Solo Travel: How & Why You Should
As someone intrigued by the unknown, travelling solo has always been a bucket list item for me, waiting to be checked off. Back in 2016, at a young age of 20, the perfect opportunity to scratch this long-awaited element off the list popped up, and I didn’t have to think twice to say YES. “Say YES to life. Nothing good comes out of saying no,” is a recent piece of advice I gathered. While the best place for someone to be in is their comfort zone – where the familiarity prevails – the worst thing that one can do is get too comfortable. As you start moving outside of your comfort zone, what was earlier unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.
Having covered 5 cities in 4 countries solo (including Belgium & France) in the last 2 years, I’m often asked, ‘Don’t you get bored alone?’, and while my first instinct is to laugh it off, I now politely respond that getting bored is probably the last thing to happen to anyone travelling alone. Travelling alone can be the scariest, most liberating, life changing experience of your life. Getting bored doesn’t really fit into the schedule then, does it?
Why One Should Travel Solo?
Flexibility: Any travel plan involves tons of phone calls, the mandatory WhatsApp group, planning, figuring out others work schedules, matching interests, creating itineraries and what not. That doesn’t sound as stress-free as a holiday should be! Travelling yourself gives you the freedom to go when you want, where you want and do what you want.
Immersion: Travelling is about experiencing the place and the moment. No matter what you decide to do, you can choose to spend 10 minutes or the entire day immersing yourself in the experience. Being by yourself, without any distractions, is the best way to do so.
Meeting People: Travelling alone doesn’t mean you have to be alone! Most often, you end up meeting people from across the world, and that truly change the way you would’ve anticipated your trip to be. And that’s the best part.
Me Time: While we’re all stuck in our daily routines, we rarely take a step back to introspect and think about ourselves. Most of our actions are influenced by external variables. That being said, spending a few days travelling solo can be an opportunity to untangle your thoughts.
Treasure Trove of Experiences: Whether it was sharing a home-cooked meal with my AirBnB host in Cologne, living in a typical Flemish home in Bruges, going on a spontaneous food-trail with a walking tour companion in Brussels, or spending a day out in Paris with my hostel dorm-mates, travelling solo has given me opportunities that I probably would not have said ‘yes’ to had I not been alone.
Confidence: The moment of truth and acceptance arises when you are ready to get into the city from the airport/railway station for the first time. A strange place, maybe a strange language, strange people. Going from that, to being able to traverse through localities and finding your way is an enriching and empowering experience. We all see and follow Instagrammers who have glamorous profiles with #Wanderlust, and we do wish to live the same life. While it looks rosy on the outside, there are things that one must keep in mind while travelling alone.
Research: Deciding where to go is the first step in planning your trip. Different people have different goals of travelling, so researching the destinations to understand what works best for you is important to ensure you’re not stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Plan: Book your tickets in advance to save on the last-minute premium of airlines and hotels. It’s important to keep your documents handy! Background Check: Be careful about choosing your hotel/hostel/host and the area they’re located in. Staying in the centre of the city or a safe and easily accessible area is highly recommended if you’re travelling alone. You don’t want to spend half your day travelling in the city.
Connect: CouchSurfing is a platform where you can publish your upcoming travel and get in touch with locals. It’s good to connect with locals beforehand, and plan to meet up with them. The CouchSurfing community is usually very helpful and welcoming to travellers. Socialize: Most destinations that are popular with backpackers and solo travellers have people coming in from all over the world. They’re friendly and looking for a good time! Let loose and interact with them for a chance to learn about different cultures, people, food, activities and more.
Explore: For those who love to make lists, it’s great to have an itinerary with places you want to visit in the city. However, if you want to “go with the flow”, it is recommended to at least have a basic idea of what you’re looking for, to avoid feeling lost once you get there. Safety: Most of our friends and family will say “be safe”, but what can you really do in order to be safe? Follow your instinct! If you get a negative hunch in a situation, avoid it. It’s usually advisable to not travel alone late at night, be aware of your belongings at all times and avoid going into strange alleys etc.
Have you every travelled alone? If yes, where? Tell us your story.
This article was written by Neha Bhatia. You can follow her on Instagram here for future travel updates!