Do you like to #travelalone, but get a dismayed look from your friends as you are about to hop on a plane? Are you reluctant to take that leap and explore a new city on your own? Trust me, I have experienced both situations. However, as the years have passed, I’ve realized that I have two options: travel solo and make my trips a reality or wait home for friends to go on trips that will happen in Neverland!
Here are some sentiments that you may have heard or subconsciously expressed to others about #solotravel and my contradictions.
Sentiment #1: "'What about your friends?"
Well, what about them? Don't get me wrong, I have a select number of friends that I love to travel with. However, more often than not your coins and their coins do not line up at the same time. If you are in different careers, for example, your vacation time may not line up and your policies for PTO are different. As an educator, there are certain breaks that I automatically get off. However, they are often during the high peak season when flights can be more expensive. Hence, I realize that it is asking a lot of a friend to pay a higher cost and/or use up 4-5 of their PTO days to travel with me. If it was the reverse, I would be thinking, "Girl, I love you, but not that much."
Sometimes, friends back out at the last minute. Sometimes, as you wait for a friend to confirm, the flight deal slips from your hands. Like I always say, until you see a nonrefundable deposit put down, do not trust that the group trip is actually happening! In fact, what often happens is that the number of people who agree to go on the trip gradually dwindles until you are left with me, myself, and I!
My Rule of Thumb: Plan out the details of your trip as if you were going solo. Set a nonnegotiable date for when you will book. Put it out in the world of "traveling friends" and see if anyone is interested in hopping on the trip. If they are, great! If not, great! Either way, book that flight!
Sentiment #2: "So you are here all by yourself!? OMG THATS SOOO BRAVE. Well be careful, because a lot is going on now in the world."
Let's be real, there is a lot going on in the good ole USA. After the recent school shooting in Florida, it is affirmed we are currently a country with the paradox of being super rich and having a high mortality because of 1) infant mortality, 2) car accidents and 3) gun shooting. We have the highest gun murders per 100,000 residents. The #blacklivesmatter movement is an indicator that it is still not fully safe to be a black person in this country!
We fear the unknown. As a result, we somehow rationalize that the USA is safer because it is familiar. The media also exaggerates the conditions in certain parts of the world. For example, when was the last time you read anything positive about Haiti? Until the sh*thole countries comment, many people were talking a lot of crap about Haiti. Apparently, the last time Haiti was featured in the NY Times tourism section was during the 1950’s. Similar perceptions are painted for Africa too, often generalized as a dangerous country versus described as 54 countries in one continent.
Of course, you must always be aware of your surroundings when traveling. However, it is the same as when you are walking down a dark street in New York City. Check yourself for why you are having these fears! I had to when I was visiting my mother's homeland of Haiti, which people love to cite as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. However, amidst the poverty we want to talk about (but not fix!), I saw nothing but beauty!
My Rule of Thumb: Do your research -- food, culture, current political climate, travel advisories. Also, plan out where you are going to stay and your itinerary. I find it comforting to have my mom back home (or whoever your emergency contact is) have a physical copy of my flight information, hotel accommodations, and general itinerary. When you are in a country, trust your gut when it comes to feeling safe. Do not do anything you would not do back home that jeopardizes your safety!
Sentiment #3: "Who is going to take your photos?"
This was a legit struggle of mine for a while. Dang, I want myself AND the background in this picture. How am I going to make this happen? There are definitely ways, but you have to think outside the box. I have become really good at taking quality #selfies from different angles. In fact, sometimes, you can find me crouching or "candidly" looking away to get the special statue in my photo.
My Rule of Thumb: Get comfortable with asking people to take your photo. It IS awkward at first, but think about the end goal: some bomb photos! To feel more comfortable, I try to ask either other #solotravelers OR a couple or family that is snapping away. My classic line is, "Would you like me to take a photo of all of you together?" They are almost always so grateful for this and are more than happy to return the favor.
I particularly look for someone who I see putting in work to take that perfect photo, as it shows that they understand angles and lighting. Here is a perfect example of that working out well for me in Thailand. I was determined to get some dope photos and I surely did!
Sentiment #4: "Isn't it lonely? Are you not going to feel bored?"
#Sorrynotsorry to say that if you feel bored, then you are not traveling right! Feeling lonely is one thing, but bored...nah! I get that sometimes you want someone to share your amazement of that picturesque landscape or an inside joke. Trust me, I have experienced those feelings too! We often equate traveling alone with being lonely. There is a difference! Traveling solo will leave moments where you are alone in your hotel room with your own thoughts. The first time being truly alone with my own thoughts was when I went to Ecuador: lying on a hammock with nature sounds. It can be intimidating, but it is necessary. I felt the most reflective and centered. Sometimes, you just need to be able to hear your own thoughts.
I am usually traveling solo not because I want to be "lonely", but because I want to just do me. I want to be able to walk around my hotel room in my undies. I want to have the option to wake up at 8 AM or noon. I want to be able to choose which restaurant I want to try without having to consider someone else's taste. Better yet, I want to be able to decide that I am literally doing nothing today and not have an ounce of guilt!
Traveling solo actually makes me feel less alone. For one, people are more likely to approach you when you are by yourself. I have found myself engaging in more random conversations with strangers when I am solo -- in an Uber pool, at a restaurant, on the street. It truly pushes me out of my comfort zone. Having been an extremely shy person growing up, traveling has helped me become a confident social butterfly. In addition, businesses are more willing to accommodate you. I have found this to be the case at restaurants where I have had instances of needing a last minute reservation or not having a reservation at all, and was specifically accommodated. You just have to be comfortable with having a meal by yourself and not caring how that appears to the outside world. The good thing with smartphones is that you will always be occupied at the dinner table!
My Rule of Thumb: #Travelingsolo does not mean you are traveling alone. I love to use travel #tourgroups: you get to meet different people who also share your travel interests. Also, the planning process is taken care of. Just tell me when and where I have to meet, and I will show up! I have made some long lasting acquaintances from travel group that I am still in touch with on a regular basis. Strangers became motivators and supporters!
Sentiment #5: " What about the costs? Isn't it a lot more expensive?"
I would be lying if I said traveling solo was cheaper or the money equivalent of traveling with someone. Unfortunately, most things are priced at double occupancy, especially when it comes to resorts and cruises. It is cheaper on your pockets to have someone to split the cost of the Uber ride or airport shuttle, the tip, the accommodations cost. However, traveling solo does not have to leave you bankrupt!
The key is to search for things in your price range. The good part about traveling solo is that you do not have to worry about compromising on that luxurious hotel room for a hostel or worry about judgement of eating from a cheap food truck instead of a 5 star restaurant because you can just do you. Do not compromise on yourself!
My Rule of Thumb: Even when traveling in a group, especially a group of 3, I actually prefer to pay the single supplement fee for the price of sanity, privacy, and extra space. In fact, I have traveled with 3 people and have squeezed into one room with two beds. It is just not the same level of comfort! Plus, I have found myself having to be the mediator. Ya can fight it out, #notmyproblem. When I do tours, usually the single supplement has been $200-300 for 7+ days, which means you are only paying $40ish extra dollars per night to have your own room versus double the price.
Moral of the story: Just do you. Book that flight. Travel solo. Once you travel solo, there is no turning back.