“Don’t you get lonely?”, “How do you have fun by yourself?”, “Do you do any work?”. These are the questions I get asked a lot as I am blessed with the opportunity to travel for over 6 years for work. Let’s get the last question out of the way first. Yes. I do work. Mostly. Ultimately for sure the main purpose is that I have job to do, however when the work day is over it feels like such a wasted opportunity not to enjoy the country I am in. There are colleagues who do take me out for dinner and show me the city, the hospitality is amazing from some, however for the most part I am alone. Being an introvert it does not bother me much, however even still it can turn depressing and even daunting to go out and explore. It took me a while to set some tactics to make the best of it and truly enjoy travelling alone. As a result, I absolutely adore travelling solo both for work and personal, here are some of my personal tips in how I achieved that.
Don’t do what is expected
By far the biggest benefit of solo travelling is that the only person you need to think about and please, is yourself. Even then, don’t do what is expected rather set the expectations yourself. A lot of people will recommend to do this, see this, eat here etc which is great, but only you know if its something you will actually enjoy. Look inwards to identify that, and whatever it is, don’t be afraid to accept it. Some people love to see museums, old buildings, churches, iconic sights of the country, while some love just to drink at the local Irish pub (there is always an Irish Pub). For me, I’m not into seeing another old parliament building or central town square. I mean seriously, “Oh look, its big and old!”. I prefer heading to the little neighborhoods, the ghettos, hip coffee shops, exploring hidden passageways, dining at local eateries, finding street art. Whatever it is for you, find it, it’s the base.
A little plan goes a long way
Researching and planning is exciting. It pumps you up knowing what you want and finding the things to do, it sure will bring a smile to your face. However Its so easy to pin multitude of things to do on Google maps especially in large cities, and then forcing yourself to plan to rush through everything and not actually enjoying any of them. Remember you set the expectations, so limit your selections to a couple of things on day by day basis.
Freedom to get lost
Being the sole person to satisfy and plan for, you by definition have the freedom of timings. If you want to sit in the coffee shop for another 30 minutes, do it. If you want to stare at that piece of amazing art in the museum longer, do it. Don’t pressure yourself into moving onto the next thing on your list. You are doing the thing on your list for a reason, because you are enjoying it, so why cut that off prematurely. We live in a world of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), but surprisingly don’t apply it to the very thing we are actually doing. When walking, get off the main street, go down that side road, you may find that hidden gem that is probably better than the place you planned to go to anyway. We all have smartphones with google maps, one way or another if you get lost you can find your way out of it.
Solo means yourself
Apart from luggage you are bringing yourself on the trip. Remember who you are and what you’re used to. Solo travel doesn’t have to be the transformative experience you hear about. Sometimes its hard to force yourself to relax if you’re always used to moving 100 miles an hour. For example if you always have a daily ritual of working out, don’t stop, do it and naturally you will feel relaxed in the day. You know your own traits, you don’t have to remove them.
Choose the right hotel
For me, the choice of where I would be sleeping an resting is so important. I need a nice clean bathroom and shower that doesn’t feel like someone is peeing on me, a lobby area that is large enough for me to chill out in comfortably. If its raining, its hard to enjoy yourself outside exploring in the rain, so the hotel is my back up and need to feel relaxed. Also, even though my plan says I want to see this, sometimes you just don’t want to, and want to just crash on the bed reading or watching a movie. Obviously the place is dependent on your budget, but its an easy mistake to make thinking “Hey I just need a bed as ill be doing things all day!”. No.
Whatever you are doing on your trip, do it with confidence. When exploring, walk with purpose. When ordering food order what you want no matter how small. When asking questions, don’t be insecure. Obviously don’t be an arrogant fool, there is a fine line, be on the right side for everyone’s sake. This will slowly remove away all of that icky daunting doubts of being alone inside you. This especially important when eating out. You have to eat and I personally love my food, and trying out different cuisines. There is a common fear of dining alone, I know in some cities it’s just weird. Even myself I get weird about it as I’m a big believer food should be shared. However I implore you to be confident about dining alone. To help overcome that fear, choose a place that has bar stools, or seating outside or booths for privacy, take some reading material with you, find a local non fancy place (which by the way has better food in my opinion), and talk to the staff. Mostly staff or owners love to talk about their place, food and curious to hear about you too. It all helps. Trust me, at the very least do not do the disservice to your belly!
This is my favourite and the easiest. Whatever you are doing, just smile. Smile when talking, smile when walking and sightseeing, but don’t do a weird creep smiling. If you have one of those, look in the mirror and fix it. The power of your smile cannot be overstated and will always have a positive result to not only the people around you but yourself. It removes barriers, it will make that waitress’ day and it will relax you. Just smile.
Above and beyond all of this, there are the obvious safety precautions to take that should be common sense, like carry ID with you, let people know what your doing, make sure you phone is charged, have insurance and all of that jazz. However if you want to experience solo travelling, or in a situation you are by yourself, hope this helps. We live a short life and we sometimes miss the opportunities right in front of us. Be true to yourself, be authentic, grab it and have fun. Peace and Love.