The prospect of travelling alone is a daunting one. It is our "last resort" when it comes to travel because when all our options of finding a companion to travel with and share the experiences are dried up, our desire and want to travel hasn't; and thus, we are faced with having to consider going on that big adventure solo. With those words travelling alone, comes a list of reasons why we do not want to travel alone.
Being on your own throughout
Now the main concern I had when travelling, and one I found to be very common, is the worry of meeting others when travelling; and sure why shouldn't it? I mean with the word "alone" in the title, it's natural to have this worry. It's a prospect that stops many of us taking that solo step into the world of travelling as we each fear that while the initial step may be a solo one, the rest of the entire journey will follow in the same path. There are different aspects to this however. First off, I am going to tell you that nobody is ever alone throughout their journey. Yes it is scary, but meeting people when travelling is not as hard as it may seem, and I say this as a lad who was worryingly shy when it came to meeting new people. In hostels, you can easily get talking to your roommates, yet alone other travellers in the common area, the kitchen, the pub, the roof deck, the hot-tub (not every hostel has these features but you get my drift). Basically, there are a wealth of opportunities in a hostel alone. However, I want to be truthful and say that it will not always be the case. I don't say this to discourage anyone but I think it is better to present both positive and negative sides. You have to remember that you are not the only nationality travelling in the country, and therefore it will be difficult to get talking to some people more then others. Many travellers may not have good English, and therefore do not make the attempt to talk to other nationalities; bar their own. As a result of this, many nationalities will stick together and it can be difficult to break into that niche that has already formed. I still remember when I walked into an 8 bed dorm to only realise it was occupied by 7 Germans; all of which remained talking to each other in German. It didn't bother me though, for as I said, there are other places to meet people and in fairness, when you are able to speak in your mother tongue to others, I can't blame them. I mean I know French and a bit of German, but at the basic level, so I will naturally hope to find others who can speak English.
The fact that many others are travelling solo as well is true, but you will also encounter many who are travelling in pairs; be it a partner or a friend, and while this may discourage you from interacting with them, don't let it. I've met some great couples on my travels, as well as a French brother and sister, two Dutch girls who were best friends since they were kids, and more. The point is, that just because they are travelling together, doesn't mean they aren't approachable and won't welcome a strangers face. Sure enough if they don't, do not be insulted. Everybody is different. Furthermore, we are in the 21st century....the digital age; so don't be afraid to take advantage of it. While I met many others travelling around, I met many more through the numerous groups, sites and Facebook pages that are in existence. There is a wealth of solo travellers on the web, and with the likes of Facebook, meeting people couldn't be easier; and safer, as you get a visual of the person, and a somewhat look into what they are like (though never judge a book by its cover). Also, with groups online, you can arrange an event for people. During Christmas in Sydney last year, I made an event for "12 pub of Christmas" and from random people going to it, from those I invited from my hostel, we had a great night. By travelling alone I have managed to meet some fantastic people whom I shared some amazing experiences with, and I have indeed made some best friends for life.
12 Pubs of Christmas night
A major concern for some people is that of safety, and it's a perfectly understandable fear to be had. I mean each one of us worries about our safety at home, so why not when considering travelling abroad where each of us will encounter a new environment filled with new people and new ways of life. Given the world we live in today, even walking home at night alone can worry us. I get worried back home, but I feel comfortable in knowing that I know how to handle myself in my city; as in I know where to avoid, the kind of people to just keep walking past, and what to say if hassled. But I didn't know anything about Australia and it's ways. Within each new city, how am I to know where to avoid? What do I do if people start hassling me? The one thing I will tell people now, is yes, do worry about these matters, but no more so then you do when back home. Yes it's an unfamiliar city, but the same pointless and cruel acts of crime happen in every city. The fear of being robbed or attacked is always with us. To help reduce these worries, be sure to research where you are going and look at reviews regarding certain areas you are staying in. The most important thing to have is common sense, and always, and I mean always, go with your gut. If you feel that something isn't right, or that a certain individual is making you feel uncomfortable and you are not sure why, then trust your feelings and leave.
When travelling with a phone, laptop, I-pad and so forth, there is always a risk of something being robbed. When going into certain hostel rooms, I would see peoples phones, wallets, laptops all just sitting there on the bed; just waiting to be robbed. But the fact is, they weren't; and you build up this trust level with people in the room, even if you haven't spoken a word to them. Now, for me, I don't worry too much when it comes to these matters. The likes of my laptop, certain documents and such, I would have to leave in my room as it was all too much to carry. Now not all rooms have lockers but you cannot drive yourself mad worrying about whether they will be safe or not. I personally believe that seeing as many people staying in hostels are backpackers as well, we are all in the same position, and therefore know how terrible it would be to rob another persons goods. That said, you will hear the horror stories, maybe even experience it first hand; as not everyone is as knowing and considerate. Keep your goods in your bag sealed and locked when not there. At night, I always kept my phone, passport and wallet in my pillowcase as those are vital items to me, and even when in a room with best mates, I keep them there. There are also wallets you can buy that go under your top and around your stomach where you can keep your phone and wallet and passport. Just always be alert and informed, and you'll be no worse off. Also, be sure to always let someone know where you are going, in terms of moving to a new city and all that. If it's something crazy that you know your parents, mainly your mom, will freak out about, then make up a tale and tell your mate back home the truth; but always let someone know.
When travelling alone to a new country/city, the prospect of getting lost is all too worrying. While it is tough for English natives to travel in foreign areas where English is not very well spoken, such as parts of Asia and those "off the beaten track" areas, this fear is especially encompassing for those who stem from non-native English speaking countries. The bottom line though, is that yes, each and every one of us is going to get lost at some point on our travels. I have travelled a bit so reading the travel routes in each country isn't something I worry about as I'm pretty good at figuring out where to go, but that does not mean I don't second guess myself or worry. It's no problem to ask for help in these situations, and indeed, invest in a map for each area you are visiting. Yes, we can still use maps on our phones but there will come a point when there is no coverage or internet connection and going back to the basics will be required. So always keep a map with you, and sure enough, take a picture of a map of the city on your phone or camera, and that can be used as a back-up when needed. Now I actually enjoy getting lost. It sounds odd but I have stumbled across some amazing things as a result of trying to find my way. While getting lost can be scary, don't let it consume you with worry, and when it happens, just relax and wander around for a bit. As a backpacker, you are expected to find and traverse new lands and areas, so why not use the same concept when lost? I find it keeps you calm and indeed, you may meet others in the same situation. What I will say however, is that when you are lost, don't portray yourself as being so. When walking about looking around franticly and checking your map every second, you could set yourself up for a scam artist who will take you to where you want to go for a large fee; or worse, you may seem vulnerable to a robber. I don't say this to scare anyone, because it is the exact same when back home; it's just that we don't see it as much because we are hardly ever in such situations (ignorance is bless as they say). Keep your head high, and walk around as you would normally.
"Getting lost along your path is a part of finding the path you are meant to be on..."
No phone coverage or internet connection
One of the big problems with travelling today is that we all depend on technology; be it from our laptops, to our phones, our cameras, our I-pods etc. In some ways, we are very much so controlled by our electronic devices as we need to know that we have that constant connection to the world around us. Now I ain't going to say I'm any different. I love my phone, and not having it with me is like not having my right arm. I don't like not having it because what if there's an emergency, what if someone needs to get in touch with me or I with them, what if the status I have put up on Facebook has broken my record for most likes?! There so many possibilities, and yet, I could go a whole day and not even receive a text. It doesn't matter though, the fact is, my phone is there and ready to go. Certain places are going to have connection and coverage, while others won't. This is a fact that needs to be known! Read it, repeat it, memorise it, whatever it takes for each of us to come to the conclusion that it will happen and there is nothing we can do about it. Depending on where you travel (as well as your network provider), you more then likely going to have connection/coverage; it is the 21st century after all. Big cities, airports, trains, even buses all have wifi.
It depends primarily on the route you take on your travels whether you will go without coverage/connection. When I was travelling through the centre of Australia, it took about over a week for the trip, and I would say I had coverage for about 12 hours for it all. Now this stemmed from the fact I was with Vodafone, and their connection is pretty awful when outside big cities. Nonetheless, it was the first time I actually had no connection to the outside world, and sure enough, it was when I was in the middle of the dessert. Did it annoy me? Yes. Did I really miss it overall? No.
Ok, so yes I was a bit annoyed at not having connection, but it was mostly because I wanted to post a picture of myself at Ayers Rock and make those back home jealous (and lets be honest, it's one of the main uses of Facebook when travelling). But I was travelling with two others and therefore I was never on my own, and we came up with some great games to play to pass the time, we communicated more, and got to go back to basics and rely on maps and road-signs. Not having connection is not always a bad thing. It allows you to experience the world without having to get distracted by a text or a call. As a result of it, I was able to go without my phone on many occasions. I realised that when I was going out, or hanging around the city with friends, there really shouldn't be a reason to use your phone. You are already in the presence of friends, so enjoy the time and have the craic; something I think that many of us forget to do nowadays.
This was a big worry for me, because while I don't have any "typical" allergies such as dust, pollen and all that, I do have medical allergies. I therefore have to be careful with what I take, and I got such a scare one year, that I am nearly afraid to try anything beyond paracetamol. While many people won't have this problem, it is still safe to always be aware of any allergies you have and make note of them if you ever need to see a doctor. When in a foreign land where English is limited, be sure to find the translation of these allergies and show them to the doctor. Don't ever be afraid to stand your ground and ensure they know. Now such instances where you will have to go to the doctors is something that won't happen anymore so then it does for you back home. Flu's and colds will happen, and the best way for those is rest, vitamins and fluids. However, some serious instances can occur; by which I mean a bite or sting from some unknown creature. When this occurs, don't hesitate to go to a doctor. I would hope that everyone gets travel insurance, and it is reasons like these that we need it. Also, I don't know about the rest of you, but when such times occur, I like to have someone alongside me (I'm sure the phrase "I want my mammy" will come to mind here), and while that may seem hard to come by when travelling alone, it is not. Besides asking the friends you have already made, you can always ask someone from your dorm room to accompany you. I can tell you that if someone had asked me at any stage, I would have joined no problem. When travelling alone, it can feel as if we need to stay strong at all times, but it is when sick that we can feel most vulnerable. Don't be afraid to seek help from others; and like all illness' it will pass.
I just wanted to throw this in because when deciding on whether we can travel alone or not, many of us look to leaving work as a major factor not to go in some form or another. I say this from experience because two weeks before my departure date, I lost my control over the fact I was going alone and what brought it on was the fact that I was about to hand in my two week notice into my workplace; after 8 years of employment. While I initially thought that actually booking my flight a was huge step, it seemed trivial towards this milestone. Now it was only a retail job. One I only had to help fund my life through University as well as several holidays and travelling trips over the years. Yet, knowing I had to leave the job made me realise that it wasn't such a bad place to work, and that I really do get along so well with the staff, and it's in such close proximity to my home so why did I ever complain about it? I had my panic attack that day. I questioned everything I was doing because not only was I going alone, I was going without any further income; and what if I didn't have enough? What if I didn't get a job over there? What if I hate my job or co-workers? A fleet of questions and worries swirled about me and these worries made me consider pushing back my flight until the end of summer. In my mind set, I kept reasoning with myself that if I push it back, I could save some more money, go to the summer festivals, live it up with mates here. Needless to say, that if it wasn't for my best mate basically slapping some sense into me, I would have pushed that flight back. I was told that "if you push it back once, what's stopping you pushing it back a second time, or even a third?". That's what made me realise that I just had to go for it. Work will always be there; in some shape or form. Additionally, money always has a way of appearing. If we allowed ourselves to think that what we have already saved isn't enough to start travelling, then no one would travel. When is enough enough?? Each one of us can travel as cheaply or as costly as we want to, so don't ever let the fear of leaving your job and a lack of a steady income dissuade you from travelling.
There are always going to be fears and worry's surrounding travel; which seem to be amplified when travelling alone. But remember, we have nothing to fear but fear itself! Don't let any of these reasons stop you, because there will come a point in life where each of us will reflect on what we did, and more so regret what we didn't do, as opposed to what we did do. Happy travels!