Updated: Apr 5
I am often told I am "brave" for how much travelling I do by myself... But that's not really the case. I meet new people every single day I travel- I am hardly ever actually alone; sometimes I meet people for a few minutes others I meet and travel with for longer. Everyone I meet teaches me something new, sometimes small things but sometimes people really can change you. After more than a year of travelling, sometimes alone, sometimes as a couple or with a friend, heres a breakdown of the pro’s and con’s of solo travel but why it is so important for everyone to do!
Some things, without doubt are harder when travelling alone. For example, airports and flying are less fun every time I travel by myself- long waits can be tough alone, especially when you are doing it a lot. Luggage can be a real pain- it’s such a luxury to be able to leave your luggage with your travel pal when you go to the loo.
There are some serious issues too- if something goes wrong there is nobody to report it- i.e. you are lacking the buddy in the buddy system! Therefore it’s much more important to keep up to date with friends and family at home- so people know when there is a problem.
Travelling with someone is often cheaper- half the cost of the taxi and hotel are obvious basic savings but also it’s easier to try lots of new things- ordering two local mains and sharing half each for example.
But then there are the simple things I miss… like not having someone else to share the amazing things, to laugh with when something ridiculous happens or even someone to remember the little things that I am bound to forget.
However, travelling alone has some epic perks. Eating alone, surprisingly, is really amazing (even if I do hate the looks of sympathy I receive every so often). You can do the things that YOU want to do. No negotiations over where to go, no visits to the museum of Old English Literature that you travel partner has wanted to go to for 10 years. If you want to eat at a fancy restaurant for the first time in 4 months- do it! No guilt over anyone else’s budget. If you want to spend the day doing nothing but planning the next country- you can do whatever you want without feeling guilty! So many possibilities…
The most important thing though, that after more than a year of travelling, I now realise how much I have learnt about myself, there is no pressure like turning up in a completely new country with a backpack and no plans! It's then you will learn to trust yourself, to rely on yourself not to panic and to organise things in the immediate. It's also in the days alone that you really start to learn what you like to do with your time and it's in these times alone I grew most. Sometimes there is desperate loneliness and need to talk to someone- sometimes a desperate need to remove yourself from everyone to think. These are the extremes, most of the time when travelling alone, I am excited to "roll" with things, and people and explore new places! So, if you are contemplating travelling alone here are some hard learned tips that I've picked up during my travels:
- Firstly, book your first few nights accommodation before you arrive. Make sure you know the address before you leave, so it's a smooth transition between arriving and getting to your new "home" for a few nights. After that, have more freedom, don't book too far in advance- go with it and see what gets recommended etc.
- When arriving in a completely new country, I prefer to book the first few nights in a slightly nicer hostel/ hotel that I intend to spend the rest of my trip. Don't push yourself too much- you'll probably turn up tired, flustered and sweaty.
- Don’t eat at international restaurants. Explore! Go and find the local places with local food and local prices! Make sure it's cooked fresh though. In Ubud, the highstreet is full with expensive eateries but if you head back into the side streets you find many little "warungs" selling exactly the same food, just cheaper with mostly friendly staff (or families running their family warring!) Eating local food is one of the most amazing parts of travelling!
- I find eating a largely vegetarian diet whilst travelling especially useful. It's cheaper, it's safer from tummy upsets/ often meats are of unconfirmed origin but (especially in Asian) it's also amazing to see how tasty vegetables can be! Eating veggie is particularly useful if jumping between cooking your own meals at hostels and you don't need to worry about keeping them cold.
- Dress properly- everywhere. In Malaysia for example on the East Coast it's a must to cover up completely whilst in Bali not so much. However, I think it’s respectful and safer to wear longer trousers, no cleavage, and covered shoulders in much of Asia. It looks fare more stylish anyway.
- Pack light and pack natural. You really don’t need much. I’m queen of overpacking and like to be prepared for everything but bitterly regretted taking so much stuff when I was paying per kilo of check in luggage on Asian airlines and then carrying three heavy bags in heat and humidity. Trust me- it’s not worth it. Toiletries are easily overpacked- if you see essentials as Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Shampoo and Sanitary products this puts everything else you pack into perspective. I once took 7 lipsticks travelling- and wore one. I’m so ashamed!
- Pack a proper medicine bag. You should ALWAYS have medication you require, but I always carry around basics such as ibuprofen, paracetamol, diarrhoea relief and allergy relief. You don’t want to be stuck somewhere, under the weather with no medicine you can trust.