I remember the first time I travelled alone vaguely. I must have been about 7 years old and I was flying from The Netherlands to France. Granted, I wasn’t exactly alone, as I was a ‘U.M.’ of KLM, an ‘unaccompanied minor’ and a stewardess was with me at all times. But I do remember how cool and grown-up I felt, walking around the airport without my parents… I can’t even begin to count the times I have travelled alone since, but I’ve learned a lot along the way…
Preparation helps… but you’ll survive without
10 years ago, I would book everything in advance, print out my travel schedule, write down all contact numbers… I knew exactly where to go when. Sure, I didn’t have a smart phone back then to save my life, but it also just helped me feel secure.
Nowadays, the only reason why I would book a flight a month in advance would be because actual last-minutes are super expensive. I usually have no idea about my flight number. I pack my suitcase half an hour before I leave and I often won’t book my hotel until I get tired. And that’s OK, although I did find myself at the wrong gate once (why would there be two flights from and to the same airport with only half an hour difference?!). Thankfully, I discovered it just in time.
Where flights are often very expensive right before departures, Booking.com often gets you a great deal for last-minute stays. I once ended up at an adorable bed & breakfast in Tuscany for a price that would allow to have an amazing Italian dinner that night, while the normal price would have been unaffordable.
Do I never forget anything when I pack that late? Sure I do. But I have a list in my head with all the stuff I really can’t go without (passport, wallet, phone, laptop, chargers & my contact glasses) and anything else I might forget, I can either live without or buy upon arrival. It’s really no big deal to use a different shampoo for a few weeks.
You’re only alone if you want to be
People ask me if it’s lonely to travel alone and tell me they would never go to a restaurant without company. Why wouldn’t you? I love it! I usually bring a book or a magazine, or I just look at the people passing by. And you really don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to.
A few years ago I travelled to Valencia, Spain, for a week on my own. One afternoon I was sitting at a terrace, having lunch. Three cute guys passed by.
‘Hola!’ they said.
‘Hola!’ I replied.
‘I don’t speak any more Spanish.’
‘Neither do we,’ they said, and then they looked at me and asked:
‘Are you all alone?’
‘Shall we join you?’
They were cute, so I said yes. We had a nice lunch all together, and after that our ways parted again.
Later that week I got to talk with someone else and got invited to join to a party. That evening, I just felt like doing something on my own, so I simply turned down the offer and did what I wanted.
When you’re on your own, it is so easy to get to know knew people. People you would probably never meet if you were travelling in a group. For me, that’s one of the best things about solo travelling.
There will always be someone to help you
The fact that you’re alone doesn’t mean you will have to figure out everything on your own. There will always be people around to help you find the right bus, recommend a local restaurant or help you get to a hospital when needed. Think about it; if someone would ask you what the best way would be to get to the next city, you would be happy to explain that person how to get to the train station, right? I’m sure there are exceptions, but I never met anyone who wouldn’t help me.
While I’m writing this, I’m sitting at Sun & Co., a coworking space in Jávea, Spain, with some fellow solo travellers around me. I askedwhat they learned. Their answers?
… airport wifi is a lie.
… always go to the bathroom before you pick up your luggage from the belt.
… it’s worth a few extra dollars to get to your destination in comfort.
So what did you learn..?