I did my first ever solo trip at 35. I was separated from my now ex husband and I loved to travel. However most of my friends were married so I really didn’t have anyone to go on holidays with – gosh did I feel like a bit of a loser! Added to that high self esteem was the fact that I was terrified to go away on my own. What if I didn’t speak to a single person the whole time? What if I got really depressed as a result? What if something went wrong? What would I do in the evening?
It’s almost funny to think back on that now – almost! I clearly remember those feelings. It is now 10 years later and I have done quite a few trips solo, a lot more trips with people I have met along the way, organized trips, partners at the time, trips with friends and family – you name it. Travelling solo doesn’t need to become the way you always travel – instead it becomes part of the mix. Once you start travelling solo it is amazing how many people you meet as well as others in your life that come forward and issue invitations. Anyway you’re not at this point yet but I wanted to offer comfort that you are not destined to do every holiday alone for the rest of your life!
So I am assuming going into this that you would probably like to meet other people on your solo trip. If you are annoyingly completely unconcerned about travelling on your own you are probably not reading this post!
So here are my top tips:
- Do something organized
One of the best ways to do a solo trip is to do it with others. This doesn’t need to be other solos – it can be learning to scuba dive, a cooking trip, a photographic trip etc etc. A trip that starts on a certain day means your first day will be the first day for other people – and this is one of the easiest ways to meet people. Also there will usually be something organized to introduce everyone to each other and there will usually be planned activities. If you do want to meet people I highly recommend attending as many planned activities as you can stand. Again doing a class or having a meal is one of the best ways to meet people.
My first solo holiday was an organized yoga week in Italy. Everyone arrived the same day and it was for a week. There was yoga every morning and then breakfast. Days were fairly free with potential activities. Then there was late afternoon yoga and dinners you could choose to attend or not. I met other people the first night and knew everyone by the end of the week. I also ended up staying in contact with three girls from the trip after I left.
- Head to a spa/fitness/yoga etc retreat
Again it is ideal to arrive at one of these locations for a programmed retreat/course. Many will have weeks that kick off on a certain day. However many do not. For those that do not have set weeks again I would advise attending as many classes/walks/activities as you can manage. It continues to be the easiest way to meet other people in a natural construct.
Take a deep breath and introduce yourself to the person closest to you. A hi this is my name and I’m from x – how about you? Is all you need to get going. If you are feeling brave it is often good to say that you are travelling on your own for the first time and a bit nervous. In the majority of cases this will result in a come eat with us offer then or later. I am assuming you can say this without tearing up – that might put people off a bit J. And don’t feel you should only speak to others on their own. Couples in particular are great for a chat – and very likely to invite you to join them for meals. They are often getting a bit bored with each other and keen for some new company!
Quite a few of these types of places now have talking tables at dinner. These are designed for solo travelers – and often frequented by non solo travelers as they can sometimes be the most fun place to be at dinner! This is certainly the case at Kamalaya (see my key tip below). Most will have this on their website or ask about it when you are booking.
I love a good podcast and there are SO many! However podcasts are particularly great for the solo traveler for a few key reasons. Firstly I always find having someone in my ear makes me feel less alone. Secondly you can download them on your phone and then play them anywhere – even without reception.
Thirdly you can be sitting at a bar or a table and have your headphones in and people won’t know. This is good because most people won’t approach someone obviously reading a book. But if it is just headphones they won’t realise until they approach you that you have them in. It is always a good idea to sit at the bar/bar area rather than a formal table as it is much easier to chat to those nearby as it tends to be more relaxed and have the seats closer together.
One of my favourite Podcasts for travelling is Dear Sugar. This is by the wonderful Cheryl Strayed and is an online advice column. It is very absorbing and if you are feeling lonely it is always good to know that everyone is going through issues not just you.
- Create a blog
This does not need to be a big full on blog. You can set up a free blog on word press easily and for no cost – for those of you that don’t know it is essentially an online diary. The great thing about doing a blog is that it gives you a sense of purpose when you are travelling on your own – you are doing research for great things to do/places to eat to write it up for your blog. Not because you are someone who has no one to go on holidays with J – you are almost like a glamourous journalist!
It is also a great conversation topic. I can’t believe how interested everyone is when I tell them that I am a traveler blogger. You can also use it to start conversations. If you are at a bar/tourist site/class whatever when you say hi to someone you can say that you are a blogger and would be interested in their opinion of whatever it is that you are doing – whether you are or aren’t. It is also a great thing to tell say a bartender or a hotel owner as you can then find out more about the hotel/bar and get to know them better – and they are more likely to introduce you to other guests.
I also find blogging great fun but that’s me. Remember you can always be just starting one – it doesn’t need to be a full blown blog with 100,000 followers.
- Consider the USA
America is very friendly – and I assume if you are reading this you speak English so it will be easy to communicate! Americans are much more likely to chat away to someone on their own and much more likely to keep a conversation going. This also holds for meeting Americans in other locations around the world. This is particularly true in bars – and if you are a single female traveler!
- Organised tours designed for solo travelers
I have excellent news for you – you are not someone who is doomed to travel alone forever and most likely die alone – you are at the crest of a hot new trend! You are a trailblazer! Travelling solo is the hottest growth area in the travel industry – and it is focused on those over 35! I have been watching this sector for 10 years and in the last couple of years there has been an explosion in the number of companies offering single only tours, solo travel based companies, no single supplement, solo weeks – you name it.
I will share my companies list in an upcoming post as it is quite long! For the moment just google trips for solo travelers and you’ll see the results coming through! A key tip here is don’t just limit yourself to your own country. Australia has quite a few solo travel focused companies as does the UK. Major travel organisations like Exodus also have special solo travel offers on many of their trips which means that you can expect a larger percentage of the group to be travelling solo. I find this tends to increase the more physically strenuous the trip is as these are the hardest ones to find others who want to go eg cycling trips, climbing mountains.
- My top tip – Kamalaya
I will be writing quite a few posts with specific places/hotels/spas/companies for solo travelers. But as this is my first in that series I thought I would share with you my single best place for solo travelers. This is where I would and have sent newly single friends who are terrified of travelling on their own for the first time. Kamalaya is on Koh Saumi in Thailand. It is one of my favourite places in the world. I have been twice – once solo which was my first trip. It is an absolutely stunning place (dedicated posts to come) and fabulous as a retreat. What elevates it for the solo traveler is the wonderful friendly feel of the place. Everyone is so welcoming and that extends to the guests. There are lots of classes and everyone tends to chat to those nearest to them – particularly before the class starts. Best of all there is a talking table in the evening that is the place to be in the restaurant. I have met many interesting people at Kamalaya. Oh and at any given time about 40% of the guests are travelling on their own. There are not many couples so it is also a great post break up place as well.
Travelling solo can be great fun – and also a bit addictive as you can do what you like when you like! But it is tough when you first start. Luckily I have been doing this and researching it for 10 years so I will be sharing more posts with you about company names, where to stay and lots lots more.
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Also published on Medium.