The best advice is ‘don’t worry and just do it’, but it’s difficult to give an accurate picture of the experience of travelling alone, since we are all individuals with our own highs and lows. Many factors are involved: luck, time of year and weather and most importantly destination and personality.
If you are worried about being alone abroad or not having anyone to go with and thus not travelling at all, travelling alone is far better than not travelling at all. There are many lone travellers, both male and female, all over the world right now (especially Japanese and Koreans). Pick an easy country to start with (Thailand, Singapore or New Zealand) and go. It will be the best thing you ever do – look at the advantages rather than the disadvantages. You won’t be alone anyway as making friends and teaming up with people is easy. When alone, you will meet and talk to far more people than when with a partner. Locals are much more likely to invite you into their lives.
The flip side is not every day is great: when things don’t go well, not having someone to share those frustrations with or to lend a helping hand can be a little depressing. Getting sick whilst travelling is the perfect example. Some days you won’t have a conversation with anyone. Luck plays a big part with who you meet – you might meet some great people to travel with in a remote destination and then none in backpacker hubs like Thailand.
Signing up for local day tours is a great way to meet people, as is approaching others to share taxis from airports, bus or train stations.
In developed countries, staying in hostels and using shared transport aimed at backpackers puts you in touch with a lot of people. It does take courage to head off alone, but you will unlikely be alone. Most of the world is yours to explore and not, as the media would have us believe, some big bad dangerous entity that will eat you alive the moment you step off the plane.
For single women the question of whether to go solo is more difficult. For your first trip, you may not want to go to India or Arab/Muslim countries, since men can give lone females more attention than you want. This can be frustrating, annoying and at its worst scary, although usually harmless. Many males (South Asians in particular) have warped ideas about women. It can’t be totally prevented, any more than it can be in your home country, but it can be minimized with general common-sense such as dressing conservatively, having a more planned route with a few advanced bookings and being assertive when required. In most destinations women won’t get any hassle. There are women only queues and seating areas on trains and buses, and locals often take you under their wing. Show common sense like walking in secluded areas after dark. All this said, lone female travellers are not uncommon and such a venture is quite manageable and far, far from being unnecessarily dangerous given the correct attitude.
Travelling alone, whether male or female you are going to have to be generally more on your guard (read this). In less travelled countries (like Central Asia or West Africa) unless you are outgoing, travelling alone can be miserable with fewer creature comforts, possible language barriers and fewer travellers to meet. To summarize: your feelings regarding the outcome of your trip are probably going to be mixed. Guaranteed will be some great experiences and a sense of fulfilment and confidence, but you are probably going to also recall a day or two when you were down in the dumps… all in all you’re going to remember the good bits.
For those contemplating travelling alone just remember: alone is always better than not at all and usually better than a totally organized tour. Alone more often than not opens doors to the very best experiences travel has to offer. There can be many negative issues when travelling with friends, partners or relatives!
Easy talk: When travelling to a new country it’s useful to learn who the country’s leading football players, movie stars or cricketers are. It’s a great way to start a conversation in any bar and if you have some knowledge of their sporting or film stars, it will endear you to the locals (well the male half at least).
All the above advice also applies to older travellers. Don’t be put off – again just like couples and single travellers there are many older travellers enjoying life in exotic places around the world. Age is no major hindrance to independent travel on a budget and it is easy to make friends and to pay a little bit extra for luxury when required.
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