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Solo travel? Why and how to do it.

Have you ever considered travelling or wondered where to start? Wanted to go abroad but found trying to organise a trip for others problematic?

Consider solo travel. It’s not for everyone, I won’t push it. But for those that are wanting to go, here is my two pence on why you should and how you can.

To travel it doesn’t need to be months on end, being someone who wants to explore but who doesn’t want to pack up their belongings and leave their job is totally do-able. If allowed at your place of work you can save up holiday and take one long break, or squeeze in a quick getaway for a week or two to explore.

Why solo?

Going on your own can be great fun, you get to meet a variety of people from all over the world and all your decisions are your own. You do what you’d like to do, it’s a freedom to be you without compromising for others in a group. People joke when you travel you go to ‘find yourself’, but the fun part is in making your own decisions you soon realise what you like to do and what you value. It can be quite a refreshing perspective to grasp, and once people have experienced it they tend to head back out again.

“People joke when you travel you go to ‘find yourself’, but the fun part is in making your own decisions you soon realise what you like to do and what you value.”

Where? Location.

Think about any places you’ve always wanted to go. If there is one, it will have already popped into your mind. If there isn’t, think about something you enjoy doing. Are you more beach or city? Jungle explorer or sailor of the seas? The world is vast and offers so many amazing places to go so a bit of research can go a long way. Otherwise, hearing first hand about other people’s adventures can inject a little inspiration so it’s always worth reaching out to others for recommendations.

When? Seasons.

Don’t book expecting sunshine when it’s their winter, or travel to an area during the midst of their monsoon season. Again, research into the location you’re thinking of travelling to. Just because the sun is shining in the brochure photos or someone posted a throwback photo on instagram, does not mean that place will always look that way. It may seem common sense but it’s easily mistaken. Simple things too, such as the weather during the day could be hot however in the evening could plummet. If you’re not prepared for that it’ll be somewhat disappointing.

Books.

One of the best purchases you can own are the lonely planet guides. These supply information on everything you could need to know, from places to sleep, eat, the weather, time zones, and tips and tricks of the area. Obviously check the edition of the book, if it’s 10 years old a lot of things will have changed, but recent versions will be a big help to have on hand.

“One of the best purchases you can own are the lonely planet guides.”

Apps.

If you want to be able to access a map anytime anywhere, then download an app called map.me it allows you to download maps onto the app so they’re available offline. They look very similar to google maps and it’s great to know if your data or internet access is limited, you’ll always have a map to refer to regardless.

Lonely planet have an app called Guides by lonely planet, although not as in depth as the books, they’re handy to have a swipe through when thinking about where to go and what to do.

If you’re travelling in Thailand or surrounding areas, including a trip to Bangkok, there’s an app called Grab. It’s a lot like uber except you can either pay through the app or with cash and they have the addition of being a motorbike passenger too. I thoroughly enjoyed riding on the back of one of their motorbikes through china town in the evening, the lights were spectacular! Similarly uber is worldwide, so check whether where you’re heading has it too.

If you’re not sure where to go there’s an app called lucky trip. It’s quite fun, you set a price limit and it will randomly select a location, accommodation and an activity to do there. It’s great for a little inspiration if looking for somewhere to go, great for weekend breaks too.

Jack’s flight club is also a great sign up, they send out emails each week with the cheapest flights for all around the world and the savings are insane. It’s basically someone scrolling through all flights trying to find the cheapest possible options and sending them direct to your phone, saving you a heap of time in doing it yourself. They’ve very recently released an app to go with their mailing list too, worth a little sneak peak if you’re looking to save some pennies.

Phones.

Take a phone case. Just do. I know a lot of people do anyways but it’s worth investing in one that completely covers your phone. If you know you’ll be near water, get a waterproof case, if you know you’ll be climbing mountains have a shatterproof case. In this day and age people want to have their phones on them to take photos, but if travelling on your own that phone is your only point of contact. If something happens to it, you’ll be stuck strolling round the local town trying to find a phone to buy.

“In this day and age people want to have their phones on them to take photos, but if travelling on your own that phone is your only point of contact.”

Money.

Cash in your wallet? Fine. But don’t keep thousands of currency on you at all times. Taking cards such as revolut cards which enable you to transfer your funds into them, and then withdraw at no extra fee are ideal. Always check the terms and conditions and don’t assume everywhere has cash machines because they won’t, but it can be better than carrying a large sum of money on you. If your bag was left or stolen then so is all your money. When keeping cash on you, use a money belt, and don’t store all your cash in it. These are available online quite easily or any other travel shops. They keep your money discreetly under your clothes but make sure it has a proper clasp that won’t slip undone! This has happened to me before… goodbye belongings. You could keep the rest in your luggage locked in a locker, however it’s all at your own risk. You can also buy some money belts that have RFID protection, this means someone walking by wouldn’t be able to scan your cards and therefore steal your money and information electronically, only a few pounds extra and worth the extra protection just to be safe.

Booking.

When booking you can either create your own route and find hostels along the way, a flexible way to travel with the potential to travel with people you meet on your journey, or for anyone who is unsure it can be comforting to book onto a tour. STA travel provide a wide range of these, primarily aimed at age 30 and under, through tour companies called contiki travel and g adventures. This means although you’re solo travelling you are still with people, and there is a tour guide on hand if you do need help.

Deposit schemes are super helpful and STA travel provide these too, pay a deposit to secure your place on both your flights and/or tour and pay the rest off whenever suits, as long as you’ve paid it all in the time required before your trip you’re good to go. This can make your dream trip a more realistic goal financially.

Insurance. Have insurance, whether an annual policy so you’re covered for any additional trips throughout the year, or just one for the duration of your trip. Check the small print, some insurance policies may state you aren’t covered for injury in extreme sports, which if you planned on skiing during your trip would be pointless in having. Similarly some can specify issues with water activities so always check.

Something to bear in mind is the people you meet in hostels you tend to naturally gravitate towards, whereas the people you meet on tours are all placed together through their bookings and therefore not everyone may be your cup of tea, but if they’re solo travelling like you then you’re still bound to get along.

Remember.

Remember when visiting a new country you don’t need to have all the gadgets or even all the things I’ve mentioned, these are just tips which can make you feel more secure especially when travelling alone. You hear a lot in the news about back packer incidents or people going missing, which is why I don’t want to guarantee by taking these tips and tricks on board that you are completely safe, but the risk is the same as anywhere. Therefore this doesn’t mean it should scare you from doing something new and exciting. Just because you’re in a different country doesn’t mean you need start walking around with a personal body guard or anything extreme, it’s just having your wits about you and finding out how a city or area of interest works. For example, there may be a particular area known for crime – avoid this – or there may be certain laws or cultural expectations in a country that aren’t in your own which you’d still need to follow out of respect. These could be covering your hair or wearing clothes that cover your legs and shoulders, especially if you’re entering temples. If you perhaps just want a taster before fully going solo, take a friend!

If you do your research you’ll be set. Besides, we don’t want you arriving in a country without the correct plug adapter now do we…

You can check out Becky’s blog, here.

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