Wanderlust for one, please.
There are few pieces of advice as ubiquitous, (un)solicited and as relevant as ‘travel more, see the world, have an adventure’. Rumour (and millennials) has it that experience is the new education, and we can’t think of better experiences than foreign lands, new people, cultures and spaces.
If Instagram ever built a kingdom, it would have to be made up of perfectly captured and edited photos of stunning landscapes, local food and both natural and manmade wonders. And just like silence amplifying sounds and senses, solo travel can definitely enhance your experience. So what’s stopping us from booking that ticket for one?
After talking to a few good folks who’ve taken the plunge, here’s what we’ve learned about travelling on your ownsome. Besides the overarching arguments of exploration, self discovery, doing everything on your own time and pushing your comfort zone boundaries, there are some finer details that no one really talks about. It can be overwhelming, it can be scary, or at its worst, it can be dull. If any or all of the above have crossed your mind when contemplating solo travel, you’re (ironically) not alone.
We want you to know what there is to know about solo travel, so you can decide what bets you are willing to take, and what has the potential to turn your wanderlust into wanderbust.
1) Two for Joy
Few things are as liberating as being able to schedule your itinerary as you see fit, without having to take into consideration everyone’s whims and fancies. But what happens when you do finally arrive at that naturally-occurring, magnificent waterfall that somehow reflects all the colours of the rainbow no matter what time of year?
Besides not having someone to hold the camera for you, there will be moments of wishing for someone to share it with. We don’t even mean that romantically, but just so someone else can experience what you’re seeing too. And since photos will never capture a feeling, the shared ability of being able to talk about it for years to come.
2) Drinks, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll
Now now, we don’t want to be presumptuous, but for some travellers, the local party scene, alcohol and other recreational substances might be a massive draw. And here’s where travelling solo might put you in a potentially dangerous situation: the unavailability of a trusted comrade with whom you can lower your inhibitions around.
It might seem attractive – a wild night with people from around the world, most of whom you may not see again, but as we don’t need to tell you, that’s probably not a good call. You’re better off wrapping up your night at a sensible time and thinking of how you can turn this night on the town into a story worth telling!
3) In sickness and in health
This is basically when your body decides to also take a little trip of its own. We can’t stress this enough, but a medical kit equipped with all the essentials should be as important as your visa. From what we hear and have learned, stoppers, tampons, painkillers and antihistamines are your friends.
If you do find yourself seriously unwell, and in a country where you don’t speak the local language, the local American Embassy website always has a list of medical services, all of whom are vetted. And unfortunately, they won’t bring you a cup of peppermint tea in bed, and you might – at this very moment – feel the need for another human being.
4) How friendly is too friendly?
The silver lining here is that people are always friendlier when you’re on your own. But the flipside is that you may feel as though everyone is up in your business, especially members of the opposite sex. Local travel and tour companies, promoters and tourist attractions tend to also overextend themselves to solo travellers, and although this may sound like a pleasurable experience, it has the potential to go south. Here’s a tip: if you feel any unease in a situation like this, keep the fact that you’re on your own on the down low. If there ever was a good time to have an imaginary friend, this is it.
5) Excess Baggage
You’ll be surprised as to how much heavier your luggage feels when it’s just you. Especially when attempting to navigate cobbled streets, after hour check-ins and long periods of transit across different modes of transport. You’ll be without a helping hand but this one is easy to fix: pack light, pack efficient.
6) Show and tell
Sure, your adventure will be worth narrating. But for people who weren’t there, they probably won’t get the moment you are referring to and as a result, won’t be as invested in your travel stories as they would be if it was their story as well. This isn’t that much of a deterrent, but since group stories are always more fun, your chance to share the details you want might just be less than enthusiastically received.
7) The feeling of disappointment
Here’s what no Instagram post, hashtag or travel-related article will tell you: the chance that at various points it will feel as though you made a mistake. Disappointment in a solo trip is associated with high expectations. This is the unspoken bit, but know that you’re entitled to feel anything you want, and that in retrospect all the dots will join. Even if it is to tell you that your boarding pass prefers company.