Planning an adventure on your own? Here’s your guide to friend-making, risk-taking and positive thinking while you’re off discovering yourself.
Unless you positively invite danger – i.e. strolling around a pitchblack park at 4am with headphones on – travelling alone isn’t actually that risky. The biggest peril is being taken for a ride. Literally, in the case of taxi drivers: always ask for an estimated fare before setting off. Otherwise, try to never look like a tourist; instead, exude assurance.
Carry ID and always keep a back-up. Ensure that someone else knows your itinerary and commit to regular contact with them.
Being alone means you can’t use your cohort’s phone when yours runs out of juice, or rely on them should you lose your wallet.
Put emergency systems in place: write down key numbers (friends, hotels, embassies, emergency services), have change for phone boxes and always keep some back-up money in your bag or, better still, in a locker.
Solomangarephobia. That’s the official, medical term for a fear of eating alone – a fear that many single travellers have. If you can get over your fear, it is very possible to enjoy the experience.
Bring a book to dodge boredom, sit at counters to be less conspicuous or use the opportunity to practice your French or Filipino on a waiter. And scoff all the bread yourself.
This is another common and very valid worry when travelling alone: what if no-one likes me? Acquiring new companions is always easier than feared, but still a scary proposition. It helps to look approachable – smile at people, have open body language and lose the sunglasses. Read something interesting to spark conversation, or ask strangers a question.
More hands-on tactics include visiting expatriate bars, joining tours or using apps designed to help people make friends, such as Meetup.
Without realising it, most of us humans are very co-dependent: we worry whether our partner or friend is having a good time, and always balance their needs in decision-making.
The joy of solo travel is that you can be entirely selfish: walk at your preferred pace, eat what and when you want, see the sights that interest you, use the entire hotel wardrobe. If you want to skip that museum of tractor history, you can. Take time to appreciate your independence and revel in that freedom.
But, however well you plan in advance, things will go wrong. Missed trains, delayed planes, lost luggage, whatever. The trick is not to over-stress it; roll with the punches, laugh at it all, and draw up a new plan. Who knows: maybe Plan B will work out better anyway?