Considering travelling alone? Some tips from a biased-in favour-of-solo-travel by a passionate nomad.
I love to travel alone for many reasons: high on the list of advantages to solo is the freedom to decide when, where, and how I will travel. Solo travel means 100% pain and 100% pleasure
Of course there are downsides to being alone; it often costs more for accommodation and you always have to make all own travel decisions, read the map alone, and always be totally responsible for your own actions and this can be tiring!
However, you also can always stop to eat where and when and what you want. The augments – or heated discussions – I have heard over this simple topic are amazing in their ferocity and frequency.
Being alone also means there are no safety nets as you walk the tightrope of lone-travel. However being alone does not mean being lonely.
I am approached by locals more than when I’m spending a day with another traveller. It seems that I am less threatening alone so locals – who often are keen to practice their English or just talk to someone with a different background – will approach me. So I believe you will meet more people on your own, have direct contact with those who live in the country. You needn’t be lonely.
I travel without reservations or plans so I also need to approach locals for information in a way that is not required by tourists. It is also a great way to get to engage with other women who are often in the background, virtually invisible, in many places.
When I ask a couple for information it is to the woman that I address my query. Frequently it is the man who replies (often women, in non-English speaking countries, have limited English) but, by being a woman talking to a woman, I have made myself more acceptable and non threatening, less inappropriate, in their eyes anyway.
Interactions with these locals give me a different perspective on the country than when I sit and talk with a fellow traveller over a Turkish coffee, a Malaysian long-tea or a Thai curry. (favourites of mine)
Conversations with other travellers are useful, fun and interesting too, but are better kept for evenings at the hostel, tent or hotel.
If, when travelling alone, you feel lonely one can always join someone for an hour or a few days. Once I even joined a group of ten in a truck to travel in Botswana and Namibia, not because I was lonely but for convenience. Although I got to fabulous places and saw great sights, I did not get to have interactions with the very people I came to meet. A big group is too intimidating for most people to approach; this truck tour convinced me lone wandering is my preferred style.
Finally the other really great travel companion for me is my journal and a good book. They add some consistency to life when all else is changing – constantly!
So what other advantages are there, for me, in living a nomadic lifestyle on foreign roads?
There is no compromise in the experiences I have, I can stay as long or as short as I wish, so the ability to be flexible is a wonderful asset. I have developed skills and strengths that I did not know I wanted, needed or were lacking, and my experiences – both the pain and the pleasure- are intense, undiluted by the thumb-sucking security-blanket of others.
So that’s why I’m a sole traveller? Maybe because I feel more of a soul-traveller that way: or maybe it’s because I am totally selfish and self-centred and want to grasp the intensity all to myself. And it’s that very intensity that makes me a passionate-lone-nomad.