To travel alone. To discover the world by myself, without doing any concession or compromise. You just follow your desires. This is something that many people want to do. But, it’s a bit hard to dare to do it. We wander so many things. I wonder many questions before my first solo travel, and no one around me had the answers, only more worries. This is why, I’ve decided to answer these questions, to share my experiences and the experiences of women I met during my travels. In this article, I’m not going to make things prettier than they are, I’m going to say what I think and the answers will reflect my opinion.
I don’t promise I will answer all your questions or that you won’t have any worries left at the end of the article. But, if I answer some of your questions and release you from some worries, it will be one more step for you for solo travel. And if some of you decide to travel alone after reading this article, I’ll offer her a mojito, a beer or any other drinks of her choice!
1. Am I able to travel alone? Will I make it through?
Yes. YES. You are capable to do it. Look at you in the mirror and repeat it: “I am capable to travel alone!”.
Seriously, the first advice I will give you is to have self-confidence. Traveling alone isn’t more difficult or complicated than travel with someone else. The organization is the same: to buy a flight/ bus/ train ticket, to book a hotel, etc. except that you choose yourself everything according to your desires.
Of course, the first time you do it, it’s really scary to prepare everything. For my first travel, it took me more than one week to choose my flight ticket! My manager accepted my holidays, I chose the destination (Quebec) and yet, I was so scared to buy my flight ticket… And one day, I decided to buy it and 10min it was done! It took me one more week to book my accommodation my Montreal. And later, I planed precisely my itinerary. In total, it took me more than one month to organize my travel because I was so stressed.
What I want to show you in this example if you have to prepare your travel step by step. It will seem less insurmountable and easier. Don’t try to do everything in once and above all, be proud of you each step you’ve done.
If you feel more comfortable to plan everything, do it! That’s what I did the first time. I looked for every bus between cities, booked every hotel, choose what I wanted to see before I left. It’s your travel, plan it as you wish. Internet is wonderful to find all the information you need.
I also advise you to begin with an easy destination. I chose Quebec because this country looks like Europe and for the language. Even if it’s a far country (from France), I easily found “french references” (shops, restaurants, etc.). But if you prefer, you can also go 3-4 days in a European capital to start! I won’t say that your first travel will be perfect. It won’t. We all make mistakes. The first time I booked a hostel, I choose the cheapest one. Result: mix dorm of 12 persons. When I realized what it was, I didn’t laugh at all. Now, I laugh at me each time I think about it. We all make mistakes, and guess what? That doesn’t matter!
So have more self-confidence and go!
2. Will I get bored alone? Won’t I stay alone instead of talking to others? Isn’t it boring to travel alone?
I will speak honestly. To wait for the bus or have a journey of hours when you are alone, you can be on the other side of the world or at home, it is boring. It’s not because you are in the country you dream to visit that it will stop you to get bored. During your travel, there are moments when you will be bored, be sure of this. But, you can enjoy those moments by reading books, listening to music or podcasts, etc.
If you don’t like loneliness, you can also enjoy this moment by meeting people and talk to strangers! But how can you do this if you are shy? This is the big question. Personally, I am shy. And before I start to travel alone, I was very shy and start a conversation with a stranger was something I couldn’t do. Thus I never started a conversation, except when it was necessary: ask for information, buy a bus ticket, etc. But, you will discover one thing: there often will be someone who will come talk to you. Mostly if you are in a place with travelers, like hostels and if you look like open for a conversation (if you smile and not focus on your smartphone for example). When it happened to me the first times, I wasn’t comfortable at all! I was between “Great someone is talking to me!” and “oh no someone is talking to me, what am I supposed to do?”. The only thing that helped me to cope with this situation, was the time. Yes, the first times weren’t easy for me. But then, I realized it was always the same questions: where are from? what’s your name? For how long are you in this country? How long do you travel? So, I get used to this quickly. And after a while, I even started to get bored to always answer the same questions. Then, it was unbelievable but I began to start the conversations! Firstly, because I wanted to talk with the travelers I shared the dorm with. Secondly, it was a way to change the questions and the subjects of conversation.
During your travel, you will meet people, more or less depending on if you are shy or not, but in any case, you will meet someone who will start the conversation. Be open to others and don’t be afraid each time someone talks to you.
3. Am I going to feel depressed? What do I do when I feel depressed and I am alone?
If you are going to travel for a long time, several months, yes you are going to feel depressed from time to time. In my case, it is once per month (hello menstrual symptoms!). And if you are on paradise island, in an amazing city, the place of your dreams, well, moreover you will feel guilty. “I’m traveling, on the other side of the world, I am realizing my dream and I am even not happy. I even not enjoy it.” Be careful, I have big news for you: You have the right to feel depressed where ever you are in the world. And it is OK! Stop thinking that everything is perfect during travel, that you have only great moments or a dreamed life with beautiful landscapes, unforgettable people and delicious local food every day. Well no, you don’t. Some days, you feel bad, that’s all. And you have to feel guilty or to give a justification. You don’t feel good and that’s it.
But, you can do something to feel better. There is no miracle solution, but I will give you a simple and solution which works for me: do what you like and you want to do. To eat in a good restaurant? To have a drink on a terrace? To spend the day in your bed? To go to the beach? To have a massage? To call a friend? No matter. Just do it. Take 1, 2, 3 days or more if you need to. And if you don’t know what you want, answer this question: At home, when you feel bad, what do you do to feel better?
If you travel for a while, you will recognize the first sign of this little depression when it comes. In this case, you can anticipate and organized everything to have a good time. Personally, I know more or less when it will come. Thus, I stay in the same place for the 3 days it lasts. I visit less, take more my time, spend more money on restaurants, coffee or bar. This “vacation” during my trip is also a good time to rest and to go for new adventures later!
4. And if I feel alone?
First of all, you have to know it is not because you are alone that you feel necessary alone. You can visit a city, a museum, hike, drink a coffee on a terrace, etc. without feeling alone. Personally, I feel alone in a group or a dorm if I am the only one who knows no one. If there is a couple, a group of friend and I am the only one who travels alone, this is when being alone is hard for me. But in this case, you have to be aware of one thing: during travel, no one will judge you because you are alone. Either people don’t care, or they admire you. Thus, you have the choice, either you don’t care too or you change of place! And of course, you can talk to them too. When you really feel alone, the best solution is to talk to someone: a stranger from the hostel, a friend in your country (easy with the internet!) or your family!
There is one thing you have to be aware of: traveling alone doesn’t mean being alone all the time. When I was traveling in South America for 5 months, I was really alone for only 2 months! Otherwise, I meet people and I was traveling with them between 3 days to 1 month! And the rest of the time, I visited the country alone, even if the evening I was meeting other travelers. To be honest, sometimes, I was even glad to be alone again.
Of course, sometimes you want to be alone and you meet many people. And sometimes it is the opposite, you feel alone and there is no one to talk to. But don’t be afraid: 1) it is normal and it happens to everybody, 2) it won’t last.
5. Can I travel if I don’t speak English? Can I learn English/ Spanish or any other language during my travel?
If you speak English, it’s easier to travel of course. But only in some countries. For example, in South America, my English wasn’t very helpful… Spanish was more useful (and of course I chose German at school). So, I was in countries where everybody talks almost only Spanish whereas I didn’t speak a word of Spanish. And yet, I met a Colombian woman who spoke only Spanish. We visited a city together for 3 days. It wasn’t easy to understand each other (thank you to Google translate) but you became friends, we laughed a lot and we kept contact after. It proved me, you don’t need only words to communicate. I discovered other ways to communicate: gestures, looks, drawings, etc. And I will remember this moment all my life!
Then, you can learn a language while you are traveling. This is how I became fluent in English and how I learned Spanish. Concerning English, I learned at school of course, but speaking was very difficult for me. Traveling was the best way to speak every day and to understand English. And I’ll give you my secret to learn quickly: run away from those you speak your mother tongue. Speak only the language you want to learn. In my case, I ran away from French and spoke only English. You will see how fast you will make progress.
About Spanish, I learned during my travel. I never studied Spanish at school (remember, I chose German). I download Duolingo and tried to speak Spanish every time I could. After a while, I stopped making progress. I started to “speak” but I didn’t improve myself anymore. This moment, someone gave me Spanish courses (2-3h). Thanks to this, I understood and learned a lot about grammar, pronunciation, etc and I made progress again! (Davy: if you read this: Thank you!)
So yes, it is possible to learn languages during travel. I think it is even the best moment to do so! To me, I think now that English is the easiest language to learn during travel. Most of the time, may travelers speak English, and it is the language you will practice the most. But to learn another language you never studied is also possible. The proof: I did it!
6. Are there more risks to be stolen/ assaulted if I am traveling alone?
We don’t live in a world 100% safe, it’s true. However, we don’t live in the movie “American Nisftmare” neither. Our world is between. No matter where in the world, what ever place you are: Paris, Berlin, Sydney, Lyon, New York, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, etc. a woman alone has more “chances” to be assaulted compared to if she is with someone. It is unfair and makes me angry but that’s the truth. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do. However, it’s not because it could happen that it means it will happen. Yes, it might happen and you have to be aware of this while you are traveling. But, in my case, the local food caused me more troubles than an unknown guy in the street. (Conclusion: always have something for your stomach with you.)
During your travel, the only times when someone stole something to me were when I was in a hostel: my headphones and my soap. The only time when I was “assaulted” was also in a hostel. A man completely drunk wanted absolutely to talk to me.
There were also other cases, in the street, the whistles or the look of men. And honestly, this isn’t very different from my home country, France…
You have to be aware of the risks when you travel alone. Be careful in a place you don’t know, but enjoy your travel too. You will realize that the world is much less dangerous than we think.
7. Will I do the same activities if I am alone?
This will depend on your activities. For activities, no matter if you are alone or in a group. I am thinking about the hikes, the cities or other touristic places. You can do this alone without any hesitation. Traveling alone was a problem for me only on rare occasions. Actually, it was difficult for me only twice.
The first was when I wanted to rent a kayak. The security rules force you to be at least two persons to rent kayaks. Thus, I had to join a group to be able to make the tour I wanted to.
The second time was when I wanted to join a group to spend days in the jungle. The tour was organized for 2 persons at least. So, I had to adapt my dates to the availability of another group.
These two cases were the only time when traveling alone was a little bit complicated. Yet, each time, there was a solution and I did the activities. On the moment, I wasn’t pleased to join a group or to change my dates. But after all, what is travel without a change of plan? Now, I am glad I did this activity even if I had to adapt my plans. I would have regretted it if I hadn’t made them.
Now, the question might be: “Will I dare to do the same activities if I am alone?” Of course, why not? If you really want to do something, don’t hesitate! If you don’t take the risk, you will regret it later. Maybe, it will take you a lot of courage to dare to do it. But then, you will be so happy! And after, you will be even proud of you!
8. I love to share my experiences, won’t I be frustrated if I can’t speak of it?
In my case, I like to travel alone because I have time to think about many things. I have time for myself and I take this time to think about my problems I don’t have time to solve otherwise. It is the perfect moment to take stock of my life. It isn’t when you want to have a deep conversation (deeper than “wouha what a beautiful sunset!”).
If you need to relieve you from some thoughts, one solution which works for me is to write them. I always have my travel diary with me and I write everything in it. I know, it is different from having a conversation. However, it’s a good way to compensate for the loneliness and to relieve you from your thoughts.
9. How can I do if I want to go to the restaurant? How can I deal with the other customers who are looking at me?
Do you remember last time you were at the restaurant? Did you observe the other customers before, after or when you were eating? And if you noticed someone who is eating alone, what was your reaction? “Oh, the poor guy, he is eating alone” or “I don’t remember because I don’t care of other people when I’m at the restaurant”. Most people just don’t care. And even if they do, remember one thing: you are traveling, you will never see them again! Personally, I can eat at the restaurant when I’m traveling. Nobody knows me and I know nobody. Thus even if some people are staring at me, it doesn’t bother me at all (but I’m sad for them that they have nothing more interesting to do that watching me eating).
If you have complexes about eating alone, just go to a restaurant and look around you. You will often see people eating alone. The first time, it’s scary of course and it’s normal. But you can choose an isolated table in the corner of the restaurant if it helps you.
To eat at the restaurant in an unknown place, when nobody knows you, it is easier than you may think. Honestly, to eat at the restaurant while I’m traveling is not a problem for me. However, I will never do that in my home town where I may see someone I know. Keep in mind that the two situations are completely different.
Alone? No problem, it’s more pastei de nata for me!
10. And what if I don’t like it?
It’s okay! You tried to travel alone and that’s the most important! It is a great experience and the only way to know if you like it or not is to try.
However, if you notice during your travel that it’s not for you, don’t ruin your trip because of it. If being alone is to difficult for you, the easiest solution is to meet another traveler and to continue with him/her. To do so, you have several solutions.
– Go to a hostel, meet and talk to other travelers
– Join traveler groups on Facebook. The main advantage of social media is it is easier to exchange but also to meet someone. You can post something on a group to meet other travelers only for a drink or to travel for days/weeks.
– Try Workaway and Couchsurfing. According to you and the time you have, you can do workaway and Couchsurfing. You will meet local people and stay in a place for a longer time. You will feel less lonely if you stay in a place with the same people during a few days/weeks.
And if the situation is unbearable, you can go home. There is no shame in going back home. I think it is even brave to be aware that the situation doesn’t suit you and you do something to change it. When you are traveling, it is the perfect time to learn a lot about yourself. Listen to you and to your wills. Don’t forget that traveling must be a pleasure and not a pain. If traveling alone isn’t for you, there is no shame. There are other types of travel: in couple, with your friends, family, a group, etc. you just have to find the type that suits you.
I hope that my answers helped you and that I answered some of your questions. If it is not the case, or if you have other questions, I am writing another article about it. Don’t hesitate to ask me your questions on the com or by email. I will answer the best way I can.