I do many interviews every month with journalists looking for information about solo travel.
Some are by phone. Some are by email. Some are in the studio – radio or television.
All ask similar questions. They want to know about solo travel safety, tips for eating alone, how to plan, what to pack – all the basics. They also are curious about how I started to travel solo and why I started this site.
I've answered all these questions in detail throughout this site and in The Solo Traveler's Handbook.
But perhaps a concise post on the basics of solo travel is a good idea. So here are my answers to the standard questions I receive on an almost weekly basis.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Solo Travel
- When did you first start traveling solo? How has it changed your life? I traveled solo a few times in my twenties but it was in my late forties, after my husband passed away, that I began traveling solo almost exclusively. That was almost 10 years ago. And now, despite having a new husband, I continue to travel solo because it continues to be rewarding on so many levels. It has made me stronger and more confident. And, because every aspect of any trip is planned and lived by me alone, my travel memories are more clear and rich than when I have traveled with others.
- What are some benefits of solo traveling vs traveling with others? I really enjoy meeting people, locals and other travelers, and I meet more people solo than when I have a travel companion. But there's more. I have the option of spending my travel budget as I like. I'm one who prefers to travel cheap so that I can travel more. Not everyone agrees with me. I can also change directions on a dime – stay longer, move on sooner – because it's all up to me and I love that flexibility.
- Solo travel can be daunting – how can first-timers get confident quickly? Solo travel is a confidence booster but you have to actually travel solo for it to happen. So how do you get confidence before you go? I have a few suggestions.
- Find your cheerleader. When you tell people about your trip, who is excited about it? Spend as much time as you can with them as they will build your confidence.
- Stop watching crime shows. They are not representative of the dangers in the world.
- Plan how you will stay in touch with home. The fact that you can will build your confidence.
- Find a local contact. Chances are, someone you know knows someone where you're going. Get six degrees of separation working for you.
- Find out if there is a Greeter program in your destination so that you can meet up with a local.
- Choose a destination based on your experience with travel generally. If you have limited experience, start small and relatively local. Go where the language and customs are familiar and get used to navigating a new place. If you have travel experience, perhaps try a destination where English can be easily found and then branch out from there. Most places are solo friendly.
- Finally, be patient with yourself. Take your time. Pamper yourself. You'll find your way.
- Are group tours a good idea when traveling solo? Group tours have many benefits for solo travelers. If you're concerned about being alone, about your safety, or simply don't have the time to plan your travels, tours are great options. Choose your tour and the company will take care of the rest. A tour is also a good idea if you want to go to a destination that you consider challenging. You can start with the tour and stay longer once you've been introduced to the culture and how it works. Group tours are also good for breaking up long trips. If you're on your own for a month or more, you may want to include a tour so that you have company for a while and you can relax while someone else manages the details. More and more companies are recognizing and serving solo travelers. The 1st Solo Travel Awards will be given out on October 23rd. The Awards are co-sponsored by Solo Traveler and World Nomads.
- How can people deal with loneliness (e.g., eating meals alone, etc.)? Solo travel offers more opportunities to meet locals and other travelers than if you travel with a companion. Think about it. Rather than being focused on your companion, you’re focused on your surroundings. You’re open to the world. And I’ve found that people step into the space you’ve created resulting in wonderful experiences. But I guess you want specifics. Here are a few tips.
- Stay in hostels or B&Bs. They are naturally more social than hotels or most resorts.
- Take a class. If you’re in one place for a while, plan to take language or cooking classes, whatever interests you.
- Go to restaurants or coffee shops with communal tables.
- Join a day tour to spend the day with others of similar interests.
- Break up long trips with an organized tour. You’ll enjoy the company and a chance to let someone else take care of all the details.
- What measures can solo travelers implement to stay safe?
- Always, always book your first night’s accommodation in advance and arrive well before dark. Everything looks better in the light and, if it still doesn’t look good, you have time to change.
- Do your research well so that you know if there are any particular dangers in your destination.
- Always have travel insurance. Since I was 15 when I started to travel I've always had insurance. Read: Going Alone? Travel Insurance is a Must in which I analyze the price and benefits of a number of insurance policies.
- Pack light so that you can manage your own things. One carry-on-sized bag and a daypack or large purse should do it.
- When you go out for the day, take the business card of your hotel with you.
- Don't tell people you meet where you're staying – it should be your safe zone.
- Keep your money and credit cards in two places.
- Be polite but be prepared to be impolite if someone is bothering you.
- Always trust your intuition. There is so much to be said on this topic. Here's a link: Solo Travel Safety: 50 Tips
- How can people be confident traveling at night alone? Before you make a final decision on where to go at night, check with a local to confirm that it is safe. If you're going to the opera, you're okay. But if you're going to an underground jazz bar, you'll want to get this confirmation. Plan for how you'll get there and get home. Getting home after dark is likely the more important. If you're going to a bar, stay sober, make friends with your server and let them know that you're alone (they'll have your back), and don’t forget to keep money in more than one place on your person.
- How can you look confident without actually feeling it? First, know that you are amazing. You're strong and independent. Smile. Walk with your head up and shoulders back. Look alert. Stand strong. All this will translate into you feeling confident as well.
- What are your favorite destinations?
- I love mountains so Patagonia, Austria, western Canada, even the Lake District of the UK have been wonderful destinations.
- My favorite city. This is the difficult question that people like to ask. I would have to say New York because I return there again and again and still find it interesting. But I find that most cities are interesting. I often say that I’ve never met a destination I didn’t like. For New York, read: Affordable New York City: 32+ Free and Low-Cost Tips.
- Anything you would advise women not to do when traveling alone? Stay in public. Don't go out of the public sphere with someone you've known only a short time. This is very important. In a different culture, while traveling and feeling quite liberated, one can make errors in judgment. If an error is made in a public space you will have the protection of other people around you. In private, you don't. I think it's important to keep priorities in perspective. They are:
- Your body
- Your documents
- Your money
- Your stuff
- Your key lessons learned from traveling the world? Most people are good, generous, and caring. It’s a big, wonderful world.