As much as you love family holidays or getaways with friends, you may be at a time in your life when you are looking for something different.
Whilst on holiday with others, you’re often in your own little bubble, one that others don’t want to approach; or perhaps you’re having such a great time with one another that you barely even notice others around you.
Solo travelling is completely different in that you have no choice to burst that bubble which, for your first time, may seem quite scary!
Here at The Great Projects, we often get asked: ‘I’m a solo female traveller, is that OK?’
The answer is yes!
Just to give you a few statistics: over June and July this year, 75% of The Great Projects volunteers were female, and 85% were solo travellers.
7 years ago, I set off on my first solo travelling experience in Thailand for 4 weeks – a trip I booked through a back-packing tour company. I’m not afraid to admit, I was incredibly nervous every step along the way. From the mild panic when I couldn’t find my passport at Heathrow, to the sheer embarrassment of my bony arms not being able to physically lift my backpack from the luggage wheel at Bangkok!
The hardest obstacle for me to overcome was crawling out of my shell and being confident enough to approach a group of strangers in the hopes of sparking a conversation. Especially as the majority of my tour group were Dutch and German and several years younger than me! There was always the fear of being ignored or even worse, ridiculed. However, this soon became much easier when I realised that most of the group were also solo travellers!
You will get to know fascinating people from all walks of life, different religions, cultures and backgrounds that you perhaps wouldn’t meet under usual circumstances. None of this matters, however, as you all have one thing in common: a desire to travel, and to make the most of every moment.
When you have completed your first solo adventure, you will find you can talk to absolutely anyone, of any age, overcoming any language barriers.
That’s not to say you won’t meet any questionable characters along the way; unfortunately, not everyone can get along! It’s best to try and distance yourself from people you don’t click with, also trying to avoid confrontation and not letting anybody ruin your experience.
Once I arrived home from Thailand, I began thinking about where I could go next. A couple of years later (and after lots of saving!), I spent 9 months traveling around Australia and South East Asia. As I had improved confidence after my trip to Thailand, I did this trip differently. I never really planned things too much in advance, apart from the destinations I wanted to visit. By not having such a rigid itinerary, booking flights and accommodations as I went along, often from recommendations of friends I met along the way, it was fun being that bit more spontaneous!
Travelling alone means having the freedom of being able to do your own thing. If you want to spend a lazy afternoon sunbathing, you can. If you want to window shop, looking at luxury items you cannot even afford, go for it! As a solo traveller, you get to do things your way, how you want, on your timescale, without having to worry about anybody else.
In my opinion, solo travelling is one of the greatest things you can do. It will give you a new lease of life, improved self-confidence, and is something you are never too young or old to do! I’m forever dreaming of wanderlust, plotting and planning when and where my next adventure will be!
Always allow for any delays - give yourself that extra hour to get the airport or train/bus station! It’s much better to have extra time to sit around, read a book, or get some food, rather than be pushed for time and risk missing your flight! I once underestimated the distance from my hotel to the train station in Singapore, which resulted in a 6 hour delay at an extremely grotty train station with no air con!
Keep all travel documents together - as technology advances, physical paper copies of documents are becoming less necessary. However, it’s always best to have paper copies when you can as a backup, should you happen to lose your mobile phone.
Read up on cultural considerations for every country you plan to visit - make sure you dress appropriately to avoid offending the locals.
Don’t be alarmed if you get odd looks or stares from the locals - some people are still intrigued by women travelling on their own, as it’s not something they are used to. Also, don’t take offence if questioned why you are not married or with children!
Do not worry about making a fool of yourself! – Often, the silliest situations turn into the funniest stories to tell everybody back home.
Stay on well-lit roads at night –and don’t walk around with expensive valuables on show.
If you get lost, don’t be afraid to ask for help - if you need to access Google Maps, go into a well-populated area, such as a bar or coffee shop.
Be prepared to go out of your comfort zone - be ready to immerse yourself in local cultures and make the most of every experience.
Don’t be afraid to ask anything, to anyone - no question is stupid!
When travelling in taxis, where possible, make sure you agree the fare in advance with the driver - this will avoid any necessary confusion or conflict at the end of your journey.
They’re not exactly the most fashionable accessory but… - I recommend an under-clothes money belt to store your loose cash and valuables.
Trust your intuition - if somewhere feels unsafe or just not ‘right’, get yourself out of the situation as soon as you can.
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