While going through the good old www, it occurred to me that solo travelling is becoming more frequent. As you can tell by this post, I am a big fan of it. However, there is a double standard around this issue. No one hardly ever questions men going out and about alone. The story is different for women. Before my first solo trip; bearing in mind to Porto; apart from my mum, most people would just ask why I would want to go anywhere alone. The press likes to blame female solo travelers if an incident happens, rather than looking at the facts. Due to those articles a common questions was: Wasn’t I scared something might happen to me?
No, I was not scared. I am still not! Maybe, it is me refusing to believe that women can’t do what men do. Maybe, it is me not seeing a difference between male and female travelers. Maybe, it is the way I was raised. I never had to suffer from gender inequality in any kind of way. I had to do the same tasks as my brother and vice versa. No ‘But he is a boy, he should not have to unload a dishwasher’ or ‘She is a girl, she should not have to lay parquet’. Which is why I probably never felt like I couldn’t do everything guys could. Including travelling alone. And for everyone out there how isn’t quite sure about travelling alone but is more than willing to give it a go, here are my tips for your first or second or maybe 500th trip:
You do not have to go on a word journey for 8 months alone on your first solo trip. I started with a 4-day getaway to Porto. Any city in Europe is in my eyes made for exploring it alone as a start. Chose a place you’ve always wanted to go but somehow non of your friends can be convinced to go. Or maybe you just see the deal of a life time and can’t miss out on it. A city trip is easily planned with loads of hostels to choose from, plenty of activities to fill your day and hardly any language barriers if you speak English.
Pick your accommodation wisely
I personally do not enjoy staying at a hotel when I am travelling alone. I much rather stay at a hostel. Why? You get to meet people with similar interests, often travelling solo as well, and get in contact way easier than in a private room in a hotel. If you do enjoy a hotel room to yourself go ahead, you can easily find places that are recommended by solo travelers, same goes out for hostels. When I use booking.com I love that they show you how other solo travelers liked the place and which hostels are frequently booked by single traveler. Most of these hostels or hotels have big common areas to meet up and chill out. This way you will at least not end up in couple hell or friends fortress, where you will be the only one venturing out on your own. If you like torturing yourself like that go ahead, but don’t say I didn’t warn ya!
Your trip starts at the airport
Some might forget this but your solo trip starts the minute you leave your apartment. So why not make friends at the airport already? Be it just for the flight or maybe to meet up in the destination city later, chances are you won’t be the only solo traveller. If you have a good eye you might even meet some locals from your destination, that can give you the best insider tips and some might even offer you to show you around! Got to know someone from your hometown? Maybe he/she might be a frequent traveller with some tips at hand for your next destination.
Plan your arrival
This sounds simple and I’m not much of a planer most times but when it comes to finding my accommodation in an unknown city I like to check it out first. I either use map.me or offline google maps to find my way around. Most cities have an extensive public transport network and make it easy to reach any location. I feel it helps to know in advance which metro to take, when the bus is leaving or if the train is the fastest option. Once there I just go with the flow but knowing the way to your home base for the time being takes some uncertainty away.
Look for group activities
There are plenty of hostels that offer activities or group outings for all the solo travelers out there. I am normally not one to go on a guided city walk but the one I did in Porto was totally worth it! I also like hostels that offer dinners where you can connect with other travelers and meet new people. It creates a family like atmosphere and makes you feel right at home. In most cases you don’t even need to look for any activities but will stumble upon new people to meet all by intuition. This is obviously only if you want to meet other travelers, if you take this trip to just be by yourself, go ahead I feel you!
You might argue that this is something not everyone is, but I beg to differ. At least when it comes to solo travelers. If you weren’t open-minded you would not head to a foreign place alone to experience every part of it. So don’t forget to take that attitude with you. It is easy to be intimidated and expect the worst of people. Sometimes those people only want to help you or are interested in the reason for you travelling solo. Please, don’t just think everyone is a creep because they are trying to be polite and helpful just because you have heard horror stories from your mum’s aunt about the daughter of her friend’s gym coach. Go into the streets and see who you’ll meet and what you will discover.
Use common sense
This might be a tricky one but we all have it and for some destinations it is important to use it. Common sense. I am talking about not wearing short shorts in a Muslim country or not taking pictures in the red light district of Amsterdam. This is not specific for solo travelers, but it is important to stick to. I saw women in the souk of Marrakesh with boyfriends on their side showing the deepest cleavage possible and wondering why the locals did not approve of that. The same rules apply for taking pictures of people. Not everyone wants it and if you are taking those pictures make sure the person pictured is ok withit. Show respect to the local customs and culture and you will be just fine.
Whenever I head off to my next destination, be it Marrakesh or Lisbon, there are people worrying. Friends, colleagues, whoever. The same questions arise and I seem to be the only one not caring one bit. As I explained in the intro, I do not see a difference between men and women travelling alone. But I can guarantee you that if you act with common sense and appropriation you will be alright, no matter which country or city you’ll visit! Most of the worries you might have before travelling will not even be relevant. All you hopefully will do is worry where to eat, which activities to do and places to visit as the choices are often endless.
Go out, enjoy yourself and your new found friends, explore and eat your heart out so your mouth will still water just thinking about a dish a year after you had it!