Traveling with a group of close friends has it perks, but sometimes it seems like agreeing on activities, waiting for someone to get ready or satisfying everyone’s interests takes up more time than actually enjoying your vacation. On the other hand, traveling alone can seem intimidating and mundane for someone who’s inexperienced in doing so. But despite certain challenges, the perks can outweigh the cons if done with the right preparation, and offer a liberating experience like no other.
One of the most pertinent things holding people back from traveling alone is safety, or the perceived lack thereof. With movies like “Taken” shaping many of our views about traveling abroad, we forget that it is just a movie. With some intense research and common safety practices, you can rest easier knowing that you’re safer with your new knowledge in hand.
Nicole Canegata, author of the blog The Traveling Lense, has traveled the world by herself and has learned how to stay safe, among other things. Her experiences in Hawaii, Malaysia, Borneo, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Australia have reminded her to always be hyper aware of her surroundings. She also advises to be extra cautious, don’t be quick to trust, and always explore a new city during decent hours.
“Certain places I wouldn’t go alone, but the world is a beautiful place. It’s vast, huge,” Canegata said. “People want you to feel at home and show you a good impression of their country. Research, trust your instincts. Don’t be plagued by fear. There are good people out there.”
After her father passed away she was inspired to not wait on anything and fulfill her travel dream of visiting one hundred countries. Canegatta is nearly half way there, having visited 48 countries. Although she’s taken some trips with good girlfriends, she says her solo trips have helped her come out of her shell and be more independent—something she truly values. While she notes that it can sometimes be lonely, she enjoys being forced to be sociable and meet locals while exploring on her own schedule .
Sometimes travelling in a group can offer the benefit of group rate pricing. Very rarely can individuals find significant discounts on traveling alone, raising the concern of expenses for single travelers. Again, research will be your best friend. With a few hours of web surfing you might be able to find a discount plane ticket and an alternative to hotel lodging, like couch surfing or Air Bnb.
It’s no secret, there are a handful of websites that help you compare many different ticket prices at once. Spend some time on these or visit a website like Priceline which gives you the option of naming your own price. Of course, the price you name should be reasonable, but you can give yourself a reasonably low staring point and work up from there. If the website finds no available tickets that match your criteria, it will give you some tips on what you should change; like flight date or time, type of aircraft, or adding layovers.
Couch Surfing for those Traveling Alone
Saving money on a ticket is already a great start to your one (wo)man vacation. However, you could make it an even sweeter deal if you could save some money on your hotel room as well. Couch surfing is a phenomenon that allows travelers to do just that. First-timers may be a little turned off initially as the concept is to sleep on a local’s couch, but if you trust your instincts and user reviews, it could make a huge difference in your trip. Not only is couching surfing free, but it allows solo travelers to assimilate to the local society by living with someone who’s regularly a part of it, and gives at least one person who can offer tips on what to do in the city.
Jan, an experienced couch surfer and lonesome traveler from Bremen, Germany has used the phenomenon for various trips. He says that if couch surfing is used for more than just a place to sleep, it can be a great way to make new friends and live a local lifestyle wherever you’re visiting.
Jan has couch surfed in Los Angeles, New York, Spain and other countries and said that it offers a great community of open-minded people who are always interesting. He’s met other locals through his hosts, which expands the immediate network of friends during his trip.
While couch surfing may seem intimidating to a first timer, the perks are worth a try. It offers free lodging during your trip, an immediate network and a view of the city from a local perspective.
James Sharcot a couch surfing host ranked number two in San Diego, has hosted people from all over the world. James got into couch surfing with the mentality of paying it back. During some of his travelling, he was hosted by locals and remembered how much of a difference it made in his trips. With that, he decided that when he got his own place, he wanted to do the same for other travelers.
Since making the decision to host, Sharcot says he has had nothing but positive experiences. Depending on his schedule and his guest’s schedule, the pair will sometimes do things together, but interactions are never forced—invites are simply extended and accepted as well as they fit.
Without some general knowledge of traveling alone, it can seem like a huge and undoable feat. However, if you take your time, do your research and open up to some alternative travel customs, you just might find a way to experience something life changing.