I seem to be part of a zeitgeist for solo travel, with more and more people than ever opting to take their vacations on their own, even if they’re in a couple. I’ve been doing it for five years now, and I’m addicted. On my own, I can holiday at my own pace and I can choose to be with other people, or not. I’ve found the freedom exhilarating.
The first holiday, to Thailand, was a huge test for me. I spent the first three days in the hotel, too scared to go outside. But once I did, encouraged by friends texting me, I found the world was waiting for me.
Here are my top tips on solo travel:
Start just outside your comfort zone
The jetty at the Amari Phuket
Book your first solo holiday in an all-inclusive hotel, or wherever you feel safe. Just flying far away on your own is stressful enough so be nice to yourself by booking a safe haven at the other end. You can then be more adventurous when you’re there but have a base to return to. I asked Trailfinders to find me a lovely hotel in Thailand, and when I got there, I got upgraded to a seafront room. I then used the hotel as a base for trips, so I could see the lie of the land. You can read my review here.
Book lots of trips
Me, exhilarated on my first Thai boat trip
If you’re not on a group holiday (I choose not to join those) then book day trips. My favourite thing is a boat trip and I’ve met so many great people while on them, often women who are on their own. I tend to alternate between days by the pool/beach and day trips. It gives the holiday a bit of pace, and gives you a chance to talk to people over the course of a day, and potentially meet them again as a dinner companion.
Let preconceptions go
Riding an elephant
Most of us arrive in countries with preconceptions about the culture and we need to form our own. You will find that the things you find most alien, or are scared of, become ridiculously normal and tame after a few days. Beware of scare-mongering. Most people are too afraid to go away on their own and look for reasons why they shouldn’t. Research your destination and know what you’re in for, but draw your own conclusions about it.
Prepare for the Rollercoaster
A solo holiday is a rollercoaster. You will experience days when an unexpected meeting or event propels you into a state of high excitement, followed by days where nothing happens and you start to feel sorry for yourself. Know that it will happen and embrace the Rollercoaster. Don’t rely on other people for your holiday highs – they will happen when you least expect, and usually just at the point you wish you hadn’t gone away on your own.
Take lots of books
Books are the solo travel companion you can rely on in any setting. At the airport, on the beach, at lunch or dinner on your own, even Happy Hour in the hotel. Have your book with you and you can lose yourself in it, and stop focusing on your alone-ness. Make sure you have enough to see you through the holiday and a potential flight delay.
Share your experience
Inhabitant of Monkey Island
If you’re like me, you want to share your experience on social media, and use it as a travelogue and a form of companionship. Wifi-allowing, think of your holiday as a window onto the world that you can share with others – there is a whole community doing it on Instagram, for instance, and you can be one of them.
Enjoy the journey
Pubu the naughty elephant with his mahout
I’ve found that the journey to my destination on my own is an adventure in itself. From the moment you step out of your door on the way to the airport or train station, you are doing something amazing. Most people can’t even go for a walk on their own.
Realise that people are envious of you
In Koh Samui with Bo and Su.
You will find, at lunch, dinner, or any other ‘social’ occasion on holiday, that people will look at you. They won’t be able to believe that you are brave enough to go on holiday on your own. But you are. And you can smile back at them, safe in the knowledge that they wish they were you.