I love company! I like to share my experiences (and this is why I write on Dear Small World) and specially to enjoy a meal together with someone. But not all the time this is possible. We live in a busy world. We can maybe enjoy vacations around one month per year. A couple tries to manage their time together to go on vacations, but if when you are single the story is very different.
So how to travel alone? Can I answer it?
Of course I can! So many times in my life I was not able to control my vacations and it was really impossible to set some dates with my friends. I was working in a casino, with a very hard schedule and, because of the events, programming the days to travel was always a big mess in my head. I can't say I did not freak out. I was always used to travel with company, my friends, or my family or my girlfriend, but I did not want to be dependant on going somewhere just because I had no company.
I had to set my mind first. I had to realize what would be the best way to do it and what locations could I visit to feel myself more comfortable. Working and doing the same routine everyday was quite easy but stopping that would make me realize how lonely I was at the time. I had one relationship that ended and I was a little bit lost. So I knew I had several limitations to start with the planning. I was going to travel solo.
At this moment I will base my opinion on more practical methods. Maybe one day I will develop on how I prepare my mind into doing it.
Before You Travel Alone
1 - Control your budget!
Everything moves around money. Well, not everything, but this is always your engine start and fuel to do your travelling. Researching your destination on the web, checking your flight, hotel and food costs, will give you a good idea on how much you will need. Saving money to travel is having an amazing reward for all you hard work.
2 - Choosing the destination
Your confidence on how far you can be away from home can dictate your destination. After that you can adjust it according to your budget. I always wanted to go to New York, but I decided not doing it alone. It was a bit too far on my mind, and I really never imagined going there alone. Of course I could do it, but it was not the right time for it. So I choose to decide on places I imagined I could control more.
It is good to have a destination that allows you to wonder around and not considering so much travelling from there. This will save you money and will slow your mind. I believe that travelling alone demands attention for detail and embracing smaller things, rather than going on a bus or a train and all the time reading a book.
Do you want to move on a city, relax in the mountains or enjoying the sun? These are questions to ask yourself on what you enjoy to do alone. I am sure my girlfriend would choose to go on a city if she travels alone. This way she will not have a standing boyfriend every time she wants to buy clothes...
3 - Choose an hostel
I have travelled alone to cities where I had friends living there. At the time they were working intensively and I really did not want to spend most of the time waiting. I wanted to have action, meet new people and having a little bit of community feeling. So I have choose hostels when I want a more social travelling. I do not enjoy so much to share a room, but I did it many times and I (almost) never regret it. But there are also many hostels with double or single room. Then you have the common areas, like terraces, living rooms, kitchens... Read review on the hostels atmosphere and look for what you want. I have many amazing friendships around the world with people I knew while trying to open a bottle of wine. You can go out to a club, you can join a group to go to museums, you can do the free touring around cities... There are so many different personalities that you will make friends easy.
4 - Pack Less
Be free of your stuff. Why taking so much clothes to vacations when you want to spend less time as possible to go back to the hostel all the time to change clothes. You will be able to wash if you need some of your pieces and you will feel free. It is terrible to take so many valuable items and then your mind is more on "is someone going to steal this", than actually on having fun. I always take my camera and tablet, so that demands a bit of caution, but because it is so less, I can just put it on the lockers and go out with peace on my mind.
5 - Choose nice restaurants
I hate to eat alone. I really love to enjoy checking a menu with somebody else. But if at that moment I do not have that chance, I just enjoy anyway. Eating is one of the best things you can do while travelling alone. Sitting on a restaurant and enjoying a nice meal will make you feel like you are really enjoying what you should when travelling. Yeah, take some snacks so that you don't spend money all the time, but at least make one of your meals an important highlight of the day. You were saving money to travel, not just to pin another country on your map!
6 - Stay in touch, but not too much
Keep track of the places you visit, the restaurants you tried, the beach you have found on that bus going anywhere. At the end of the day just skype your family and your friend and talk about it. It is very nice to have some words with somebody we know and realize that the travelling is still an experience to share. Writing about it will make you smile in the future. You will miss those days. Even if it is not your favourite thing to do, travelling alone will make you grow and proud of yourself!
7 - Adapt to your new destination
Don't rush to the places you checked on the internet. Take your time to get to know your surroundings. Travelling is about checking small details. Everyone takes that picture of the Statue of Liberty, but maybe they miss the bird next to the hotdog man. Enjoy unique smaller things, look at your window and realize your neighbours. If you rush you may miss one "Hello".
One thing I did all the time was chatting with the hostel people. They know everything around and it's part of their job to welcome you and showing you what you can do.
8 - Don't be the tourist
Keep safe and low profile. Don't go out with your big camera on the first day and walk with the map on your hand. I have been in many dangerous places and I was able to look like a local because I did not behave like I didn't know anything or where I was. If I had to look at the map, I would stop next to a shop and check it.
9 - Take day tours
Well, don't be the tourist, but be a tourist! Maybe you have all the track you need to do, prepared on your phone, but maybe it is not a bad idea to take one tour, even if you have to pay a bit more. You can check for someone that can offer something unique and just invest on it. This will give you space to relax and to maybe getting to know someone next to you.
10 - Take a book everywhere
If everything goes well, you will be very tired. Enjoy a coffee, a local snack and just sit and have your book with you. I love to check people around and can be hours just looking at the movement of people, but sometimes we can just chill and read our book.