This excerpt has been reproduced with permission from ‘The Solo Travel Handbook’, © 2018 Lonely Planet.
You can make a million excuses for not wanting to travel on your own, and you’ll always find more – unless you make the conscious choice to confront your solo-travel fears.
To give you a friendly push in the right direction, we’ve broken down some of the most common solo-travel fears, so they don’t seem so scary at all.
1. I don’t think I’m brave or outgoing enough
Travelling solo isn’t necessarily synonymous with being an adrenaline junkie or even an extrovert. If you’re the shy or timid type, ease into solo travel by taking a tour so you can get used to new destinations before breaking away to do your own thing, or choose an easy travel destination – perhaps in your home country – where you can work on building your confidence in more familiar surroundings. Being somewhat forced to talk to people while travelling alone, whether it’s to ask for directions or order a meal, has a wonderful way of bringing people out of their shells.
2. I’m worried about the cost
There is no rule that says solo travel is more expensive than group travel. It can often be cheaper, as you don’t have to compromise on where you stay, eat or play. Opt for tour companies that don’t charge a single supplement and/or match you with a roommate. Consider staying in a dorm to cut down on hotel-room costs, and ask about discounts for single occupancy.
3. Is it even safe?
This is a perfectly legitimate concern for every traveller, and one that should be kept in mind with regard to all decisions you make on the road. While travelling alone is often seen as riskier than travelling in a group, this is not always the case. Travelling solo, you are forced to be aware of your personal safety, whereas in a group you may let your guard down and expose your vulnerability. Choosing a destination where you feel comfortable travelling is the first step to keeping this fear in check.
4. I feel guilty about leaving my loved ones behind
The people who love you should not make you feel guilty for wanting to follow your travel dream. Just as they have a responsibility to support you, you also have a responsibility to support them by making an effort to stay in touch and keep them involved in your life while you’re on the road. Fortunately, there are now more gadgets and apps than ever to help you stay connected.
I was in a relationship when I took my first solo trip and I felt incredibly selfish about travelling at a time when my boyfriend couldn’t. I booked my one-way flight on an impulse and, when I told him, he assured me it would be OK because he’d travelled solo himself and understood my need to have this experience. Prioritising my needs during the trip sparked my love for travel. Today, we’re happily married and we run a travel blog together fulltime.’ – Phoebe Lee, travel blogger, littlegreybox.net.
5. I’m scared I’ll be lonely or get homesick
There are times while travelling alone that you will be forced to make do with your own company. Enjoy it. Take the opportunity to observe and savour the world around you, read a book or start a diary. Most solo travellers will find that it is actually easier to meet people when they are on their own, with locals, hotel staff and waiters often going out of their way to engage solo travellers in conversation. There are also plenty of great ways to meet people on the road, even in places you’d least expect.
6. What about my career?
Whether you’re quitting your job to travel, or taking a 10-day break that feels more like a year in your fast-paced life, focus on the positives. You may miss out on a company event or an opportunity for a promotion, but you’ll gain skills on the road that may very well land you the role of your dreams down the track. At the very least, a bit of time out can help you to reassess what you really want out of your career, so you can return with guns blazing.
After spending 15 years building a successful career in fashion, people thought I was crazy when I gave it all up to walk solo across Spain. But it was a case of now or never. I’d always wanted to start my own business but had never been brave enough to do it. I figured if I could make this walk by myself, I could do anything. And that’s what happened. After walking 775 kilometres, I found the strength to believe in my idea and back myself, and I’ve never looked back.’ – Kat Fahey, wedding planner.
7. Am I too old to travel solo?
Just because you didn’t take a gap year after school or university doesn’t mean you have (literally) missed the boat. Whether you’re 26 or 56, there are destinations, tour companies and travel communities that cater to solo travellers just like you; a little bit of research will help you find your tribe. Even if you do end up on a tour bus with people 20 years older or younger than you, use it as an opportunity to learn a bit more about a different generation.
Our friends at Lonely Planet have just released the first edition of The Solo Travel Handbook. Developed with the help of Lonely Planet’s expert travel writers, it explains how and why individual travel is such a valuable and rewarding experience. The Solo Travel Handbook gives you the confidence and know-how to explore the world on your own, whether you’re planning a once-in-a-lifetime adventure or short city break.
Check out our range of solo-only small group adventures here.