There are lots of beautiful things you experience when you travel solo: The feeling of independence… of doing the things you desire to do without unnecessary intervention; the nirvana of seeing amazing places that you have not seen before; the fun memories you create with people you meet along the way – these and more are certainly the reasons why many embark in a solo journey. But the truth remains that there are also some struggles of travelling solo. And while the beautiful experiences you get in a solo travel far outweigh the struggles, it still makes sense to discuss the latter… to share a lesson… to help you become better prepared if you are embarking for a solo trip.
If you have tried traveling alone then chances are that you have experienced some of the struggles enumerated in this post. But if you are yet to travel solo, this post will help you: (1) become better prepared; (2) manage your expectations; and, (3) come up with ways to lessen (if not totally avoid) the chances that these struggles will ruin your vacation.
Below are the the top issues I usually encounter when traveling alone:
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THE ACCOMMODATION HORROR FEELS
Because you are travelling solo, you would want to book the cheapest accommodation possible, most especially when you are on a budget. With that, you are more likely to book a property rented out by homeowners such as those listed on Airbnb instead of choosing a hotel room. This is where the dilemma of getting horror feels comes in. The truth is, property owners who list their units in sites like Airbnb tend to show only the interior of the room. And while they provide maps for location (to give direction for their guests), they do not show the property or the building in its entirety, which could be as old as those haunted houses you see in movies.
I did experience such horror feels myself… many times. I remember one of my solo travels where I booked a pretty nice room at a very reasonable price, only to find out later that it was located atop a car mechanic repair shop where workers leave for home after work. I was the only guest that time, trying to feel at home, forcing myself to take some rest (but ended having bad, creepy dreams) inside a 5-room, pretty old and lonely building (one room, when I checked it out, seemed not used for quite some time as it was not clean, cobwebs were everywhere). The owner of the property, I found out later, wasn’t there during my entire stay; he was in another town. We only communicated thru text messaging. The caretaker was not staying inside the building either; he went away after giving me the key.
If you are travelling alone, my piece of unsolicited advice is this: know the place where you stay really well. If you are to Airbnb your accommodation, make sure to check out the property really in details not just for “horror feels’ but for your safety. If you think the property owner has not provided enough details, call and ask for it. Googling the property and reading reviews can also be a big help in you decision – on whether to book such property or not.
THE PHOTO-OP DILEMMA
Yes, you travel to see and appreciate the beauty of your destination. At the same time, you want to create memories and one of the best ways to capture those “nirvana” moments is through photographs. While selfie sticks offer some help, many times, they are not enough for you to be able to take the best shots of you. And, sure you could ask some favor from other people to take gorgeous captures, but you do not want to bother them all the time.
Here are my tips:
- Bring a tripod as this is a lot better that a selfie stick (at least to me). Usually, airlines allow tripods in baggage free of charge, so it should not be of a burden to bring one with you.
- Reciprocate the favor you ask. If you want to ask other people to take some photos of you, ask them nicely, and return the favor (volunteer to take some photos of them too). I have learned in my travels that other people tend to be more helpful when you just ask them respectfully and when you offer the same, or when you show a gesture of gratitude for their help.
THE I-AM-ALONE-CAN-YOU-JOIN-ME-IN-YOUR-GROUP REQUEST
Or shall we say: I am all alone… can you join me in your group so I can share the fees and pay less? While many group of tourists usually are generous enough to grant you such request, still there are those who don’t… and you are unlucky if you encounter the latter type, most especially those groups of travelers who want some sense of exclusivity. And, assuming that a particular group grants your request and let you to join in, you can still feel some level of awkwardness – yes, that I-don’t-belong-here feeling. Well, there are things in solo travel that we need to accept (even if we are not comfortable with them) and that awkwardness is one of them. You choose: Feel the awkward moments with them and pay less or have your own way and pay more.
How to deal with it?
One of the most effective ways to break the ice and to have that awkward moment subsides is just to initiate conversation in a friendly, respectful way. I have proven it myself that a simple ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ as you start your day tour with them opens up a more meaningful conversation, creating good impressions and I-belong-here feels.
THAT I-NEED-TO-GO-OUT-ALONE-TO-GET-SOME-FOOD-IN-THE-DEAD-OF-NIGHT MOMENT
I admit it, having a companion who is willing to go outside to find some food when hunger strikes in the wee hours is one of the things that I like most when travelling with a group. Don’t get me wrong, I do not tell a fellow traveler to find food for me when I feel hungry in the dead of night (most especially after a tiring day tour), it is just that, with the group vacations I have had, there were always members who made the offer to go out and find food – even if the rest of the group did not ask for it.
Yes, there is always that someone who is willing to volunteer to go out to find some food when hunger strikes – even in the dead of night when traveling with a group. In solo travel, however, you have to do it yourself. Going out to get some food when hunger strikes in the late evening is one of the struggles you will most likely experience when you travel alone. But don’t take my words for it; judge it when you experience it yourself.
Here are my tips:
If it is common to you to get hungry in the middle of the night (like me, most especially after a tiring day tour) and if you feel the food at your hotel is getting boring, or worse, no longer available at a particular time of a day, then buy food (that does not spoil easily) as you head back to the place where you stay from a day tour. That is, of course, if you do not want to go out again to get some food.
Or, perhaps, you can ask a hotel staff ahead of time if they can prepare some food for you for a late night eat.
Or, if you are like me (because I have learned my lesson that being hungry in the dead of night is a struggle that can ruin the whole night) just always have something ready to eat – bread, biscuits, etc. You can drop by the nearest convenience stores, buy something that is ready to fill your stomach when you are feeling hungry.
So, those are the top solo travel struggles I have experienced myself. Have you had any other struggles in one of your solo trips that I missed mentioning above? Share them now through the comment section below.
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