Not long ago, a good friend shared with me her horror story of the travel companion from Hell! She had asked someone she knew casually in her hiking group to join her on a week-long Road Scholar Grand Canyon hiking trip. This travel companion made the trip miserable for my friend–very demanding, moody, rude, and inflexible with just about everything. After that trip, my friend said, “No more , never again will I invite someone I don’t know really well to travel with.”
Fortunately, she has continued to travel solo and had some wonderful experiences.
When we were younger, leisure travel was most often with a spouse/partner, children, or girl friends. At this time in life, it’s more difficult to find someone to travel with for many reasons.
So, what if you want to go somewhere and don’t have a travel buddy? What do you do?
Many women give up because they are afraid to vacation alone. I was that woman years ago. Althoughs solo business travel was ok, I couldn’t imagine a vacation alone. Luckily, that’s no longer true today.
Maybe you think it’s unsafe, afraid of being lonely, or believe it’s too expensive to travel solo. Let’s look at several myths and the realities.
Dispelling the Myths of Solo Travel
Myth #1. It’s always too expensive (due to the single supplement).
Fact: Not true.
Most trips are priced based on “double occupancy” and a supplement means you pay a much higher price, since you’re not sharing a room or other amenities. Many travel agencies, tour companies, and cruise lines now offer travel packages without the high solo supplement.
Look around, deals are out there. One resource for information is Solo Traveller. Contact a travel agent, perhaps a woman experienced in traveling solo. Many travel companies now offer programs designed specifically for the solo traveler. Today, safe low cost lodging alternatives, such as airbnb, home sharing, and upgraded hostels are readily available.
Myth #2. It’s scary and not safe.
Fact: With reasonable caution and awareness, it is (almost) as safe as traveling with others.
General precautions for anyone traveling include: do your research to know safe and unsafe areas; always be alert to your surroundings and suspicious people and avoid being distracted by your phone or guidebooks; stay off empty, dark streets; use smart phones inconspicuously; and be familiar with local scams and pickpockets.
For women, there are a few extra precautions: don’t ever scrimp on safety; when walking doesn’t feel safe or at night use a Taxi or Uber, whichever is the safer alternative; book local walking tours with a guide to become familiar with a city; dress like a local and don’t flaunt (or even bring) expensive jewelry or handbags; stay sober at all times; don’t tell anyone you meet where you are staying or where you live; and especially trust your instincts.
Myth #3. It’s lonely.
Fact: No more than everyday life.
Surprisingly, it is often easier to chat with others traveling since everyone is out of their native habitat. Anyone can ask simple starter questions to open up the conversation naturally. Perhaps “where are you headed today” to your seatmate on a plane or train. “What are you looking forward to or have planned?” “My first time here, do you have suggestions for a restaurant, things not to miss, etc?” Travelers in general tend to be more curious and interested the world. Most are friendly, helpful and enjoy casual conversation.
One of the challenges I hear most from women (whether traveling or not) is eating out by themselves. A few simple tips: breakfast is the easiest; bring a book/kindle if you really prefer to be absorbed in something. Honestly though, you are on vacation so don’t bury yourself in your devices.
Sit at the bar if they serve food there. At least, you can chat with the bartender, servers or other solo eaters. Eat your large meal at mid-day lunch or afternoon. Restaurants tend to be busier, so you can enjoy watching people and the food passing by.
Eating alone is a habit that gets easier over time. Before you leave, if you’re uncomfortable, practice eating out by yourself. Start with breakfast, coffee, or lunch. They are more casual and easier than dinner.
The Magic of Traveling Solo
Magical Surprise #1: Builds Confidence.
We feel more confident, even after our first solo trip. We learn planning, flexibility, and rolling with it when things don’t go as planned. This “I can do it!” feeling of independence and courage is amazing at any age.
Magical Surprise #2: Less Compromise Required.
We realize we don’t have to compromise our time or our own interests if our travel buddy doesn’t want to. We can shop and meander all we want, spend an afternoon at a favorite museum, or do as much or as little as “we” want. Conversely, we don’t have to spend time doing things that don’t interest us.
Magical Surprise #3: Know and Appreciate Ourself Better.
Travel and time alone helps us realize we are enough on our own. We can enjoy our own company, our thoughts, and feel gratitude for our life. Most importantly, we feel more empowered to handle what shows up in new and different situations.
So, let’s get started
Get inspired by asking friends, do an internet search, and be open to what’s out there. You will be amazed what you learn. There are hundreds of Facebook groups, experts with blogs and podcasts for and by women traveling solo. Sign up for a few newsletters.
Here are just a couple of my favorite solo travel resources.
Leyla is inspiring, savvy and a veteran solo traveler. Her blogs and newsletters and website are filled with great information to get you started.
Road Scholar offers the single many program options. Moderately priced, they have an extensive catalogue of trips of all activity levels, interests, and countries. I’ve taken several of their trips, both as a single and with my husband. The people I’ve met have been fun, interesting, and curious. One woman I met shared that on an earlier trip, she had found a travel buddy for future trips.
I hope this has inspired you to step it up by stepping out to travel solo.
Do you have some favorites, suggestions, a wonderful travel advisor? Please feel free to share it.
Happy Trails to You!