Solo travelling has soared over the last few years. A study undertaken by Phocuswork found that 7 out of 10 travellers in the US in 2016 were solo travellers. The rise in the number of solo travellers is due to a number of factors, the most important being that travelling alone can be incredibly rewarding and allows you to be much more flexible than if you were with another person or group. The other reason is that, despite the label, solo travel does not necessarily mean you’ll be alone. In fact, you have the freedom to decide how alone you want to be. Of course you’ll start off on your own, which can be daunting if it’s your first time, but within the first 24 hours you’ve probably already made a friend.
However even with all the advice in the world, the best way of travelling is figuring out what works best for you and what makes you feel safe, which always takes a bit of time. I, for instance, soon realised that hopping from city to city every other day was not the right way for me to travel. But I met plenty of people who found that ideal. Figuring out your own way of travelling is part of the “travelling experience”. Nevertheless, there are still a few measures you can that make things easier while you’re figuring it out.
It probably doesn’t even need saying, but hostels are the traveller hubs. Most people, (or specifically those travelling alone) are usually open to meeting new people and spending the day with a stranger. In my experience, the cheaper hostels were the most sociable. The Hostelworld app is a great way to find the one with the best value for money. Depending on the city, most hostels have spare beds the day before which gives you ample time and flexibility. If you’re not comfortable sharing mixed dorms, almost every hostel has women-only rooms – however it’s best to be a bit more organised when booking those because they tend to be the first to go.
I use the word ‘free’ delicately, because a tip at the end is almost assumed. You might prefer to go wandering off by yourself (which is definitely worth doing anyway) but if you find yourself in a historical landmark, a walking tour is the perfect combination of meeting new people and learning about the history of the land.
If you’re looking for a good tour company, ask the hostel or hotel you’re staying at who tend to partner up with some of the smaller more independent touring companies that tailor to specific destinations. It’s always a good idea to check out reviews before you choose – it can also give you an idea of the type of people who go on the tours – whether young travellers or families.
Everyone is talking about Experience. Artificial Intelligence started it, Marketing and Sales have picked up on it, and now Airbnb are taking the idea to expand their business. Whether it’s trendy or not, these are great ways of branching out and trying something random. It provides everything from classes, to local activities, to pub-crawls, and offers a unique way of linking up with fellow travellers. If you’re worried about that feeling of inauthenticity from regular tours, Airbnb Experiences provide smaller gems of experiences and can sometimes take you off the beaten track if you look carefully. When it was first introduced, it instantly became a popular feature and is now used all over the world.
I had some of the most rewarding experiences through Couchsurfing; the people you meet are often the friendliest and most inviting people – some of whom I’m still in touch with today. Living (even briefly) with someone who knows the city well gives more insight and depth into local culture than any other ‘experience’. After hearing about a few negative Couchsurfing experiences from other women I met, I always made sure to stay with people who had really good reviews, from a mix of both men and women. I tended to stay with more women simply because I felt more comfortable doing so – but that remains entirely subjective.
As the famous explorer and motivational speaker Sir Ranulph Fiennes said “there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”, you need to dress the part. While Ranulph was referring to the physical conditions of a place, I think this also applies culturally. It’s important to respect a culture by wearing appropriate clothing and adapting to different standards of dress code. Don’t simply copy what other travellers wear because they might not necessarily know. Read up on a place before you go and make sure you have the right clothing. Also, invest in a great pair of shoes.
Written by Flora Meadmore