I have been getting a lot of comments from friends and family lately about my habit of traveling alone. Some of them think it is no big deal, some of them wonder if I get bored alone, and some of them worry that I will end up dead in a ditch in some foreign country.
I was in my early 20’s when I took my first solo vacation. I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself and it felt a bit awkward. Since that first trip I have done many more and I have learned some valuable lessons about traveling alone.
First, you need to be comfortable eating alone in a crowded restaurant. I have never had a problem eating alone in a restaurant so this part was never an issue for me, but I do still notice that I attract attention eating alone in touristy places. Sometimes I bring a guidebook with me to plan the next days activities but mostly I just relax and focus on the food.
Don’t take stupid risks. I rarely take risks with my safety when I am traveling alone (one notable exception was a road trip to Mexico. Just me and my Honda driving around one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Not the smartest decision I have ever made). But back to not taking stupid risks…. I don’t stay out late at night and I never have drinks with strangers. I am not a big fan of night clubs and crowded bars to begin with, and hanging out at nightclubs alone in foreign countries seems like a pretty surefire way to find a roofie in your drink; so I just avoid them all together when I am on my own.
Carry a weapon or something to defend yourself with if you are going to be out at night or running/hiking alone. Lately it is a knife strapped to my leg or arm. When I was at Lake Bled and I wanted to get some nighttime shots I strapped my knife to my leg outside my flannel pajamas. I am positive that I looked crazy, but that was the point. Not too many people want to take their chances with an armed woman who may or may not be insane.
Do not be afraid to be rude or to make a scene. I have no problem being rude to anyone that tries to pester me when I am walking down the street. Obviously I don’t freak out on someone just asking for directions or saying good morning, but the pushy guys selling knockoff purses that get a little too close get the full brunt of the bitch shield. I have seen so many women being downright harassed on the street by men because they were not standing up for themselves. Eye contact and a direct “Get away from me” works every time. If for some reason it doesn’t work just start screaming at the top of your lungs, it will make a scene, which is exactly what you want.
Get used to having conversations with yourself. Thought that museum you just visited was pretty awesome? Can’t wait to tell someone all about it? Tough. You are alone. Write about it in your journal or replay the visit in your head during your solo dinner. It is not as depressing as it sounds I promise. Being alone for days on end means you have lots of time for the thoughts that have been drowned out by all of your external conversations to bubble up to the surface. And being alone at dinner means no one is looking at you funny when you finish the entire bottle of wine while you are thinking those thoughts.
There are a lot of really great aspects to traveling alone, like no compromising. If you would rather have your eyes gouged out than see another historic church there is no one to guilt trip you into seeing “just one more”. Everything is on your schedule. Nobody is going to tell you that you are missing out if you want to skip the museum to take a midday nap and there will be no grumpy companions if you want to wake up super early to catch the sunrise.
Guided tours are fun and helpful if you are alone, and only a little bit nerdy. I like to take guided tours when I travel to a new city. I have a horrible sense of direction and it is nice to wander around a city with someone who knows where they are going and can give you some interesting information. I like the company Viator, I took three tours with them on my trip to Rome earlier this year and they were all worth the money.
I highly recommend buying a tripod for your camera if you are traveling alone, otherwise you will not be in most of your pictures. Or you can cozy up to some of the people in your tour group and ask them to take your picture (but it might get annoying after the 20th time).
Happy Solo Traveling Everyone!