13 Reasons Why You Should Solo Travel in 2020
Travel is about creating memories – and, in these days of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, immediately sharing them with others. Pictures show smiling faces of families and friends on holiday together.
So why would we want to travel alone?
Many of us have thought traveling solo was for old people or those with no friends. Maybe we’ve thought it is lonely, dangerous and expensive – think what you pay to stay in a “double” room on your own!
But maybe traveling solo is the ultimate freedom. No-one else to consider. No need to negotiate or compromise. Freedom to change your mind, stay late or leave early.
Why not spend the limited time and money we have for travel where we will get the most satisfaction?
Do it your way
A solo traveler can do things in the way that suits his personality. If you’re the planning type, you can spend weeks mapping every minute of the trip, pack early, get to the airport with hours to spare. If you’re more spontaneous, you only need to know what time your flight is leaving. Everything else can be decided as you go along.
Everything else can be decided as you go along. If you’re an extrovert, join the locals at midnight flamencos and fiestas. If you’re an introvert, wander the museums and art galleries or enjoy the sights with no need to make small talk.
Enjoy your own company
Most of us spend our lives at the beck and call of others – at work, in the family, in the community, even during leisure times.
Traveling solo gives you “me-time”. You don’t have to fit in with other people’s schedules. You can take the time to reflect on what you’ve experienced, write a journal every night – or just soak up the sun on a foreign beach.
Choose what you want
You can experience a strange place in the way you want to. If you love history, you can visit every museum and historical site, without worrying about how bored your sporty partner is. And you won’t have to attend noisy sports events to be forgiven!
Life is usually about compromise – but not when you’re traveling solo! You set the schedule, you set the itinerary, you set the pace. Eat what you like, when you like, where you like. You get to choose and no-one is there to override your choices.
See things from your perspective
If you’re curious, have a wanderlust, and want to get the feel of a new destination, travel solo. When you travel with others, their opinions often cloud what you are experiencing and you don’t view things from your own perspective.
There is a special freedom in being able to follow something just to see where it goes. You can change your plans to spend more time where you are, or add experiences that you’d not known about before. You can make new friends and go where they go. Only a solo traveler can do this.
Learn about cultures
New country? New culture. For many, this is what travel is all about. In the beginning, the focus may be on the obvious expressions of culture – language, cuisine, and dress. Then we can perhaps move on to the nuances of greetings.
Do you know how many cheek kisses are required for a greeting in France? Can you hold your palms together over your heart, and say “Namaste” in India? Can you do the 3-step handshake in Botswana? You can explore religions, major historical events, local superstitions. And if you’re doing this solo, you can explore what interests you most.
Solo or in a crowd, safety requires some basic rules:
- use common sense about where you go, especially at night;
- keep money and travel documents secured and out of sight;
- keep your defenses up – trust everyone and no-one;
- stay in public spaces;
- have a working phone – with emergency numbers pre-loaded. With no-one watching your back, be extra vigilant and don’t draw attention to yourself. Blend in with others. Make sure someone knows your schedule, and check in with them from time to time.
Trust your instincts – if something feels wrong, it probably is! Move away.
Be Solo but not alone
Group travel is an option for solo travelers. The range is unlimited. A Google search returned 108 million responses! One tagline said it all, “Where going solo is going social”.
Operators organize transport, find accommodation, know the best places and things to do, provide a tour guide. You concentrate on meeting other solo travelers from all over the world and having fun.
Solo traveling is a growing market segment. Many operators offer special deals to encourage solos to join groups visiting places off the beaten track and having experiences they might hesitate to try on their own.
Complete your bucket list
If we’re always waiting for others to join us, we might never complete our bucket lists.
So, what’s on your list? A helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, diving off the coast of Bali, seeing the Land of Kings and sampling the cuisine in Rajasthan, India, backpacking along the coast of Australia, sailing down the magnificent coast of Croatia or around the Greek islands? Maybe taking in the sights of London, Paris, Rome or New York?
As someone said: “The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.” Don’t wait for others. Get going.
Shop till you drop
For some, the ultimate joy of traveling is shopping. You can certainly do this on your own!
If you’re a discerning shopper – or window-shopper - visit Melbourne’s GPO, converted from a post office to a must-see for fashion. The Tokyo Midtown and the Roppongi Hills or Singapore’s Ngee Ann City have every designer you can think of, restaurants for all cuisines, salons, gyms, spas, hotels!
Visit Via Bellagio in Las Vegas for luxury goods, The Shops at Columbus Circle in New York for a $400 sushi tasting and The Galleria in Houston, Texas, to meet the locals. The Wafi and the Dubai Mall are opulent and the white marble Villagio Mall in Doha looks like a movie set.
Go solo as a volunteer
Going solo doesn’t have to be about yourself. You can volunteer your time and skills to causes that you believe in - and have the benefit of new environments, new places, new people. Sometimes there’s sponsorship for travel and accommodation. Sometimes you pay to volunteer.
What’s your expertise?
Farmers in Peru need a coffee roasting expert; truckers in Kenya need help with logistics; someone is needed to do entrepreneur training in Colombia; can you share your knowledge of hypothermia for a project in India? There are environmental projects to survey coral in the Cayman Islands and track penguins in Patagonia.
Test your limits
Perhaps you want to emulate some extreme ways of traveling alone? You can follow Joshua Slocum who sailed solo around the world. He took 3 years and covered 48 000 miles. You can line up for space travel, like Yuri Gagarin, who took 2 hours to circumnavigate the earth in a spaceship in 1969.
If you feel more adventurous you can cross the Atlantic alone on a paddleboat, like the South African Chris Bertish, or row across the Pacific like the Brit, John Beedon. You can travel to the poles, climb mountains, cross deserts on your own.
It just depends on how adventurous – and fit – you are!
Grow and learn
Maybe the greatest benefit of traveling alone is the personal growth that it stimulates. A survival mechanism in humans is to be extra alert in unfamiliar places. When you’re not distracted by companions you are likely to absorb and notice much more.
You are more open and willing to make friends and talk to others - and you may perhaps view them with compassion and patience. You’ll also meet yourself, and understand your own boundaries.
And, once you’ve done it, your confidence soars – and you know you can do it again!
Written By Kate Mark
Kate is a mid-lifer who quit a growing corporate career to reawaken her passions and her lifelong dream of traveling the world.