The Solo Traveler: Five Ways to Travel Alone
Many days I’ve spent wanting to travel and not having anyone to go with or not having the funds to go when others can make it. When the stars all align for me to travel, there is no time to waste on trying to find someone to tag along. I’m an introvert and I know to many, that means that I do not like being around people, however, that is not true. An introvert has a deep desire for their own company, but we still enjoy others’ company. With that being said, many will say that traveling alone is an easy feat for an introvert like me, but that is also not true. I am just like anyone else, I want company along, but I just want my company to not talk to me, not dine with me at every meal and not ask me to do what they want to do while on the trip. Ok, maybe not as dramatic as all that, but I do need decompression time while on a trip. The purpose of this post is not only to encourage people to travel alone, but to tell of the simple pleasures found in traveling alone and a bit of a ‘how to’. I have heard many people ask so many valid questions about traveling alone so hopefully some answers lie below. What do you do while traveling alone? How do you fill up the time? What can come of it? There are so many wonderful things about traveling to discover and when you travel alone, many more. Here are five guidelines to follow when planning to travel with número uno!
- Travel alone purposefully.
How many times have you wanted to plan a trip or actually had the trip planned, but your travel buddy cancels at the last minute? You may have decided to go on with the trip solo, but may have felt slighted the whole time thinking about the fact that you had to go it alone. At worst, you may have had to cancel the trip because you didn’t want to go alone and your plans were thrown off all together. To this scenario, I say, purposefully plan a trip alone. Don’t let solo travel just ‘happen’ to you when you least expect it. If you plan for the trip to be solo from the beginning, then there is no disappointment when others cannot make it. In fact, before you know it, you may find yourself keeping your plans a secret because you won’t want anyone to ask if they can tag along. When you plan to be alone, your mind is already at ease because you’re not worried about pleasing anyone else, you don’t have to incorporate anyone else’s agenda into your own and you don’t have to apologize for your quirks and rituals (like snoring and snorting while you laugh… not talking about myself here or anything….). Honey, once you SOLO, you’ll realize it’s YOLO!
- Do your research, but don’t over plan and don’t believe everything you read. Be cautious, but have no fear.
Whenever I travel I definitely do major research prior to going. I look on my favorite sites like Trip Advisor and read travel blogs. I look at luxury travel magazines as well as locate budget travel tips (which is more my speed anyway) and consult Facebook travel groups. The research of new places is fun in itself because dreaming of traveling to faraway places is half the excitement. Read the blogs, good and bad, but take everything you read with a grain of salt. What I mean by that is, yes, blogs are great (you’re reading one now), but they are biased according the writer’s experience, so form your own opinions. Another point I want to make here is that not everything has to be planned. Don’t over plan your vacation because then you leave no time for living in the moment and spontaneity. If you have going to a museum on your agenda and a local invites you to tour the city (provided you feel perfectly safe), then do that and see the museum later if you ever get the chance. Whatever you do, make sure you plan a day for nothing so you can say ‘yes’ to life.
In your research you might find some unpleasant information about your destination, but be fearless and, again, take everything with a grain of salt. If you let fear stop you then you’ll never do anything exciting. Take all words of caution into consideration, but make sure you go in search of positivity also. Recently I have been shopping around for teach abroad opportunities and one of the countries I researched was China. I found information about China that was not so favorable and this article was not only convincing, but it rang true as I found others to corroborate the story. I believed the experience of the writer and China didn’t sound like a place I’d even visit, so I certainly could not envision myself living and working there. My next move was to go in search of someone who had a wonderful experience living in China and that is exactly what I found. What if the person with a bad review was my only research? What I found were two people who were sharing their own, personal experiences and their truth may be completely different from my own, so the only thing to do is try it for myself.
- Enjoy every moment of the process.
From research about the destination to the visit and from packing to doing nothing on the beach once I arrive, I enjoy every, single part of the travel process. Take time to live in every moment so that you find pleasure in even the little things that you have to do while traveling. One of my favorite things to do is people watch at the airport. I get to the airport a couple hours early and, with any luck, get through TSA in record time, head to Starbucks, find a good spot to sit and wonder where everyone is going and why. If there is a layover then use that time to enjoy the city you’re in and if there is no time to leave the airport, then use that time to get to know where everyone else is going.
Even the plane ride was great on my last solo flight as I met little Noah and his dad headed back home from Orlando visiting the mouse. There is always luckily a window seat.
Though I love social media, there is something to be said about putting the phone down while taking in a new place to appreciate your surroundings. When you are on the beach alone go ahead and snap photos of the area and yourself, but put the phone down and listen to the waves and people watch. When you go to dinner alone, don’t use your phone as a crutch because you feel lonely, but rather look around, smile at people and you would be surprised at what could happen next. Yes, I do take my phone out periodically to take photos and ‘check in’ on Facebook, but I make a concentrated effort to put it down and live for now.
- Leave your room and actually explore.
So you made it to your destination and now you find yourself hanging out in your room because you have no one to say “let’s go here or there”. Don’t let that stop you because you’ve done your due diligence in finding out how to be safe, where to go and now you just need to get out and do what you have on your agenda. I like to watch television while relaxing in my bed and even when I travel, it’s a fun pastime for me. When the urge to lay in bed and do nothing begins to take over, I make myself get out of that room and go exploring. Recently I visited New Orleans alone and took my own walking tour around the city. Walking around a new place allows you to discover so much more than you otherwise might because on a driving tour you could miss something. On my walk I discovered all of these nooks and crannies full of art and beautiful gardens.
I found myself at Café Beignet eating powdered confections and drinking café au lait while watching a live band during one of my walks around the city.
During another day of exploration, I found Sucré, a confectionery shop, and it had the most delicious truffles and macarons.
For a quick self-guided tour I took a streetcar from my hotel all the way down to the end of the line through the Garden District and back. I met two guys on the streetcar there for a family reunion and asked one of them to take my photo. We laughed and talked during the entire ride until they received a call from their family telling them it was time to come back.
The most amazing thing that happened while in New Orleans occurred while I was out for a walk around the French Quarter. While reading my GPS I was approached by a man who was also visiting the city for the first time. To my complete, dumbfounded surprise, it was my friend whom I had known for 8 years via social media, but had never gotten the chance to meet face to face. What are the odds that we would meet in New Orleans, be on the same exact street at the same time and actually see one another through a sea of people near Bourbon Street!! I can’t make this stuff up people!! I was so stunned to see him that the meeting was awkward and lasted for about 3 minutes, but we were able to take a photo to commemorate the meeting.
- Meet locals and other travelers.
Be outgoing and meet the people around you and you might be surprised at what comes once you say ‘yes’ to life. In Jamaica I met a woman, her husband and their kids on the beach and we talked and laughed for a while. When asked if we wanted to go snorkeling with her kids because she didn’t want to get on the boat, I said yes. Snorkeling was one of the best experiences of my life and meeting those people while relazing on the beach was too. Later that same evening I shared a bus ride with my snorkeling family and didn’t have to pay a dime because they had already paid for it and invited me along to dinner. During that same trip, while relazing in the resort pool I met another woman who had come from Canada, fallen in the love with the island, bought a home and started a pantry in the area. She had formed a nonprofit organization based out of Jamaica to help the local women and children by providing everyday items and food. You meet wonderful people doing tremendous things when you open up and meet the locals and other travelers.
Sidenote: English lesson – RELAZING – the act of relaxing and lazing around. Yes, I made it up.
In New Orleans, I walked the streets and met a great artist and his pink-dress-wearing dog, Abigail, while getting lost on my way to El Gato Negro, where I was told had the best margaritas in town.
Adrian Fulton has a great spirit and loves meeting new people while he stands outside of his shop and paints his latest masterpiece. He, like many of us, was not happy at his humdrum job and decided, at 50 years old, that he would change his life and go with his passion. Now he has three galleries around town and the freedom to do what he loves and live how he wants to live. It invigorates me when I meet people with inspirational stories like this because I walk away feeling empowered to be the next great success. Here is a photo of me in Adrian’s shop with ‘The Greatist’.
In case you were wondering… YES… El Gato Negro does have divine margaritas. This is watermelon. Just so you know… it was after this monster drink that I got lost with 4% charge left on my phone… Wonder how that happened?!?
Happy solo travels!