Avoiding all clichés (like the plague), solo travel is truly something that will enrich your life and change the way you see the world. Excluding cash flow, time constraints and parental responsibilities, there are very few reasons why you shouldn’t take the plunge – and that’s coming from someone who’s had the privilege to travel solo since the age of 15. Don’t agree? Here are five reasons you should consider booking your own personal getaway ASAP, with a healthy dash of realism thrown in.
1. Go where you’ve always wanted
Sometimes our loved ones are also the ones who hold us back – particularly when it comes to travel. We all have different preferences and there’s often an element of compromise when it comes to the destination, the hotel, restaurants, landmarks, and so on. When you travel alone the number of people you have to please boils down to just one, and that’s you. Embrace your bucket list, stop waiting for other peoples’ schedules to line up and start ticking off all those places you’ve been drooling over on Facebook.
The flipside: Travel is limitless if you’re adequately prepared and protected, but some places are just off limits for unaccompanied wandering. Don’t rely on assumptions and stereotypes, but do your research, read up on your government’s travel advisories, and apply every ounce of common sense you have when picking a destination.
2. Discover things about yourself
The true test of one’s character is what you do when no one is watching, a wise man once said. It’s also rather similar to a Zayn Malik lyric, but that’s beside the point. Travelling solo is the best way to see who we really are, outside of our comfort zone away from familiar faces and. Whether you’re staying in a five-star villa or a 12-bed hostel room, chances are you’re more curious, bold and resilient than you expected. And if you’re not any of those things, it’s the perfect chance for you to treat confidence like a muscle, and start working on it, adding more and more challenging destinations and experiences as you go.
The flipside: Time spent alone is good for the soul, but if you don’t put yourself in a position to meet others and mingle, you may be repeatedly reaching for your phone to FaceTime a friend. And definitely don’t get caught without a good book to read.
3. Curate your own itinerary
If you want to keep all parties entertained, travel involves heaps of diplomacy; if you travel solo, it’s the perfect dictatorship. Wake up when you want, eat where you want, and tick as many tourist traps as you see fit – if any. Who’s going to judge you? The latest hot tip is to browse Instagram geotags for inspiring locations, but there are plenty of stalwart travel guides, from Lonely Planet to Trip Advisor and Google also has its own app, Trips, which allows you to see what’s nearby, curate day plans and navigate around You can even make whole cities available offline on Google Maps, but there’s usually an affordable option to buy phone data as you travel.
The flipside: Solo travel equals freedom. It’s a simple formula but it’s not an exact science as there are plenty of exceptions. Example? If you have a big case and need to navigate a bathroom stall while leaving it unattended, things can get tricky, so plan accordingly and travel light. You’re always going to be a natural target for scammers and pickpocketing, so stay savvy.
4. Follow your own budget
We don’t all have the same salaries, and definitely don’t have the same budget when it comes to travel. While some are keen to splash out on hotel suites and Business Class seats, there are plenty of us trying to stretch our pennies a little further. The simplicity of solo travel is not only doing what you want, when you want, but what you can afford. Just figure out what you want to spend each day on food, accommodation, logistics and extras – and try to figure out the best place to exchange cash without too many steep fees.
The flipside: Your wallet is your own sacred space, but solo travel can work out a little more “per head”. Instead of sharing rooms, buying group tickets and splitting the cost of cabs and car rentals, you’ll be fending for yourself. But hey, at least you’re in control.
5. Learn to trust your fellow humans
People you meet along the way will delight, captivate and surprise you – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse – but Mark Twain completely nailed it: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Need I say more?
The flipside: Some people unfortunately just suck. There will be times when others will try to take advantage of you, for whatever reason, but the more you begin to exercise trust, the sharper your discernment becomes, so don’t be too shy to make baby steps when it comes to connecting with other people. Why not start with walking tours, salsa classes, or other organized activities? Make sure to read reviews, plan ahead and (most of all) keep your common sense switched on.