If you've been reading any of my posts about my recent trip to Maui, you probably understand that I often travel alone. AND I love it! Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to travel with people as well (at least when it's the right people), but with a divorce behind me and everyone having crazy schedules, it gets really difficult to find companions for trips.
If the options are exploring the world alone or sitting home and dreaming, the choice for me is clear. I'm going on the adventure!
I wanted to post a quick list of some pointers I've picked up from my experiences alone on the road. Please feel free to add your own ideas in the comments below.
1. If you're new to traveling alone, don't plan to go somewhere that would make you uncomfortable in the best of circumstances.
In other words, if you don't like being in the dark, solo camping probably isn't going to make you happy. If you're a bit scared of water, maybe a cruise isn't the best first trip. You can build up to those things, but it might be best to get a couple of successful trips under your belt first.
Also, if you can't stand to be totally alone, perhaps consider a group tour. If people can get on your nerves and you don't like to be told what to do (okay, I'm describing myself here) avoid the group tour at all cost!
In other words, don't set yourself up for failure.
2. You can pack the kitchen sink, but you probably shouldn't.
When I first started going places alone, I packed everything I could even imagine needing. Every kind of clothing, every makeup item, multiple pairs of shoes (I might need high heels, right?), you name it, I packed it.
I ended up having to check a gigantic suitcase that weighed a ton, and I often had to buy an extra bag along the waybecause I couldn't fit my souvenirs and such into my already over-stuffed suitcase. I ended up feeling like a pack mule. No fun!
Now, I pack the items I'm sure I will need, and if I forget anything, I can usually buy it at my destination.
3. Bring something for downtime
It doesn't matter if you're striking out to explore on your own or visiting someplace as part of a tour, there will be times when there's not much to do. It might be the lull when shops are closed. You might catch a bug while on your trip and need to take a little break. One way or another, there will be times when it's slow. Be ready for it. (This is especially true if you're going somewhere that doesn't have TV programming in English.)
I always bring my Kindle (which has an entire library in it) and something to write on (possibly a notebook, maybe my computer). Depending on where I'm going, I might bring my knitting. (I NEVER camp without my knitting.) There are trips when I spend a lot of time engaging in these activities and trips when not so much. But I don't like to twiddle my thumbs, and I make sure I never have to.
4. Set a budget
Make sure to set your budget ahead of time to avoid facing the nightmare of opening your credit card statements when you get home.
Remember to leave some space in the budget for all those little things that come up above and beyond food, lodging, and airline (e.g., tipping, taxis, incidental toiletries, souvenirs, etc.) And then leave just a bit more than that because you will almost always run across something you didn't expect. Those little side excursions all cost money!
5. Keep in touch...but not too much
This is a tough one because with cell phones it's easy to go away and spend your whole time on the trip talking to people at home. You can avoid really immersing yourself in the adventure because you have this digital safety net.
But, you do want to keep people posted about where and how you are. Make sure someone back home knows your itinerary. Set a schedule to talk every day or two. And make sure that the folks on the homefront know that you don't expect them to be calling all the time.
You're going on an adventure. Be brave and have fun!
For some people, the idea of traveling alone is going to seem like a nightmare rather than a beautiful dream, but trust me. Seeing the world all on your own terms can be fun. More importantly, it can be empowering!