As a person who has done a fair amount of solo traveling, I can say honestly that some of these were my best travel experiences. Everyone wants someone to share their travel experiences with, and the traveler who goes it alone is no exception.
Traveling alone means simply that to share your travel adventures, it is up to you, the person traveling alone, to find companions, whether it be for a moment, a few days, or an entire trip. I have made conversations, traveled around Europe with fellow students I met overseas, and made lifelong friends after meeting someone on a day tour while traveling abroad. Your range of interactions with people will range from casual to sincere, but each has value.
A person traveling alone is more approachable
Serendipity is one of the joys of traveling alone. You can choose to be a solitary as you like, but as a solo traveler, you also know that, if you want a conversation or a lifelong friend, it is up to you to make it happen. The surprisingly thing is, people (yes, even people in groups) feel much more comfortable approaching a single person.
I’ve been traveling in the Caribbean, for example, when a group of French Canadians befriended me, buying me drinks and inviting me to join them at dinner. Groups are more likely to engage the person traveling alone in conversation, offer help with directions, share recommendations for places to see and things to do, ask you to join their group, and generally become your friend.
Meet more locals
Traveling alone is also a great way to meet more locals. A group of travelers is a unit unto themselves, internally focused. A person traveling alone is outwardly focused, aware of the other people and activities around them. It’s easy for the person traveling alone to make a quick change of plans when the opportunity presents itself, to stop and have a drink or make a sidetrip when there is no one else to consult and no set-in-stone travel plans to change. There are many things I never would have seen myself if a local hadn’t pushed me in a new direction.
As a single traveler, you are also more likely to find the local culture, restaurants, and shops. People who live in the area where you are traveling are more likely to treat you like a local, too, offering advice about the things they consider to be “special” about the place they live. Everyone is proud of the town or country where they’re from and want to present it in the best light. That’s easy to do with an individual traveling alone.
When traveling to a new place, you should always be yourself. This doesn’t mean you should be foolhardy, but you should let yourself be open to new experiences and try new things. You should maintain your friendliness, mindful of the culture around you. Don’t try and “make things happen” or “make friends with the locals.” Instead, let your natural self emerge. Ask for help when you need it, follow your interests and hobbies, engage people as you normally would at home. People can see your real character, even if they can’t understand the language you are speaking.
More than any other travel advice, it is important to be respectful of the people and culture around you. Learning a few words of a foreign language, however stilted, can go a long way in opening the doors to friendship. I remember to this day having a wonderful conversation about Egypt in my awful high school French with two French travelers when I was visiting Paris. Did we each understand the other perfectly? No, but our friendship at that moment was more important than our language skills.
Life is full of travel adventures and wonderful people to meet, if you open your mind and heart. I think that it is actually easier for the person traveling alone to get more out of his or her travels because, as a solo traveler, you have to open yourself up to what you are experiencing. Once you’ve traveled alone, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to try it.