WORLD I have always been a huge travel addict, taking advantage of any break and long weekend to quickly visit a new city or country, explore a new sight and experience a new culture. However, most of my trips were done with friends or boyfriends, and while it is always enjoyable to travel with people you like, I have always had a personality that enjoys some quiet time and reflection. While I enjoy being amongst other people, I also tend to like to enjoy new experiences at my time and leisure, moving at my pace and going where I feel like going in the moment.
Despite this, when considering the pros and cons of travelling with others, I always felt there were a lot more in the latter than in the prior: annoying people bothering you, the risk of being robbed, and as a woman, being harassed on the streets or worse. And so, except for the safest destinations, I mostly resigned myself to travelling with company as the best solution.
This all changed in 2010 when I went on a weekend trip to Stockholm, a city safe by all standards and so I decided to travel by myself. What I wasn’t counting on was the volcanic eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull at the time, cutting off all flights in the region and effectively grounding us for an indeterminate period.
Needing to go back to university in the U.K. for my exams, I had go back to home by any means in a trip that ended up being much longer than expected – I joined some friends I had met at my hostel for a 14hr bus drive to Copenhagen, where I ended up staying 5-6 days and exploring the city in detail. After deciding to look for a cab that would allow me to continue my return, I ended up meeting an elderly couple who was trying to do the same, and we ended up sharing a fantastic journey all the way to Rotterdam, where a final boat trip got me finally to the U.K. I had a blast, and I had done so alone but meeting so many people in new places along the way!
After that, I started becoming more adventurous, and when an opportunity came, I decided to embark by myself on a South America trip in Peru & Panama, visiting these amazing countries in detail, exploring the Amazon forest & meeting some extraordinary people along the way.
See how happy I was 😊
For those of you interested in doing the same, here are a few takeaways I have learned during my adventures:
1. Travelling by yourself doesn’t mean you have to be alone all the time
Being alone makes you more open to talk to others and listen to your surroundings. Be open, make friends and engage with local people, but understand where you are and ensure you are in safe environments;
2. Take extra precautions in planning your routes & way back home
A safe traveller plans ahead. Know the best way to get home, always use the most frequented routes and avoid standing out or carrying things of value if you don’t feel comfortable with the environment around you.
3. Be open to new experiences and people (after all you are travelling to experience a new country) – but do so safely
It might be tempting to just follow people you met into a cab for drinks or a night out, but always ask yourself if it will be easy to leave and return to your accommodation. The best option is always to meet and hang out with people in places you feel safe to begin with and know where they are.
4. Respect the culture of each country, play it safe
Make sure you are aware of the culture and habits of the country you are in and behave accordingly. These vary a lot from region to region, and it doesn’t take long to read up before you embark on your trip.
5. Don’t overdrink
Remember you are in charge of your own safety at all times. It is much easier to avoid potentially dangerous situations if you are able to think clearly.
It was because of the great times I had exploring new countries by myself that I ended up deciding to create loacal.com, a platform that links travellers securely with local people, allowing them to enjoy genuine local activities while being safe in knowing all our hosts have been verified and being able to select activities with larger groups of people through our many filtering options. In this way, any traveller can feel safe to enjoy completely new experiences and meet with local people while relaxing and having peace of mind.
I hope this post inspires you to embark on a solo journey the way I did. Trust me, there is no better way to enjoy some time with yourself and fully relax from your day to day life. While there are still some precautions we must take when travelling alone, it is 2019 and it is past the time for us to do that crazy journey we always wanted but never had the courage to.