Scraping plans together within a group is a challenge. I can barely plan a night out to dinner with my friends! Competing schedules, expectations, budgets, and basic interests can all be obstacles in coming to a consensus on travel plans. Unfortunately, sometimes this is what prevents the trip from ever happening. So… go alone! There are a million benefits of going alone but it can no doubt be intimidating.
There are three basic fears that stop people from traveling solo: safety, loneliness, and what other people think. Before I left for my first solo backpacking trip, all three buzzed around in my mind constantly. The last one definitely buzzed the loudest. When I stepped foot out of my London dorm room, backpack strapped, for my month long solo trip through Italy, I decided I could handle whatever could come my way.
Within a couple of days into my trip, I knew none of them would be problems. I’m glad these reasons never stopped me and they shouldn’t stop you either!
Believe it or not, this was one of my smaller fears. I’ve always been very trusting of my intuition and can usually sense a “fishy” situation pretty quickly. That being said, of course there are precautions to take. I currently live in a biggish city, and the basic safety rules I follow here can be pretty much translated to anywhere else I’ve been in the world (with a few tweaks in specific places). Don’t walk alone in the dark. Don’t get drunk without someone responsible for you. Know the unsafe areas of any city you visit- your trusty gut feeling will usually let you know when you are headed the wrong way! You can also ask your hostel to point out areas to avoid if want to be proactive. While I found these suitable as a solo female traveller, these are pretty genderless guidelines.
The world isn’t the scary place we may have been led to believe. I felt ten times safer walking around Jerusalem at night than I do in Columbus, Ohio. If you use your brain, safety is only a consideration, not a reason to stop you.
You will be lonely at some point on your trip. It happens to everyone. But this also isn’t a good enough reason to stop you. I’m an introvert and genuinely enjoy my own company so I thought, “Being alone for a month? No problem!” But I was wrong: I wasn’t alone for a single day. I met so many amazing people; I probably spent hours every day talking to travelers from all over the world. Nearly everyone I met was just as excited to talk to me as I was to them.
You’ll meet people you love: that amazing Swedish woman in here sixties who has traveled Italy for a month every year since she was 19. You’ll meet people you could live without: that obnoxious Florida State bro in Florence who would not stop talking about what tall models women in Stockholm were (him: “I mean, you get me, right?”). The people you meet will teach you so much about their countries and you will get to teach about yours. Staying in hostels grant you immediate roommates. Whether it is playing in an epic tournament of beer pong in Edinburgh or just silently watching Robocop with a few people in Cork, there will always be travelers to keep you company at the end of the day.
Hostels are the best examples, but I also met people on buses, on trains, in pubs, and in shops (backpacking stores in particular!). You will learn to strike up a conversation in no time! I could have hiked through the towns of Cinque Terre by myself but I was so glad I met some really nice girls on the train and asked if I could join them.
What People Will Think
This one evaporates quickly. There isn’t really anything you can do to guard against it; you just eventually decide you don’t care. Eating alone was weird maybe the first two times out but then the perks of being able to eat whatever and whenever I wanted won out. I found the spare minutes waiting for my food were the perfect time to write in my journal, read a book, or send a message to my friends and family- if there was wifi.
I was afraid people would think I was a loser who couldn’t find people to go with me. The truth is, I could have gone with other people. But they only wanted to go to Italy for a week and I wanted to go for longer. Others would go but they didn’t want to go to Rome because they’d already been there. If I wanted to do the trip I’d always fantasized about, it would have to be just me.
In the end, most of the people I’ve talked to think going it alone was admirable. I get the “I could never do that!” But they can! And so can you.
Letting any of these fears get to you isn’t worth it
None of these things are a reason to keep you from taking your dream trip. After traveling solo, I actually found I preferred it! So take a deep breath, stop waiting for that friend to finally agree to go with you, and book that flight!