  I’d planned to go for a month and in the end I was away for eighteen months on a mammoth trip that involved six months in India, a couple in Thailand and some time in Australia.

This is Bangkok.  Photos from India and Australia have long since disappeared on a lost hard-drive

This is Bangkok. Photos from India and Australia have long since disappeared on a lost hard-drive

It was mostly just blind stubbornness on my part.  When I’d mentioned the trip whilst it was in the planning stage, people mostly laughed. ‘You can’t even walk to the end of the road by yourself; how do you imagine you will survive a month in India?’ was a typical comment.   In the end I stopped telling anyone about my plans and simply headed off to the airport in the middle of the night, ready to start my big adventure all alone.

Don’t you get lonely? Is normally the first question people ask when I say I like to travel solo.  No because you can always make friends along the way, at hostels and other places.  And the good thing about these ‘friends’ is that you can join in for some activities that you like and then go your own way if they want to do something that doesn’t appeal so much.

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‘making friends along the way’.  It’s great finding other people who want to do the same stuff as you.  This is Inner Mongolia, China.

Isn’t it dangerous? Is the second commonest question.  No, it is probably no more dangerous than walking around in your own town or city and it just takes a bit of awareness of your surroundings and a brain that doesn’t walk down a dark alley at night, drunk and waving your money in the air.  It’s about body language; if you don’t walk about with the body language of a victim then you are much less likely to become one.  (I’m going to return to this subject in a later post).

Something I like to do (and the backpacking purists here will start screaming at me) is to book my first night’s accommodation before I get to a new place.  This is because I find it stressful if I start getting transport delays and know I have to find somewhere to stay when I get there and I don’t know my way around the city.  It makes me feel safer to know I have the first night taken care of.  You can always move the next morning when you’ve had time to look around.

Do you have any tips for solo travellers?  Feel free to share in the comments section 🙂

 

 

 

 

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