Ironically, I’m writing this week’s column after just talking to a friend I met on my very first solo trip over 45 years ago. We still laugh at the shenanigans we got up to and she is still one of my best friends in the world today. Good thing, we didn’t know what we didn’t know and are still alive to talk about it!
So with a lifetime of solo trips under my belt, here is my best advice for those who dare to venture out on his or her own:
- It’s not always glamourous and romantic as some movies would have you believe. Be realistic about why you are travelling solo and stay in the moment, enjoying the experience for what it is without searching for something or hiding behind devices and lenses. Connect with your surroundings.
- Plan, plan, plan and then relax and be spontaneous. After all, travel is about the experience and the best ones are usually a surprise. Slow down your pace – it’s not a race to see as many tourist attractions as possible. I always purchase “jump to the front tickets” if I must see an exhibit, but usually avoid the crowds in favour of more local experiences.
- Stay apprised of tips and strategies to minimize trouble and learn how to respond to disasters before you need to. There are an abundance of resources on this topic. Check out your local bookstore or browse the Internet.
- Pamper yourself while travelling – seat upgrades, airport lounges, shopping excursions, visiting a local vineyard, walking through a public garden or enjoying a spa treatment. For me, sitting and doing nothing is a treat, especially if I’m people watching at an outdoor café.
- Do everything you can to stay in good health. Being alone in a foreign hospital is never good. Make sure you have the proper health insurance to cover you for every possibility, including being air-lifted home in an emergency. This is where using a travel agent can really pay off. They are a helpful connection to home in your time of need.
- I like to plan ahead to meet a friend, colleague or even a friend of a friend in a country I’m visiting before I leave home. It’s reassuring to know you have someone in the same country you can call on if need be, and to break up the sometimes lonely feeling that comes with solo travel.
You’re about to embark on an adventure which might just change your perspective on life. Above all, use your common sense, trust your instincts and be open to what life and travel can teach you. The rewards are many!