I would consider myself a fairly introverted person – I’m shy and timid when placed in unfamiliar situations. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be sent to Germany for scientific training in gunshot residue analysis; extremely excited about the prospect of seeing a new country, I was also apprehensive about going to a non-English speaking country by myself. After exploring the country alone, and subsequently road tripping around England and Scotland by myself, I can happily say I thoroughly enjoy travelling solo and all my fears were unfounded. Here are some of the best things I’ve found about travelling by yourself.
1. You can do what you want, when you want
Sometimes the difficulty of travelling in a group is having to compromise on things. I’m a fairly structured and strict traveller; my friends are more spontaneous and chaotic. The freedom to decide upon your daily plans is one of the best things about traveling solo – you get to set the pace, focus on the things you want to see and do, and you only have to listen to yourself. At the end of the day, only you have to manage your own expectations of the trip. Want to spend a day wandering around London’s British Museum or New York’s Met? It’s all up to you!
2. You are forced out of your comfort zone
Being alone in an unfamiliar place has a way of amplifying the excitement and thrill of travelling – a mixture of fear and exhilaration is a fantastic catalyst to push you to do things you normally wouldn’t do at home. I believe that is the essence of travel exploration – transporting yourself into a place or situation that is completely out of the ordinary for you, heightening your senses and feeling the excitement of life. Forcing myself to get out every night in Germany even though I was terrified turned the trip into something amazing, and that isn’t something that would have happened if I stayed in my comfort zone.
3. You only have to manage and plan your own travel expectations / budget
I plan everything when travelling. Even down to the hour. Some would say I take it too seriously, but I look at it as wanting to make the most of the limited time I have in an exotic location. The benefits of travelling alone mean that you can plan your activities and connections however you like. Even better, planning a trip alone means you only need to think about your own personal budgetary concerns, rather than those of a group. Wanna stay in that expensive hotel? Do it! Planning out what you want to see is much easier when it’s just yourself – setting my Scottish itinerary was made simple because it was entirely what I wanted to do and nothing else.
4. You can get nifty travel benefits
Ever wonder how to get flight upgrades or hotel perks? Travel alone. Airlines are more likely to give you upgrades if you are travelling alone, and in general it’s easier to fly when you’re by yourself. Getting to terminals, picking up luggage, getting through security screenings and passport control are all easier when it’s just you. As far as hotels go, some will offer discounted rates when they know it’s just you staying, and it is often easier to get dinner reservations for one. Sights, attractions and shows can sometimes be easier to negotiate in solo situations as well – when seeing Broadway shows in New York, tickets were much easier to come by when it was just me.
5. You can meet locals and fellow global travellers easier
Humans are naturally, evolutionarily social creatures. We seek contact with other humans. When you’re all alone in a strange city, this desire for contact can be strong. Now when you’re by yourself and not with friends or family, you’re more likely to seek this contact with the people who already live there or are travelling just like you. When travelling alone in Munich and Berlin, I met a number of locals and travellers alike at cafes simply because I was alone and had a spare seat. All you need is a friendly smile and people will say hello.
So there you have it – travelling alone isn’t the end of the world, and it definitely shouldn’t dissuade you from travelling. The world is a big scary place it’s true, but it is also a big amazing world. Don’t let the anxiety of loneliness stop you. If you want to explore somewhere new or exotic and no one wants to go with you, set out alone. Trust me when I say, you won’t regret it.