Solo travel is rising, with more females running off alone than males. Many say they don't want to wait for someone to accompany them and love the independence and freedom of solo travel. It may be daunting to some, but those first thoughts of intimidation disappear when the excitement sets in. For all the downsides of going it solo, there are plenty of reasons to not wait for your partner or best buddy to fly off into the blue yonder when you want to.
Go where and when you want: hang out with nomadic eagle-hunting Mongolians, go for a snorkel to gawk at whale sharks gorging on plankton around Isla Mujeres Mexico, watch swimming iguanas snorting salt out of their noses in the Galapagos, become entranced at a voodoo festival in Benin Africa, or sleep in a tent in Oman’s desert.
The world is your playground, only inhibited by your mindset, interests, and bank balance. In other words, solo travel is selfish as you don't have to consider what anyone else wants or can afford to do.
Dealing with Jealous At-Home Worrywarts
Pre-empt anxious family and jealous friends by sending a copy of your itinerary before you leave and note when you will be in zones when the internet connection is unreliable. Never promise to contact them regularly, as you will be too busy gaping at sights or hiking up mountains. Alternatively, say that you are running away and won't be in touch with anyone unless you need to—tell them to check your social media pages to see that you are still alive.
But do register with your relevant government travel body which countries you are going to just in case a natural disaster occurs where you are. The government will eventually find you unless you have booked into one of those dodgy hotels where a passport or credit card is not required….mmm.
Paying for a Double Room Dilemma
You may be by yourself, but most hotels are geared towards the traveling 'couple .' Although I have come across a few hotels in Europe with single rooms—you may as well be sleeping in a cupboard. If a broom closet is unappealing, you suck up the cost and enjoy rolling around in a big bed with no one to interrupt your beauty sleep. And, you have the luxury of choosing dreamy over-the-top accommodation, or when the budget gets tight, sleeping in a no-frills establishment that barely equates to being a hotel.
Everyone can be moody at times. It's easier to put up with your own moodiness than suffer the consequences of someone else's, especially when it's self-induced. We all have them: friends or partners that get bummed out about the slightest inconvenience and let the world know it, the bitchy female curse of ‘pmt,' or a mismatch in alcohol drinking habits that leaves one traveler hung over, a pain in the arse, miserable and blaming it on the food because according to them, 'they didn't drink much.' It's definitely not a holiday holding someone's hair back from yukky splash-back when they are vomiting into a toilet all night, and you feel obligated to help.
A Table for One
There's something extraordinary and liberating about feeling grown up enough to master the art of sitting alone in a restaurant. Dining alone can be one of the most pleasurable activities that requires a confident attitude: if you don't want to appear as the pitiful lonely soul in the corner and a foreigner to boot.
Hopefully, you have sussed out the local dress code before sashaying into a restaurant. Ask for a prime table because if you are sitting in the corner, you may become the forgotten patron and have to yell out to a waitperson when you want service—so gauche and rude, which is not you. Put on an air of mystery and stick your nose into a good book, not your mobile.
If you are in a country with a tongue-twisting lingo, just politely point to whatever dish on the menu sounds appealing—failing this, to a plate being delivered to another table—your waiter should get the gist. This is adventure eating at its best that will expand your pallet on dishes which you probably have no idea of what you are eating. So slurp it up and enjoy—only discretely spit it out into your napkin if you really can't swallow it.
Alternatively, if you are ignored by servers because of being the sole foreigner sans local language skills, forget about being gauche. Instead, stand up and yell, 'Does anyone speak English?' Nine out of ten times, someone will come to your rescue and translate your order to a server.
You Want to Chat
If you are in a tourist area, starting up a conversation with the person beside you in a café, bar, restaurant, or wherever you may be sitting for a while is easy. Of course, there's always the worry about the 'don't talk to strangers' rule, but trust your gut; most people you are likely to meet are not axe-wielding murderers. If you happen to be in one location for a few days, stick to the one café for morning coffee or where you eat your lunch, and you will find that the staff or locals will take you under their wing. I stayed in Viareggio on the coast of Italy for a week. I frequented the same bar each afternoon for those seven days. The bar waiter ended up vetting whoever sat beside me. He would nod his head to me that they were ok, or if he deemed them unsuitable to talk to me, he would tell them to go and sit somewhere else.
When things go wrong
Yes, shit happens sometimes. You end up in an emergency ward of an overseas hospital, your baggage ends up on a plane to the other side of the planet from where you are, you miss a connecting flight, and you suddenly feel very vulnerable and alone. At times like these, you find out how strong and resilient you are. Self-preservation mode kicks in, plus your travel insurance.
Gail Palethorpe, a self proclaimed Australian gypsy, is a freelance writer, photographer and eternal traveller. Check out her website Gail Palethorpe Photography and her Shutterstock profile.