Lone Travellers: 10 Tips for Solo Travellers to Enhance Your Travel Experiences
Some say that traveling alone is a life-changing experience.
The friends you make along the way and the stories that you collect could be the best of your life.
Although there could be romance and allure to solo traveling, you need to be a lot more discerning and careful than if you were traveling in a group.
Here are a few ways that you can make your journey stress free and enjoyable.
1. Dorms, dorms, dorms
Dorms are a cheap way to stay in any city you are visiting.
The best part of a dorm is not the price tag on a room. It is the people. Dorms are a mish-mash of different accents, backgrounds, cultures, and experience.
What this means is that a dorm is a honeypot of potential friends and travel buddies.
The notice board at your dorm could give you insight into what is hot and happening in the city you are in.
There is usually an events section that will sort you out for any day of the week. The notice board also shows the group tours and activities available to you.
2. Learn to have a conversation
(Photo by Didriks, available under Creative Commons license).
In a foreign country, you are most likely going to be asked where you are from and how long you are staying for.
It is useful to have a way that you can move the conversation forward after that point.
Be observant and ask a lot of questions. Ask where the person you are having a conversation with is from, ask about their day or compare your experiences.
3. The theory of the acquaintance
Bag one acquaintance and you’ll probably board your flight with 30 new friends on your Facebook list.
When you meet one person, the potential for meeting more new people increases.
People will introduce you to new friends whether they are aware of it or not. Make sure you stick your neck out for that one acquaintance, it could lead to great experiences and worthwhile friendships.
4. Drink responsibly
Here’s the thing, drinking might seem like a good idea when you’re traveling solo because you get a bit more social after your second mojito.
Although this might help most times, it is also important to understand your tolerance levels while out drinking. Apart from wasting valuable time trying to cure your hangover, being under the influence may cause you to lose control.
You could either make a complete spectacle of yourself or you could even put yourself in some physical danger. Drinking too much might cause you to lose a few friendship points with the people back at the hostel. Know what works for you and stick to it.
5. Smile a lot
(Photo by Ben Smith, available under Creative Commons license).
Not in a way that seems unnatural, though.
The best thing about traveling solo is that your smile can break down social barriers.
People are naturally curious about visitors, and especially ones that are by themselves. A simple smile will ensure that you are open for business.
You essentially have “Hello, come talk to me” written on your face. You’re hanging out in public places such as coffee shops, public squares, museums, the hostel bar… a smile gives a reason for people to feel comfortable around you. The more friends the merrier!
6. Say yes
Jim Carrey plays the lead role in a movie called Yes Man.
In this movie, he makes the decision to start saying yes to every opportunity that would come his way.
Although things take a strange twist for Jim later on, you can take a page from his book when it comes to saying yes on your travels.
This is one of the secrets of how to travel alone.
Say yes to the drink, say yes to a meal, say yes to exploring the world with new friends with totally different backgrounds… A group may have plans already in place and a set schedule, but traveling alone gives you the wiggle room to have a few adventures.
7. Enjoy your own company
You are traveling on your own for a reason. You are probably OK with spending some time on your own. Whether business or pleasure, you need to put time aside to enjoy your own company. Not every waking minute needs to be spent trying to make friends.
Take a book down to the beach or a nearby cafe and get lost in another world for a while. Traveling solo is a good occasion to reflect pamper yourself. You need the rest and relaxation, so make good use of your private time.
8. Find your people
Use social media to forge connections where you are traveling before you travel.
Seek out interests such as sports, cooking, opera, and theatre and take part in the gatherings that happen while you are in the area.
There are networks online that you can use to plan ahead and find like-minded individuals. Examples are Couchsurfing, Friends of Friends Travel or Facebook groups.
9. Do something out of the ordinary
Learn a new dance.
Go scuba diving.
Eat a roasted bug that you found at a food stall.
Every time you take part in an interesting new activity, you are opening yourself up to meeting new people and collecting amazing stories.
Staying at your usual resorts and going on hotel tours may not exactly give you the once in a lifetime story that you might be looking for. Once you do something that scares you, you will begin to savor life.
10. Learn the local language
There is no better time to learn a local language than when you travel solo.
Learn colloquial words and phrases that will help you navigate the new environment.
Some of the basics include saying hello, introducing yourself, ordering a beer at a restaurant and counting from one to ten.
Most people will acknowledge the effort that you make and try help you along where you falter. It is also important to learn to use the local currency and its denominations.
When traveling solo always be mindful of safety concerns.
A group may provide more security in numbers but you would still need to practice awareness and safety. Even more so when you are by yourself.
Make sure you have a comprehensive insurance policy that will cover loss, theft and medical problems that will occur. Be careful when you are out at night, watch your drinks, look after valuables and be wary of scams and scammers. Happy solo traveling and don’t forget to just dive in!