For travelers, every experience is unique. For some, their ultimate trip would involve a group of friends, while others prefer to stick with just a single companion. For still others, seeing the country or wold solo is the best way to travel. While there are plenty of benefits of traveling alone, there are a few special considerations you should make.
Benefits of traveling alone
There's a lot to be said about not having to schedule your activities around someone else's timetable. Getting up and out when you are ready, resting when you're tired and lingering a bit longer in a particularly interesting museum are all appealing aspects. There is also the benefit of getting some "me time" while you are exploring a new city or trail. Many people regard the time they spent traveling alone as a period of real self-discovery. You will learn to be independent, entertain yourself and trust your instincts. Plus, without the burden of a second person or a group, you can change plans at the drop of a hat if you find something that suits your fancy. There's no compromising when you're by yourself – if you don't feel like waiting in a long line to kiss the Blarney Stone, you can skip it, and if you are willing to drive a couple of hours out of your way to catch a glimpse of Mount Rushmore, you don't have to worry about a sullen passenger.
Drawbacks of traveling solo
Of course, there is plenty to love about seeing the country or world by yourself, but there are also a handful of reasons that it's not for everyone. For example, it can get lonely being by yourself for weeks or even months at a time. This can be especially true if you travel to a country where you aren't fluent in the local language. You may also wish for someone to share the experience of seeing a new place with. Then, of course, there is the safety issue. When no one is around to watch your back, you are more defenseless when it comes to pickpockets, muggers and other ne'er-do-wells. Many people find that they are uncomfortable in cities by themselves, particularly at night. However, there are plenty of ways that travelers can feel safe even if they are alone.
Whether you're staying in a hotel room by yourself or a hostel with 10 strangers, keeping your valuables safe is paramount. The last thing you want to deal with on your big adventure is losing your passport, ID or credit cards. Here are a few ways to make sure none of these things happen to you:
- Make a color copy of your passport and IDs and keep them in a safe place separate from the originals. That way, if your wallet or passport book is stolen, the process to have them replaced will be expedited.
- Avoid standing out as a tourist. Sure, once you start speaking, your accent will give you away, but there's no need for potential thieves to be able to pick you out as "not from around here" a block away. This means dressing in comfortable but appropriate clothing, figuring out your route in advance so you don't have your nose buried in a map and always walking confidently and with purpose.
- Trust your gut. If a restaurant, park, street or cab feel a bit shady to you, walk away from it. Better safe than sorry.
- Invest in a portable safe or small lockbox where you can store your valuables and paperwork while you're out enjoying the sights. The peace of mind you'll have burglars or with sticky fingers won't get their hands on your belongings will be worth the price.
- Leave a copy of your itinerary with friends or family members and check in with them regularly. If you go missing for whatever reason, "somewhere in Europe" is not a great start to look for you.
- Be careful who you reveal information to. While meeting new people on trips can be fun, be on alert for potential scam artists.
Get the most out of your experience
One of the drawbacks to traveling alone is the fact that you don't have anyone to share the experience with. Reliving particularly fun adventures with your travel buddy is one of the best ways to keep the memories fresh. However, if you're alone, you're the sole proprietor of your experiences. To make sure you remember everything, consider keeping a journal or a blog that you update frequently. You'll be glad to reread it later and relive the memories that may have faded over time. If you're feeling lonely, write postcards or emails to those you miss – they'll love hearing from you. Most importantly, give yourself time to enjoy your own company. It's a great opportunity to work through your thoughts and form new opinions and plans.