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This lone traveller has an opinion as to whether travelling solo is all it’s cracked up to be… Absolutely.
Want to step outside your comfort zone? Head off on a solo trip for a weekend or longer. You’ll be surprised how being a lone traveller makes you feel.
But no matter your age, there are some things that are just harder when you are travelling solo.
The highs are extraordinary but then so are the lows.
Do the highs outweigh the lows? Is being a lone traveller worth it?
You be the judge.
Survive this Low: Thinking on Your Feet
Sometimes two heads are better than one! Right?
One travel partner is better at directions. The other is better at learning the local language.
Being a lone traveller, you have to do all the fast-thinking yourself. Kudos to you!
I think 2 heads might have been advantageous when I arrived at the Santiago Chile airport to fly to Colombia. Oops. No proof of onward travel. I was definitely thrown for a loop purchasing a ticket at the last minute.
If I had arrived in Medellin with a buddy, possibly we wouldn’t have got off at the wrong stop in Centro where a wildly drug-induced stranger tried to grab my phone right through the taxi’s open window.
Thinking on your feet while travelling solo means being alert all the time and tuning into and trusting your intuition. Should you go on a hike with a stranger who shared your ride? Should you spend the day with someone you met at the hostel? All that thinking. All those decisions, large and small. As a lone traveller. It can be overwhelming.
Embrace the High: Empowerment
All the little wins add up to big wins.
As a lone female traveller, your gut and intuition are going to power together to make for some unforgettable experiences. Getting out of a tricky and confusing situation completely on your own can leave you feeling pretty badass.
Survive this Low: Who’s Got Your Back?
Travelling solo means watching your own back and having faith in the stranger that steps up to help you.
ATMs, metros and bathrooms are three places where it would be beneficial to have a travel buddy. Another set of eyes scanning the area as you withdraw money. A reminder to switch your backpack to your chest on a crowded metro train. Someone to watch your belongings while you use the loo.
In South America, I would have appreciated a travel companion in all those situations but particularly the bathroom!
Travelling alone, bathroom visits can be a challenge. Bus stations. Train stations. Airports. First, manage to find loose change to pay and then awkwardly enter through the turnstile with your luggage. Phew! No hooks on the door. The backpack hits the filthy floor for the umpteenth time. Eye roll.
Embrace the High: You’ve Got It
Give it a minute and the eye roll shifts to an indomitable sense of satisfaction and independence. “Yup. I managed this. I’ve got my own back and I’m an independent lone traveller!”
Survive this Low: Being Sick
Where’s the Gingerale?
It is a Canadian custom to crave ginger ale when you are sick. Bubbly or flat it is a soothing comfort when feeling ill. When travelling alone who is running around getting you drinks and snacks? You are.
Recently, I hauled myself out of bed and wandered down the streets of Jardin, Colombia searching for ginger ale. After 2 or 3 corner stores I gave up and settled for Gatorade and water. I think I hit an all-time low sitting in my very average hotel room eating plain rice cakes with chocolate pieces on top.
Eventually, I made my way to a clinic. After paying for the visit, I was told to enter room #3. But the door was shut. Bewildered and sick, I stood there. Had I misunderstood all the Spanish? Seeing my confusion a nurse passing by knocked on the door for me. Lo and behold, sitting behind the desk, glasses perched on his nose, was an older gentleman. A Colombian doctor. Ready to hear my health woes.
It’s definitely harder to navigate sickness when travelling alone. Would have loved a Spanish speaking travel buddy right about then.
Embrace the High: Anonymity
Being sick in a country where you are not fluent in the language and alone is definitely not fun. Let’s just chalk it up to the lone traveller’s experience.
Travelling alone and arriving at a new destination where nobody knows you can be exhilarating. That’s right. Nobody. Knows. You. Complete anonymity. You can shed all preconceived notions of yourself. Just for a breath of time, you are just you. No set identity. Not a parent. Nor a sibling. Not a partner. Nor a friend. Just a lone traveller. An Observer. With a grin. Take up your space. Be who you want to be.
Survive this Low: Travel Burnout
Travelling alone involves tons of planning, scheduling and organizing. Upon arrival at your destination, you need to know where to find the hotspots and the off the beaten path gems. And as a lone traveller, you can adjust those plans to suit you. This is travel at its very best. It is a privilege and a joy to be out discovering the world. So how can it be a low?
As a long-term lone traveller, all the decision-making can wear you down. The odd time, it would be SO nice to have someone else figure out the accommodation, plan a picnic or search out the tucked-away local coffee shop.
Embrace the High: Freedom to Explore
The flip side? Traveling solo is the ultimate in freedom. When travel burnout hits, you can make the call to stay in one place and rest up. No decisions for a day or two. Rejuvenate. Revel in the decisions that led you to where you are – that hike, the hilltop town you had never previously heard of, that bus ride with all the locals. Marvel at what you have accomplished. The lone traveller. It’s you and the world, hand in hand.
Survive this Low: Loneliness
This lone traveller’s low is addressed over and over again. But it is very real.
Even if you are the biggest extrovert around, it is possible to get lonely when travelling alone.
Even when there are meetups, language exchanges, dance classes, and digital nomad groups to reach out to. You actually have to go.
I know. I was definitely lonely in Medellin. I didn’t push myself to meet more people. I stalled.
Embrace the High: Connections
Alone time is necessary but when loneliness persists, it is critical to reach out. You have to push yourself. Stay in a hostel. Take the walking tour. FaceTime with family.
As a lone traveler, connecting with other travellers and locals is the best part of solo travel. Being alone, you are more open to meeting others. The joy of a total stranger becoming a lasting friend is immeasurable. After my lonely spell in Medellin, I met amazing travellers. Maybe my energy had shifted. Maybe I was more open. Maybe the universe conspired.
How to be a lone female traveller is a hot topic. Survive the lows because, in this lone traveller’s opinion, the highs endure. Do some travelling alone and you just might find yourself sailing along with a secret grin, holding the highs in your memory and your heart while the lows are barely a whisper.
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It was Tales of a Female Nomad that provided much inspiration to me changing my life.
Let me know how your solo travels go and I’d be happy to answer any questions.
Until next time,