10 Requisites for Enjoyable Solo Traveling
There are conflicting articles online when it comes to solo traveling. While the majority of write-ups laud the benefits and thrills of it, some also condemn solo vacations as overhyped and miserable. Having traveled alone for over 20 years, I can say that solo traveling can be wonderful, but not for everyone. Whether one would enjoy a solo trip largely depends on what one looks for in a holiday and one's lifestyle habits. Here are 10 requisites for enjoyable solo traveling. If you lack quite a few of the skills below, I'd reconsider going solo on your next vacation.
1. You Are Able to Wake up on Time
I know this sounds silly. However, if you’re the type for whom every morning is an uphill battle, my opinion is that you shouldn’t be considering solo traveling at all.
Simply put, if you cannot wake up without your mother threatening to turn out your bedroom, or if you are perpetually late for work and the snooze button on your alarm clock is bruised from repeated slapping every morning, your solo trips are going to be disastrous. When you are unable to get up on time, you affect the rest of your day right away, which in turn affects the rest of your holiday. The worst is when you have transportation to catch. For example, a train or a flight. Other than that, many attractions also require you to turn up early should you wish to avoid crowds. An extra hour in bed could often result in you queuing for three hours later on.
2. You Are Constantly Aware of Your Surroundings
Talk to anyone who’s aghast about traveling alone and you’ll likely be regaled by endless stories of threats and crimes involving tourists. Regrettably, most of these threats are true. No city in the world is crime-free. Many destinations also contain hidden hazards.
Unless a few hours in a hospital or a police station is your idea of adventure, you need to constantly be aware of your surroundings when traveling alone. You should not be the type who becomes utterly oblivious to everything and anything while composing a selfie or when bargaining for a souvenir. At the risk of encouraging paranoia, I’d say you also need to be someone who’s immediately conscious of potential threats. For example, an intoxicated group lumbering in your direction. In truth, this is instinctive once you get the hang of it. Speak to anyone who has lived in a large city, and they will likely tell you it’s second-nature.
About Travel Threats
Threats do not only involve humans. Many times, it’s architectural and geographical too, such as sagging beams in an aged structure or muddy slopes. The savvy solo traveler detects these and immediately moves away
3. You Are Good at Research and Planning
Before I elaborate, let me say I’m aware many people dislike package tours because these can feel very regimental. For others, traveling with friends can likewise be restricting because it’s inevitably a constant situation of give-and-take. For both, the whole allure of solo traveling is the freedom to do whatever one wants, whenever one likes. There is no formal plan to adhere to, so to speak.
I don’t refute said attraction. That said, even if there’s no one to restrict you, wouldn’t you still need some degree of planning? Wouldn’t you at least need to know the places to go to? To assemble some skeleton of an itinerary to ensure you get to where you want to be, punctually?
Here’s the truth. Traveling alone is not as free as it sounds simply because you are alone. There is no one to rely on, no one to shepherd you. Any mistake you make will magnify, often, outrageously. If you can’t put together a sensible itinerary or if you dislike the intense research involved, my advice is that you reconsider the merits of vacationing with others. Lastly, let me add that good planning starts with knowing yourself in and out. What’s the point of an itinerary when it’s too demanding for you physically and mentally?
4. You Are Reasonably Fit
In package tours, you are ferried from point to point like royalty. For most destinations, you would also be delivered right to doorsteps. Not to exaggerate, but the most strenuous thing one would be doing on such tours would be to get on and off the coach.
This is not going to happen when you are traveling alone.
Even if you pre-arrange private transportation for your entire trip, chances are, you would still need to hunt for pick up points. To this, add the need to carry your luggage, look for food, queue for tickets and entry, and, if you cannot avoid public transportation, hustle with locals during peak hours. To put it in another way, if walking half a mile sounds nightmarish, you are not going to enjoy solo traveling at all. Don’t start thinking a solo trip might be a convenient way to get fit too. It’s downright dangerous to overexert yourself when alone in an unfamiliar place.
5. You Are Able to Think on Your Feet
It’s often said that even the best-laid plans go awry. If you’ve traveled enough, I’m sure you’d agree this is understating things.
Unannounced closures, breakdowns, and delays. Sudden industrial actions, bad weather, and lost luggage. The list goes on and on when it comes to things that could disrupt your vacation.
When such incidences occur during a solo trip, there’s only one thing you can do. Make alternative arrangements right away without the aid of friends and experts. In some cases, without Internet access too. If having to do so appalls you or you are incapable of such on-the-spot decision making, I regret to say solo traveling is decisively not for you. Not only would the experience be too stressful, you might even end up making foolish and dangerous decisions because of the pressure. It’s best to avoid having to do so altogether.
6. You Are Able to Pack Sensibly
This is common sense. Whatever you bring on a solo trip, you carry all of it. There wouldn’t be any friends or family members to lend a helping hand. If you insist on bringing your entire bedroom with you, that’s fine, but you end up being a donkey throughout your trip.
Moreover, the more bags you bring, the more things you have to keep an eye on. Going back to the issue of safety, you become a magnet for crime because your attention is so divided and because you are so encumbered when on the move. In short, two bags should be the maximum, anything more is a burden. Needless to say, be sure you are able to manage the weight of whatever you bring too. It’s sheer stupidity to bring a suitcase you can’t even lift off the ground.
7. You Love Your Own Company
In late 2017, I read a lengthy article accusing solo traveling enthusiasts of lying. In that write-up, the author lamented how miserable his one and only solo trip was. He felt lonely and unwanted. Worse, he felt uneasy when alone in an unfamiliar country.
I read the article in full, and I thought what a silly person this was.
Solo traveling is all about “me time.” It’s also about taking a break from your usual routines and social circles. If any of these sounds dreadful to you, well, why are you even thinking about holidaying alone? Incidentally, don’t rely on meeting all sorts of “warm and friendly” locals to spice up your trip. To know why, read on.
"Me Time" Is Not for Everyone
There are many stories about the disappointed and the dejected rediscovering themselves during solo vacations. Personally, I think these are over-romanticized, on top of encouraging dangerous endeavors. Seek professional help if you are depressed, not the company of strangers or alone time to brood over tragedies.
8. Meeting “Friendly Locals” Is Not a Necessity for You
Nowadays, it’s almost imperative for any write-up celebrating a destination to talk about how friendly and helpful locals are. I myself had a most memorable experience with an elderly couple when stranded in a Japanese mountain village.
On the other hand, reality is usually the opposite, isn’t it? Such hospitality is the exception rather than the rule. Think about it, in your own city, how often do you fraternize for hours with a stranger or go to incredible lengths to assist a lost tourist? To put it another way, if you depend on such hospitality to brighten your trip or to save you during crises, you are going to be sorely disappointed. You might also end up terribly disgruntled about your trip, perhaps for life.
Is Everybody That Unfriendly?
I ought to moderate the above point by stating most people, worldwide, wouldn’t hesitate to offer directions when asked on the streets. However, savvy solo travelers expect no more than that.
9. You Don’t Mind Unfamiliar Food
To share, some of my family members swear by package tours. They claim it’s because they loathe having to use public transportation in a foreign country. In my opinion, the real reason is because they cannot last more than three days without food familiar to them. During all the package trips I’ve been on with them, the tour providers went to great lengths to provide us with “home” food.
Again, and I promise this is the last time I’m saying it, not going to happen when you are traveling alone.
Sure, you could bring with you a tome listing all outlets that sell food from your country, and go hunting for these establishments twice a day. But is this really what you want to be doing on a holiday? Do you really want to spend hours traveling each day just to find restaurants serving food familiar to you? By the way, don’t scorn this requisite for being ridiculous, it’s far easier said than done. I’ve always enjoyed being experimental with food. However, beyond two weeks, I yearn for familiar cuisine too.
10. You Know the Best Places to Travel Alone
It’s sad but true. There are many destinations perfect for traveling alone. Correspondingly, there are also many destinations that are unpleasant, if not downright hazardous, to be alone in. Outside of safety, some places are just ill-suited for those traveling alone, whether it’s because you’d end up paying much more, because the best attractions require companionship, or because of the lack of infrastructure crucial for solo travelers. The first step of enjoyable solo traveling should be knowing the places you should not be visiting alone. Bluntly put, you’d be wasting your precious holiday time, and money, at these.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Kuan Leong Yong