How to have a holiday by yourself

Richard Mellor

Planning a solo adventure in 2017? Here’s your comprehensive guide to friend-making, risk-taking and positive thinking while you're out there discovering yourself.

Safety

Unless you positively encourage danger—i.e. strolling around a pitch-black park at 4am with headphones in—travelling alone isn’t actually that risky.

The biggest peril is being taken for a ride. Literally, in the case of taxi-drivers: always ask for an estimated fare before setting off.

Otherwise, try to never look like a tourist and exude assurance. Carry ID and always keep a backup. Ensure that someone else knows your itinerary and commit to regular contact with them.

 

Plan

Being alone means you can’t use your cohort’s phone when yours runs out of juice, or rely on them should you lose your wallet.

Put emergency systems in place: write down key numbers (friends, hotels, embassies, emergency services), have change for phone boxes and always keep some backup dosh in your bag or, better yet, a locker.

 

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Eating

Solomangarephobia. That’s the official, medical term for a fear of eating alone—a fear that many single travellers have. If you can get over your fear, it is very possible to enjoy the experience.

Bring a book to dodge boredom, sit at counters to be less conspicuous or use the opportunity to practice that French or Filipino on a waiter. And scoff all the bread yourself.

 

Making friends

This is another common and very valid worry when travelling alone: what if no-one likes me? Acquiring new chums is always easier than feared, but still a scary proposition.

It helps to look approachable—smile at people, have open body language and lose the sunglasses. Read something interesting to spark conversation, or ask strangers a question.

More hands-on tactics include visiting expat bars, joining tours or using apps designed to help people make friends, such as Meetup.

 

Enjoy it

Without realising it, must of us human are very codependent: we worry whether our partner or friend is having a good time, and always balance their needs in decision-making.

The joy of solo travel is that you can be entirely selfish: walk at your preferred pace, eat when you want, see the sights which interest you, use all the wardrobe.

Take time to appreciate your independence and revel in that freedom.

 

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Be flexible

However well you plan in advance, things will go wrong. Missed trains, delayed planes, lost luggage, whatever.

The trick is not to over-stress it; roll with the punches, laugh at it all, and draw up a new plan. Who knows: maybe Plan B will work out better anyway?

 

Take risks

Similarly, travel is the time to discover new horizons—especially when you don’t have to worry if everyone else will like it.

So take that surfing class or try out the walking safari, because why not? If brand-new pals invite you on an impromptu bar crawl, sack off that Skype call and go for it—after all, life’s best adventures are often the ones you weren’t expecting.

 

travelling alone

 

Diet the social media

The likes of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp can be a poisoned chalice: they allow you to stay in touch with friends, but sometimes at the expense of making new ones.

Try and ration the posts and likes a little. You can message your friends tomorrow; who knows when you’ll be back in New Zealand or Bolivia?

 

Have a project

To give your trip some structure and/or purpose, it’s nice to have an ongoing scheme.

Start a journal or blog about your travels, or set yourself a maximum of 20 photos per destination and carefully fine-tune your album.

 

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