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Why Travel Alone?

 

Twenty minutes in the lobby waiting for everyone, half an hour to work out the itinerary for the day, 10 minutes because someone needed to go to the loo, ending up at Mc Donald’s because you couldn’t work out where to go for dinner… Travelling in a group or as a couple can be frustrating. Why not forget the collective decision-making, nagging and arguments about what, when and how and just go by yourself?

Travelling alone is more than not having a travel buddy, it is a state of mind. It’s about experiencing the freedom of doing what you want 24 hours a day and getting an undiluted impression of your destination. There are no one else’s wishes and needs to consider. If you want to spend five hours walking around in a museum and another hour in the museum shop, you can do it. Want to lie next to the river in the sun instead of sightseeing? You do it. Feel like eating four cupcakes today? No one’s judging you. No one drags you from one boring shop to the other and no one spoils the discovery of the “Sex and the City Carrie House” with annoying side comments.

You only have one travel budget to consider and you can decide where to stay, may it be the Boutique Hotel or a tent without having someone complaining about money or a lack of comfort. My first solo trip happened more by accident, when my travel buddy suddenly got ill and I decided to go by myself instead. Despite being anxious at first I soon got addicted to being the master of my travel destiny. It is a rewarding experience managing to navigate through a foreign metropolis or finally finding that little gallery a local recommended to you.

Travelling alone makes you see more things, because you are not distracted by talking to someone. It also makes you more approachable to locals, who will tell you great stories about their lives and the location you are visiting. You will get to know a place in a very different and intimate way and as a nice side effect you’ll also get to know yourself better. Some people fear that they would get bored or lonely but it’s quite easy to get to know people on the road.

I never had any problems finding company if I wanted to. Thousands of people travel by themselves and are happy to go for a drink or dinner and share travel experiences, but you’ll have the freedom to leave them at any point and continue with your self-indulgence. Staying in hostels and taking part in walking tours is usually the best way to find fellow travellers to hang out. But there is also no need to feel awkward going for a drink or dinner by yourself. Arm yourself with a notebook, your travel guide or magazines to avoid any undesired advances and ignore weird looks.

You’ll feel absolutely fine after listening to the couple’s argument next to you and your undisturbed view of the skyline by night will be even more gorgeous. I have also found it quite romantic walking along the beach, watching the sunset listening to nothing else but the waves rolling onto the beach or my i-pod. The impressions and memories are much more intense if you have the peace of mind of just being there and concentrating on nothing else but the moment.

And if that’s not enough: just ask other tourists to take a photo of you as a memory. Just because you’re travelling alone doesn’t mean you can’t have any photos of you with the sights. Alternatively you can also develop your self-portrait skills. A solo-travellers' biggest concern is usually safety and for all the great experience of spending time with yourself it’s true that it makes you more vulnerable to crime, sadly especially if you are a women. Therefore be careful, use common sense and don’t flash jewellery, cash or expensive cameras around.

Never get extremely drunk or take drugs and avoid dangerous areas. It is best to only carry small amounts of cash and leave anything valuable at your hotel or hostel in the safe if you don’t need it. If you’re at the beach ask other sunbathers to watch your stuff when you go swimming. Remember that you have to carry your luggage around (and up three floors if there’s no lift) and that no one is there to watch it if you need to go to the bathroom, so pack as light as possible and keep your valuables in an extra bag and always with you.

It is also advisable to plan and check opening hours and public transportation schedules accurately if you are travelling alone. Killing five hours at a train station after missing the last one can be fun if you’re with someone, however if you are alone it can be a quite daunting and frustrating experience and taking a taxi is more expensive if it’s just you. There is no fail-proof strategy to travelling alone and there are also places you probably should think twice about going on your own, but on the whole it has proven to be a good experience for most travellers. The next time you find yourself struggling to find someone to go with or the impossibility of agreeing on a travel date drives you mad, consider just packing your own bags.  

Pictures: Dr Prem, Tips-Travels

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