Oh hi there..
Travelling alone can seem like a pretty scary prospect. The idea of navigating airports or even just walking into a restaurant and asking for a table for 1 are enough to put some people off.
I did my first solo trip back in 2014. Setting off to volunteer with big cats in South Africa. It had always been something I was desperate to do so for me, the idea of doing it alone wasn’t an issue at all. I’m not going to pretend the idea wasn’t daunting, but I enjoyed my own company and knew I couldn’t say no.
I braved it and not a single regret was had. In fact, I had such an amazing time I knew it was something I needed to do again. In the summer of 2016 I left for the US to spend the summer as a camp counsellor.
I know I haven’t travelled the globe alone, but I have learnt some things and made some mistakes. I thought I would write this post incase anyone reading is on the brink of booking, but letting the fear hold them back. This is just some advice on how I put myself at ease with travelling alone.
When booking, I would recommend really researching an agency you are possibly planning on going through. I have been through two, Americamp (https://www.americamp.co.uk/) for my camp counsellor trip and Four Paws (http://www.four-paws.org.uk/) for my big cat volunteering.
When looking at both I flicked through reviews from similar people to me. First time, solo travellers and it really helped ease my mind in terms of trusting an agency with my money. Another advantage of going through agencies like these are the help they provide with visas and other documentation.
Arriving at the airport is where the real panic can start. Personally, I love airports and could spend all day sat people watching, wondering where everyone is going. My parents have always been military style prepared for the airport. Bags pre-weighed, checked in online, passports in an easy to access, yet hard to lose location. I think thats probably why I get to enjoy the experience so thats the only advice I would give here. Be prepared and give yourself plenty of time.
Security can be long and so extra time can prevent any panic there too. On my first trip I was held up at security for an extra half hour because the lady in front of me had an explosive substance in her bag. Although it sounds scary, the panicked look on her own face put me at ease a little. Being there just a little earlier meant that the only thing crossing my mind was what to eat and not missing my flight.
Finding your gate early and just making sure you stay around that area can help calm any last paranoia. Then the flight itself for me is never really a problem. Obviously this will be different if you suffer from fear of flying but for me the answer is a big hoody, good headphones and an even better playlist.
Landing in a foreign country can again be daunting. All the signs being in a different language, unfamiliar surroundings and possibly big crowds can seem like a problem. When I landed in Africa I definitely felt this panic, arriving at an arranged meeting point to be met by no-one. I tried to stay calm, people are allowed to be late after all.
After the first hour passed, the stress began. Followed by the second and third hour and I was on the brink of a breakdown. The phone number I had been given was turned off and I had no phone signal. I decided to go to the food court and there it was..my saving grace..AIRPORT WIFI!
I quickly connected to find an email from the company I had arranged my trip through explaining that due to cancellations on another volunteers flight, I would have to wait at the airport for 8 hours. Not ideal, thats for sure but at least I hadn’t been scammed and left alone in South Africa hey?!
It quickly taught me that making sure you have a point of contact with someone at every stage makes for a much more enjoyable trip. International sim cards are great but wifi is found basically everywhere now and it can save lives.
Getting around once you get there really does depend on where you are. Public transport can be hectic in some places but the most useful in others, and even in cases like New York a little bit of both. Understanding the best ways to get around before you go for me is crucial in making it stress free.
There are loads of amazing sites and blogs that give great advice based on the specific location. The one that for me stands out and I would recommend heavily is Lonely Plant. (https://www.lonelyplanet.com/). You can search for your desired location and it will provide you will methods of transport as well as budget options. You can see how much a taxi will cost you and even how much an average street meal will set you back.
Without wanting to sound too repetitive it really is all about being organised. Have everything you need exactly where you need it and jump into the unknown. You will have amazing experiences, meet new people that you wouldn’t usually and not regret a minute of it.
I know people from places I hadn’t even heard of before and have memories that not many people get to experience. Some of the best times of my life have come from taking the dive and travelling alone. Stay calm, be prepared and don’t let being a single traveller stop you. The only person worrying about that is you. So if you’re considering a solo trip then STOP considering it and GO DO IT!
If you have any questions about travelling alone or any of the agencies I have mentioned then please leave a comment and ask away. This is only my second post so any feedback would be appreciated too. Give this post a like if you found it helpful and yeah, follow me around the world and on here. Thanks.